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RE-POST: FAQ  2/3- SCI.BIO.FOOD-SCIENCE Frequently-Asked Questions

See 1/3 See this part for a list of food science related sites and a
list of abbreviations.

See 3/3 for general questions and answers about food science.



         In the following list of definitions of food-related words and
    phrases, some of the items relate to the requirements under UK and/or
    European laws, regulations or Codes of Practice. In the near future
    anther list will be given referring to the requirements under US laws
    and regulations, and, in time, those of other countries.

         Any questions or comments about these definitions and
    interpretations should be directed to: <


         In 1987, the Technical and Legislative Committee (TLC) of the
    Institute of Food Science & Technology, conscious that many
    descriptions of, or claims about, foods were made using ill-defined
    terms which were potentially misleading, set out to remedy that
    situation. Making use both of published material and the expertise of
    the Committee, it prepared and issued objective "definitions" for
    certain key words, a few of which were not considered potentially
    confusing but merely useful to include.

         The intention was not strict definitions in the dictionary
    sense. Some were accounts or interpretations of the limitations
    within which the use of a particular term was justified. Moreover, the
    intention was not to produce a comprehensive dictionary of
    food-related terms, but rather a guide to food scientists and
    technologists, and others professionally concerned with descriptions
    of foods, particularly in labelling and advertising. In 1989, the list
    was expanded and published in Food Science & Technology Today 3 (2),

         In the period since that publication, some of those terms have
    been "officially" defined in legislation, official guidelines or
    Codes of Practice - and it is gratifying to note the extent to which
    these follow the lines of the definitions in the 1989 document. In the
    same period, members of IFST and of the Association of Public Analysts
    have suggested additional terms that are in common usage but are
    ill-defined or sometimes misused. Accordingly, the two professional
    bodies have decided to produce jointly an updated list.

         The list given here includes some terms that were in the 1989
    list (in some cases modified or updated); and some terms that have
    been defined in the interim in legislation or in codes or guides. Many
    of the terms listed here have wider connotations in relation to which
    they may be defined or interpreted; but here it is only the
    food-related usage that is addressed.

         We draw attention to the category Marketing Terms at the end of
    this document, in which have been listed a number of terms often used
    without real meaning in relation to manufactured food products.

         As before, it is hoped that the use, by professionals, of these
    definitions and interpretations will help to minimise confusion and
    misleading use of the terms. With any such exercise, some readers will
    have differing views on individual items, or on the desirability of
    including other terms. IFST and APA will be glad to receive
    constructive comments from members, for consideration when this
    document is next revised and updated.

         Finally, it is pointed out that definitions other than those
    derived from EU or UK legislation, and all interpretations expressed
    here, are opinion, albeit opinion based on the views of the experts
    involved in their compilation. The information in this document may
    not be taken as binding on Public Analysts or enforcement authorities,
    and, in the event of dispute, only the courts can decide.

                                     Malvern Barnett
                                     J Ralph


        The addition or contamination of a food by a substance foreign
   to the normal product, which debases it or disguises inferior 
   quality. See Unadulterated.

Botulinum Cook

         The heat treatment given to a low acid canned food (having 
    a pH higher than 4.2) sufficient to inactivate 1012 spores of 
    Clostridium botulinum. This heat treatment is called the Fo value and
    it is equivalent to a process of 3 mins at 121 degC, 10 mins at 115
    degC or 32 mins at 110 degC.


         A compound consisting of repeating units of a single
    biologically produced molecule, either straight chain or branched,
    e.g. amylose, amylopectin and cellulose.


         The application of biological science to the production,
    modification or processing of materials. It encompasses
    long-established activities such as traditional plant and animal
    breeding, brewing, bread-making and effluent treatment, and the more
    modern techniques of genetic modification and the use of fermentation
    technology for the production of some novel protein foods. Though meal
    preparation is arguably a form of biotechnology, it is already covered
    in other newsgroups, such as* hierarchy.


