Definitions for Food Processing


 The definitions and interpretations of terms in section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act) are applicable to such terms when used in this part. The following definitions shall also apply:

(a) Acid foods or acidified foods means foods that have an equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below.

(b) Adequate means that which is needed to accomplish the intended purpose in keeping with good public health practice.

(c) Batter means a semifluid substance, usually composed of flour and other ingredients, into which principal components of food are dipped or with which they are coated, or which may be used directly to form bakery foods.

(d) Blanching, except for tree nuts and peanuts, means a prepackaging heat treatment of foodstuffs for a sufficient time and at a sufficient temperature to partially or completely inactivate the naturally occurring enzymes and to effect other physical or biochemical changes in the food.

(e) Critical control point means a point in a food process where there is a high probability that improper control may cause, allow, or contribute to a hazard or to filth in the final food or decomposition of the final food.

(f) Food means food as defined in section 201(f) of the act and includes raw materials and ingredients.

(g) Food-contact surfaces are those surfaces that contact human food and those surfaces from which drainage onto the food or onto surfaces that contact the food ordinarily occurs during the normal course of operations. “Food-contact surfaces” includes utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment.

(h) Lot means the food produced during a period of time indicated by a specific code.

(i) Microorganisms means yeasts, molds, bacteria, and viruses and includes, but is not limited to, species having public health significance. The term “undesirable microorganisms” includes those microorganisms that are of public health significance, that subject food to decomposition, that indicate that food is contaminated with filth, or that otherwise may cause food to be adulterated within the meaning of the act. Occasionally in these regulations, FDA used the adjective “microbial” instead of using an adjectival phrase containing the word microorganism.

(j) Pest refers to any objectionable animals or insects including, but not limited to, birds, rodents, flies, and larvae.

(k) Plant means the building or facility or parts thereof, used for or in connection with the manufacturing, packaging, labeling, or holding of human food.

(l) Quality control operation means a planned and systematic procedure for taking all actions necessary to prevent food from being adulterated within the meaning of the act.

(m) Rework means clean, unadulterated food that has been removed from processing for reasons other than insanitary conditions or that has been successfully reconditioned by reprocessing and that is suitable for use as food.

(n) Safe-moisture level is a level of moisture low enough to prevent the growth of undesirable microorganisms in the finished product under the intended conditions of manufacturing, storage, and distribution. The maximum safe moisture level for a food is based on its water activity (aw). An awwill be considered safe for a food if adequate data are available that demonstrate that the food at or below the given awwill not support the growth of undesirable microorganisms.

(o) Sanitize means to adequately treat food-contact surfaces by a process that is effective in destroying vegetative cells of microorganisms of public health significance, and in substantially reducing numbers of other undesirable microorganisms, but without adversely affecting the product or its safety for the consumer.

(p) Shall is used to state mandatory requirements.

(q) Should is used to state recommended or advisory procedures or identify recommended equipment.

(r) Water activity (aw) is a measure of the free moisture in a food and is the quotient of the water vapor pressure of the substance divided by the vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature.

(s) The term ROP can be used to describe any packaging procedure that results in a reduced oxygen level in a sealed package. The term is often used because it is an inclusive term and can include packaging options such as:

  1.  Cook-chill is a process that uses a plastic bag filled with hot cooked food from which air has been expelled and which is closed with a plastic or metal crimp.
  2.  Controlled Atmosphere Packaging (CAP) is an active system which continuously maintains the desired atmosphere within a package throughout the shelf-life of a product by the use of agents to bind or scavenge oxygen or a sachet containing compounds to emit a gas. CAP is defined as packaging of a product in a modified atmosphere followed by maintaining subsequent control of that atmosphere.
  3. Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is a process that employs a gas flushing and sealing process or reduction of oxygen through respiration of vegetables or microbial action. MAP is defined as packaging of a product in an atmosphere which has had a one-time modification of gaseous composition so that it is different from that of air, which normally contains 78.08% nitrogen, 20.96% oxygen, 0.03% carbon dioxide. 
  4.  Sous Vide is a specialized process of ROP for ingredients that require refrigeration or frozen storage (PHF/TCS food) until the package is thoroughly heated immediately before service. The sous vide process is a pasteurization/cooking step that reduces bacterial load but is not sufficient to make the food shelf-stable. The process involves the following steps:
    1. (a) Preparation of the raw materials (this step may include grilling or broiling for color of some or all ingredients);
    2. (b) Packaging of the product immediately before cooking, application of vacuum, and sealing of the package;
    3. (c) Pasteurization/cooking of the product using required time/temperature parameters;
    4. (d) Rapid and monitored cooling of the product at or below 3°C(38°F) 1°C(34°F) or or frozen; and
    5. (e) Reheating of the packages 74°C(165°F) for hot holding or to any termperature for immediate service before opening and service.
  5. Vacuum Packaging reduces the amount of air from a package and hermetically seals the package so that a near-perfect vacuum remains inside. A common variation of the process is Vacuum Skin Packaging (VSP). A highly flexible plastic barrier is used by this technology that allows the package to mold itself to the contours of the food being packaged.