         Having been cooked in boiling water (or, by extension, by
    steaming, as in 'boil-in-the-bag').

Chilled food

         Perishable food which, to extend the time during which it
    remains wholesome, is kept within a specified range of temperature
    usually between 2 and 8 degC.

Chilled food chain

         The sequence of temperature controlled operations after initial
    harvesting, and including chilled transport, cooling during and after
    production, chilled storage, distribution and retailing, through to
    domestic storage until preparation for final consumption.

Comercial Sterility

         A sterile product is one free from viable microorganisms, i.e.
    those capable of reproducing under optimum conditions for growth.
    'Commercial sterility' is a term commonly used in the canning industry
    meaning the condition achieved by the application of heat sufficient
    to render the processed product free from viable microorganisms
    (including those of known public health significance), capable of
    growing in the food under normal non-refrigerated temperatures at
    which the food is likely to be held during distribution and storage.

Controlled atmosphere packaging

         A procedure whereby residual air in a food pack is replaced 
    by a gas such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide, in order to minimise
    deteriorative changes on storage. An example is the packaging of
    peanuts in an atmosphere of nitrogen to inhibit rancidity.
         Where food has been packed in this way in order to increase 
    shelf life, the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 require the 
    statement 'packaged in a protective atmosphere' to appear on the

Convenience food

         A manufactured product requiring little or no preparation (other
    than heating, diluting or dissolving in water, where appropriate)
    before consumption.


         Having been subjected to a heating process sufficient to render
    the food suitable for consumption.

Critical control point

         Any point in a specific food system where loss of control may
    result in an unacceptable risk.

Crude fibre

         The structural component of the plant cell wall being the
    residue obtained after consecutive acid and alkali digestion of a food
    or food material. Crude fibre is determined for nutritional
    declarations on animal feeding stuffs and also for defining brown
    bread in the Bread and Flour Regulations 1984.


         When used as a descriptive term for food, refers exclusively to
    milk and milk products. In the EU its use is legally governed by
    Council Regulation 1898/87 on the Protection of Designations used in
    the marketing of Milk and Milk Products, as supplemented by Commission
    Decision 888/566/EEC. Help in interpreting some of these provisions
    was given by a MAFF Guidance Note (November 1989). The Council
    Regulation was subsequently implemented by the UK in the Milk and Milk
    Products (Protection of Designations) Regulations 1990.

Dairy-free (Non-dairy)

         A description that may be applied to a food that is free from 
    milk products and also from milk derivatives such as lactose, 
    caseinate and whey powder.

Dehydrated (food)

         Food or food products from which all but a small percentage of
    the water has been removed under controlled conditions.

Designer food(s)

         See Functional Foods and Marketing Terms.


         The application of effective chemical or physical agents or
    processes to a cleaned surface or to a water supply to reduce the
    number of microorganisms to a level consistent with good hygiene

Dietary fibre

         In scientific terms, dietary fibre is a mixture of components
    derived from plant cell wall material and non-structural
    polysaccharides, as well as non-starch polysaccharides added to
    foods. It includes non-digestible polysaccharides such as cellulose,
    hemicelluloses, gums, pectins, mucilages and lignin. From a nutrition
    point of view, some authorities also include 'resistant starch' (i.e.
    starch that is resistant to enzymic degradation, usually as a result
    of processing).

         Currently, there is no universally accepted method for
    determination of dietary fibre. For some years the UK Ministry of
    Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) has adopted the definition, for
    the purposes of label declaration, that dietary fibre is non-starch
    polysaccharides as determined by the Englyst method; but in Guidelines
    issued in March 1994, MAFF indicated that analysts may use any other
    methods which give similar results. The Englyst method excludes
    resistant starch. Most EU countries and the USA use the AOAC Prosky
    method. This method includes resistant starch and the value for
    dietary fibre obtained is therefore invariably higher than that by the
    Englyst method. It should be noted, however, that no recognised
    analytical method fully corresponds to biological performance.


         A term descriptive of a food or food material consisting of a
    stable blend of two or more otherwise immiscible liquids, usually an
    oil and an aqueous phase, achieved by appropriate physical means and
    usually with the incorporation of emulsifying and stabilising agents.


         See "fortified foods"

Fast Food

         This term is not descriptive of food per se, but categorises a
    type of catering outlet, providing, within seconds of being ordered,
    counter delivery of freshly-prepared food items capable of being eaten
    without cutlery. This delivery is mainly dependent on scheduling based
    on accurate anticipation of fluctuating demand, a production system
    and staff capable of keeping pace with it, and sufficient counter
    servers to minimise queuing. Because some foods (e.g. burgers) have
    lent themselves more readily to this type of operation, the term has
    come to be applied to them too.


         The process of chemical change in animal or plant material,
    catalysed by enzymes of biological origin. It may be intended, as in
    brewing of beer or vinegar, or unintended and undesirable, as in food

Fermented (food)

         Food material having been subjected to fermentation


         Sometimes used synonymously with "dietary fibre" including in
    European and UK nutrition labelling legislation


         The term 'flavour' may have reference to sensory quality of 
    a food as perceived by a combination of smell and taste. 
    Alternatively, 'flavour', for which the legally correct term is 
    'flavouring', is defined in the Flavouring in Food Regulations 1992 as
    a material used to impart odour, taste or both to a food. Under the UK
    Food Labelling Regulations 1996, if the declared flavour of a product
    is derived wholly or mainly from the named food, the product name is
    (for example) "Strawberry X". If it does not derive wholly or mainly
    from the named food, the product name is "Strawberry Flavour X".
         The UK Food Standards Committee's 2nd Report on Food Labelling 
    suggested that consumers do not appreciate the difference between
    'flavour', which the FSC equated with artificial flavouring and
    'flavoured' which they equated with the use of the real food to
    provide flavouring.
         The UK Food Advisory Committee (FAC), in its 1990 Report on 
    Labelling, decided that the difference between 'flavour' and 
    'flavoured' was significant and that since consumers were said to have
    difficulty distinguishing between the two, 'flavour' should be banned
    and replaced by 'taste'.
         The supposed confusion between the two words is a misconception. 
    Contrary to paragraph 64 of the FAC Report, the then Food Labelling
    Regulations 1984 as amended, and the current UK Food Labelling
    Regulations 1996. make no provision for the use of the term
    'flavoured'. As indicated above those Regulations provide for (e.g.)
    'Strawberry X' or 'Strawberry Flavour X' but no intermediate
    designation such as ' strawberry flavoured X'.
         The only legal use of "flavoured" is in the Cocoa and Chocolate 
    Products Regulations 1976. In those Regulations, cocoa products and
    non-filled chocolates may be described as 'Y flavoured chocolate', as
    the case may be, if the flavour is derived wholly or mainly from Y.
         The term 'flavour' serves a useful and well-established 
    purpose. The FAC suggestion to prohibit it and substitute 'taste'
    (reiterated in September 1994) is scientifically inaccurate and, if it
    were to be embodied in legislation, would create instead of removing


         In the UK Food Safety Act 1990, 'food' is defined as including 
    (a) drink; (b) articles and substances of no nutritional value which
    are used for human consumption; (c) chewing gum and other products of
    a like nature and use; and (d) articles and substances used as
    ingredients in the preparation of food or anything falling within this
    subsection. It does not include (a) live animals or birds, or live
    fish which are not used for human consumption while they are alive;
    (b) fodder or feeding stuffs for animals, birds or fish; (c)
    controlled drugs within the meaning of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971;
    and (d) subject to certain exceptions, medicinal products in respect
    of which product licences or marketing authorisations are in force.
    This definition states what 'food' includes and excludes (similarly to
    the latter part of the Codex definition) but it is deficient in
    failing to define what food is, i.e. does not specify "intended for
    human consumption".
         The Codex Alimentarius defines 'food' as "any substance, 
    whether processed, semi processed or raw, which is intended for human
    consumption and includes drink, chewing gum and any substance which
    has been used in the manufacture, preparation or treatment of food,
    but does not include cosmetics or tobacco or substances only used as
         The EU Commission, in its November 2000 Proposal for a 
    Regulation laying down the general principles and requirements of food
    law, establishing the European Food Authority, and laying down
    procedures in matters of food, proposed the following definition:
         'Food' (or 'foodstuff') means any substance or product, whether 
    processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended to be, or
    expected to be ingested by humans. It includes drink, chewing gum and
    any substance intentionally incorporated into the food during its
    manufacture, preparation or treatment. It includes water, without
    prejudice to the requirements of Directives 80/778/EEC and 98/83/EC.
    It shall not include:

         (a) feed;
         (b) live animals unless they are prepared, packaged and/or 
             served for human consumption;
         (c) plants prior to harvesting;
         (d) medicinal products within the meaning of Council Directive 
             65/65/EEC 17;
         (e) cosmetics within the meaning of Council Directive 76/768/EEC 
             18 ;
         (f) tobacco and tobacco products within the meaning of Council 
             Directive 89/622/EEC 19 ;
         (g) narcotic or psychotropic substances within the meaning of 
             the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961
             and the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances,

Food hygiene

         All environmental factors, practices, processes and precautions
    involved in protecting food from contamination by any agency, and
    preventing any organism present from multiplying to an extent that
    would expose consumers to risk or result in premature spoilage or
    decomposition of food.

Fortified (food)

         Three separate circumstances may be defined: Restored, enriched,
    and fortified foods, as described here:


               the addition of nutrients to foods in order to restore the
         level of those nutrients that were originally present, but have
         been destroyed or lost in processing.


               The addition to a food of one or more nutrients which were
         already present in that food in lower than desirable amounts.


               The addition to a food of significant quantities of a
         nutrient that was not originally present in that food or was
         present only in nutritionally insignificant amount.

Free from ....

         For food to be described as 'free from X' (or by terms having a
    similar import) the food, at the point of sale, must be either free
    X when tested by a standard reference method of analysis or it must
    contain no more than a specified maximum of X.

Free from added ....

         If a food in its original state contains X, it may be described
    'free from added X' (or by terms having a similar import) only if no X
    has been introduced, directly or indirectly, via any ingredient or
    during production, manufacture, processing, packaging, storage,
    distribution or point of sale. MAFF Guidelines (1993) specify that 'no
    added sugar' means that no sugars, or foods composed mainly of sugars,
    should be added to a food or any of its ingredients; and that 'no
    added salt' means that no salt or sodium compounds should be added to
    or to any of its ingredients.

         It should be noted, however, that in the instance of a food which
    strictly complies with the foregoing but itself has a high sugar
    (for example date paste) the description 'no added sugar', though
    true, could be held to be misleading (Section 3(2) of the Trade
    Descriptions Act 1968).


         The condition of a short shelf-life perishable unprocessed food
    prior to perceptible evidence of physical, chemical or microbiological
    change. Fresh is normally applied to unprocessed foods e.g. fresh
    eggs, fresh meat, showing that they are in their original state. It is
    also used in apparently contradictory terms, e.g. fresh pasteurised
    cream to distinguish it from more highly processed sterilised cream.


         Fulfilling a specific physical, chemical or biological function.

Functional food(s)

         All foods are functional, and to term some (as distinct from
    others) as 'functional' is illogical. The term is one of the
    marketing-coined names (others are 'neutraceuticals' and 'designer
    foods') to categorise foods which are considered or claimed to offer
    specific health benefits while avoiding the requirement to be licensed
    medicines (See Marketing terms, below).

Genetic modification

         The process of making changes to the genes of an organism 
    (whether an animal or plant organism or a microorganism). Genetic
    changes occur spontaneously in nature over a long period of time, but
    they may be produced intentionally either by traditional methods of
    selective breeding of animals and plants, or by modern methods of
    removal or insertion of genes. The latter method involves four basic

         1. the DNA of a cell of the donor organism is broken down and 
            the pieces separated;
         2. the desired gene is selected;
         3. that gene is copied many times; and
         4. nth generation laboratory copies (not the donor's original 
            genes) are then inserted into the DNA of the receiver

    'Within-species' genetic modification is essentially similar to 
    traditional breeding methods (except that it is much speedier and much
    less haphazard). Through 'trans-species' modification, results are
    obtainable that could not be obtained by traditional breeding methods.
    In relation to food, the potential scientific benefits of genetic
    modification are:

         * Improved agricultural performance (yields) with reduced use 
           of pesticides
         * Ability to grow crops in inhospitable environments (e.g. via 
           increased ability of plants to grow in conditions of drought,
           salinity and extremes of temperature
         * Delayed ripening, permitting improvements in quality and 
           processing advantages.
         * Altered sensory attributes of food (e.g. flavour, texture,
         etc.) * Improved nutritional attributes e.g. combatting
           and allergenic factors, and increased Vitamin A content in
         * Improved processing characteristics leading to reduced waste 
           and lower food costs to the consumer.

    Some forms of trans-species modification may give rise to ethical and
    religious issues. 
         See also FAQ in section V (including within-species and
    trans-species) Part 2, Q 7, 8, and 9

Genetically modified-See FAQ same sections as above


         'Genuine' in connection with foods means an authentic type or
    source. It serves to distinguish ingredients which might otherwise be
    synthetic (e.g. 'vanilla ice cream, made with genuine vanilla') or it
    may establish the origin or type of a food (e.g. genuine Manzanilla
    olives, genuine Italian olive oil).


         'Good manufacturing practice' (GMP) is that part of a food
    operation aimed at ensuring that products are consistently
    manufactured to a specified quality appropriate to their intended use.
    It thus has two complementary and interacting components; the
    manufacturing operation itself and the control system and procedures.
    be made to the IFST publication 'Food and Drink - Good Manufacturing
    Practice: A Guide to its Responsible Management'. (3rd Edition, 1991).


         Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) is a preventive 
    system of food control. It involves

         1. Hazard analysis - examining and analysing every stage of 
            a food-related operation to identify and assess hazards 
            (q.v., below);
         2. determining the 'critical control points' (q.v., above) at 
            which action is required to control the identified hazards;
         3. establishing the critical limits that must be met at each 
            critical control point;
         4. establishing monitoring procedures;
         5. establishing corrective procedures when a deviation is 
            identified by monitoring;
         6. establishing verification procedures to demostrate that it 
            is working correctly.
         7. Establishing record-keeping and documentation.

    A few authoritative sources of information are:

         * "HACCP Systems and Guidelines" , CODEX Alimentarius, 1997. *
         Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Principles and 
           Application Guidelines, (US) National Advisory Committee on
           Microbiological Safety of Foods, 14 August 1997
         * Food Safety and Inspection Service, US Department of 
           Agriculture, Pathogen Reduction/HACCP & HACCP Implementation
         * Canadian Food Inspection Agency 's Food Safety Enhancement 
           Program Web page of links at
         * A Simple Guide to Understanding and Applying the Hazard 
           Analysis Critical Control Point Concept. ILSI Europe, 1997.


         Hazard and Operability Studies (HAZOP) is a systematic structured
    approach to questioning the sequential stages of a proposed operation
    order to optimise the efficiency and the management of risk. Thus, the
    application of HAZOP to the design of a proposed food-related
    should result in a system in which as many critical control points as
    possible have been eliminated, making the subsequent application of
    HACCP during subsequent operations much easier to carry out.


         Any intrinsic property of a system, operation, material or
    situation that could, in certain circumstances, lead to an adverse
    consequence. In food terms, this particularly refers to an adverse
    consequence (health risk or loss by spoilage) to the consumer.

Health food

         This is essentially a marketing term, the meaning of which has
    never been clear. There is no legal basis and no evident objective
    justification for the term, which implies a superiority over foods not
    so described. So-called health foods fall into four main categories,

         1) products in respect of which there is adequate scientific
    substantiation for the specific permissible nutrition and/or health
    claims made, and which are labelled in accordance with relevant

         2) those in respect of which there is 'folklore' and some
    scientific evidence for the claims, but falling short of

         3) those making claims for which there is little or no scientific

         4) other products that are frequently sold in health food shops
    e.g. 'wholefoods' (q.v.).

         It should be noted that some products in categories 2 and 3 have
    given rise to concerns about their safety, which, in certain cases,
    led to prohibition.

Hermetically sealed container

         Strictly, an 'hermetically sealed container' is one that is
    so as to be air-tight. Commercially sterile food products may be
    packed in non-metallic containers that are not completely air-tight.
    In the latter context, an 'hermetically sealed container' has been
    defined as one that is designed and intended to be secure against
    entry of microorganisms.

High in .....

         Complying either with a declared or, where existing, a
    legally-specified minimum, or a legally-specified percentage increase
    compared with a product not making a "high in" claim for the
    parameters involved."

Higher in (increased) .....

         Complying either with a declared or, where existing, a
    legally-specified percentage increase compared with a product not
    such a claim, for the parameter involved.

Home made

         This term has no defined meaning but it implies that a food has
    been prepared on a small scale, either on domestic premises or
    premises not associated with large scale manufacture.


         Primarily a marketing term, and sometimes used in conjunction
    'new', it may cover a wide variety of circumstances, including minor
    cosmetic changes, cost-cutting changes, and formulation changes to
    make the product more acceptable to purchasers. It is the latter case
    that most properly justifies the use of the term.


         This term is strictly justified only in the cases of dry powders
    mixes which rehydrate instantly, i.e. in a matter of a few seconds
    instant coffee, instant tea) and should be reserved for such speedy
    action. By extension, however, the term has sometimes been misused by
    applying it to dry mix products which rehydrate faster than some
    others but still take a few minutes rather than a few seconds. For the
    latter, a term such as 'rapid' would be more appropriate.


         Having been subjected to ionising radiation.


         A term applied to a liquid product, e.g. a drink, having osmotic
    properties approximating to those of blood serum, i.e. 280 milli-
    osmoles per kg. However, the EU Scientific Committee for Food's
    February 2001 Report on Sports Drinks includes

         "It has become common to refer to carbohydrate-electrolyte 
         sports drinks as isotonic drinks, as though the tonicity was
         their most important characteristic. The osmolality of ingested
         fluids is important as this can influence both the rates of
         gastric emptying and of intestinal water flux: both of these
         processes together will determine the effectiveness of
         rehydration fluids at delivering water for rehydration. An
         increasing osmolality of the gastric contents will tend to delay
         emptying, and increasing the carbohydrate or electrolyte content
         of sports drinks will generally result in an increased
         osmolality. The composition of the drinks and the nature of the
         solutes is, however, of greater importance than the osmolality

   and concludes:

         "Although most of the popular sports drinks are formulated to
         have as close to that of body fluids [102] and are promoted as
         isotonic drinks, there is good evidence that hypotonic solutions
         are more effective when rapid rehydration is desired. Although it
         is argued that a higher osmolality is inevitable when adequate
         amounts of carbohydrate are to be included in sports drinks, the
         optimum amount of carbohydrate necessary to improve exercise
         performance has not been clearly established." 

Junk Food

         This term has no specific meaning. It is an invented label 
    which has, for example, been applied indiscriminately to all fast food
    and all snack foods. It has also been applied to any food high in fat
    and/or sugar (and so in calories) but low in other nutrients. However,
    there is no evidence that such foods are other than acceptable as part
    of a balanced diet


         These terms are used to signify a lower energy or lower fat
    of a particular food, [and therefore should comply with conditions
    applying to a reduced .... claim. (see Reduced .......)]. That would
    imply at least 25% reduction of the norm, but some opinion holds that
    should mean at least 50% reduction.

Low calorie/low energy

         A description which may be applied to foods which, when ready for
    consumption, have an energy value no greater than 167 kJ (40 kcal) per
    100 g (for the purposes of theUK Food Labelling Regulations 1984,
    intense sweeteners and similar products are exempted from this limit).

Low in .....

         Complying either with a declared or, where existing, a
    legally-specified maximum or a legally-specified percentage reduction
    compared with a product not making a 'low in' claim for the parameters


         The complete cycle of production of a food product from the
    acquisition of all materials, through all stages of subsequent
    processing, packaging and storage, to the despatch of the finished


         'Meat' means the flesh, including fat and the skin, rind, gristle
    and sinew in amounts naturally associated with the flesh, of any
    animal or bird which is normally used for human consumption, but
    those parts of the carcase listed in Part I of Schedule 2 of the UK
    Products and Spreadable Fish Products Regulations 1984.
         Note that from 1 January 2003 EU Member States will have to 
    give effect to a Directive amending Directive 2000/13/EC, limiting the
    definition of "meat" to skeletal-attached muscle plus not more than
    25% muscle-adhering fat and connective tissue (not more than 10% in
    the case of birds and rabbits), requiring systematic indication of the
    species from which the meat comes, and excluding "mechanically
    separated meat" from the definition.


         The extensive use of 'natural' in labelling and advertising
    from a public misconception, that 'natural' necessarily means 'safe',
    healthy', 'nutritious' (in contrast to its perceived opposites,
    'unnatural', 'unsafe', 'chemical', 'processed', etc). The consequent
    marketing view that 'natural' should be used wherever possible to
    reassure those fearing adverse effects of 'unnatural' foods, resulted
    widespread indiscriminate use of 'natural' despite the efforts of food
    scientists and technologists in industry and enforcement to restrict
    use to justifiable cases. Although based on a misconception of the
    significance of 'natural', if some consumers wish to select foods
    which are 'natural', they are entitled to information that is
    meaningful and not misleading.
         In 1989 MAFF published FAC guidelines on the detailed conditions
    and circumstances in which the use of 'natural' or similar terms) was
    justified. In summary these were (a) to describe single foods of a
    traditional nature to which nothing has been added and which have been
    subjected only to such processing as to render them suitable for human
    consumption.; (b) to describe food ingredients obtained from
    recognised food sources, and which meet the criteria in (a); (c) to
    describe flavouring substances (but see 'natural flavouring', below)
    food additives obtained from recognised food sources by appropriate
    physical processes or traditional food preparation processes. The
    reference in (a) to 'a traditional nature' was intended to exclude
    such as mycoprotein which may be products of natural sources but were
    not considered by FAC to accord with the public perception of
    Compound food should not be described as 'natural' but could be
    described as 'made from natural ingredients' if all of the ingredients
    comply with (b) or (c). In the cases of foods not complying with the
    above criteria, 'natural' or its derivatives should not be used in
    or fancy names or incorporated in meaningless copy. Phrases such as
    'naturally good', naturally better', etc should be avoided.
         At the time IFST urged that the abuse of the term was such that
    these conditions should be embodied in legislation, but Ministers
    decided otherwise. Nevertheless, although these conditions do not have
    de jure force of law, enforcement authorities and courts can use them
    yardsticks in assessing whether a particular usage is misleading; so
    to that extent they have de facto legal force.
         However, see also the FAC Review of the use of the terms Fresh, 
    Pure, Natural etc. in Food Labelling 2001, in connection with which
    the UK Food Standards Agency has announced an intention to legislate

Natural flavouring

         The UK Flavourings in Food (Amendment) Regulations 1994 now
    provides a legal definition to supersede that provided in relation to
    flavourings in the FAC Guidelines on the use of the word 'natural'. It
    provides that a 'natural' flavouring may be obtained from vegetable or
    animal material by enzymatic or microbiological methods as well as
    physical ones; and that if the name of the flavouring refers to its
    vegetable or animal origin, it can only be designated 'natural' if it
    derived wholly or mainly from the named vegetable or animal source.


         a term applied to flavouring substances or mixtures thereof that
    have been synthesised or isolated from aromatic raw materials but are
    chemically identical with substances found in natural products used
    for human consumption - in the US this is otherwise known as
    "Artificial flavor".


         Primarily a marketing term, and sometimes used in conjunction
    'improved', it may cover a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from
    minor formulation or packaging change from a previously marketed
    through a product that is new to the manufacturer but very similar to
    products already on the market, to a product that is really
    innovative. How long can a product labelled 'New' continue to be so
    labelled? There is no official answer, and it is extremely difficult
    to give one. This is because a new product may be subjected to test
    marketing in a particular part of the country, and then 'rolled out'
    progressively until it reaches national distribution, perhaps taking
    up to two years in doing so. A maximum of one year from national
    distribution seems a reasonable limit.

Novel (food, process)

         Food or food ingredients produced from raw material that has not
    hitherto been used (or has been used only to a small extent) for human
    consumption in the area of the world in question, or that is produced
    a new or extensively modified process not previously used in the
    production of food. A question open to debate is "At what point does a
    novel food (e.g. mycoprotein), having come on the market and being
    fairly widely consumed, cease to be a novel food?"

         Any person or company contemplating marketing in the UK a novel
    food or one containing a novel ingredient should make a prior
    to the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).


         See Functional food.


         (See FAQ part 1, No. 20 for comparisons between organic and
    other foods)
         Organic food can be defined as "the product of a farming system 
    which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides, growth
    regulators and livestock feed additives. Instead the system relies on
    crop rotation, animal and plant manures, some hand weeding and
    biological pest control". This definition serves to distinguish the
    use of the word 'organic' in this context from its more traditional
    scientific meaning as a description of a carbon-containing molecule.
    'Organic' is the description used only in English-speaking countries;
    in other markets 'Bio' , 'Oko' or 'Eco' are appropriate. The Organic
    Products Regulations 1992 as amended implement EU Council Regulation
    EEC No 2091/91 (as amended in 1995) on organic production of
    agricultural products and foodstuffs. The use of the word 'organic' is
    restricted to agricultural crops and livestock and products made from
    them, in compliance with the detailed provisions of Annexes I, II and
    III of the Council Regulation.
         Organic processed foods are labelled depending on the 
    proportion of organic ingredients present:

         * Category 1: Product contains a minimum of 95% organic 
           ingredients by weight. Product can be labelled 'Organic' 
           eg Organic Cornflakes
         * Category 2: Product contains 70 - 95% organic ingredients 
           by weight. Product can be labelled 'Made with Organic 
           Ingredients' eg Tomato Ketchup made with Organic Tomatoes.

    Regulation 2092/91 as amended contains a list of the non-organic
    ingredients which can be included in an otherwise organic food - for
    example water, salt, permitted food additives, processing aids,
    carrier solvents and flavourings. The Regulations also specifically
    exclude the use of irradiated or genetically modified (GM) ingredients
    in organic food.
         Throughout the EU each member state has a national Control Body. 
    In the UK it is UKROFS, (The Register of Organic Food Standards) which
    regulates the activities of six UK Certification Bodies, who are the
    organisations charged with inspecting and regulating UK organic
    producers and manufacturers. The largest Certification Body is the
    Soil Association, which currently undertakes 80% of all certification
    in the UK. The other UK Certification Bodies are Organic Farmers &
    Growers, Scottish Organic Producers Association, Demeter, Organic Food
    Federation (OFF) and Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association.
    Other prominent EU certification bodies include Ecocert (France),
    Naturland (Germany) and Skal (Holland), whilst OCIA, OGBA, QAI and FVO
    are the prominent certification bodies in the USA. The production of
    organic food requires the same involvement of professional food
    scientists and technologists and is subject to the same requirements
    of good manufacturing practice and food safety as the rest of the food
    industry, but is also subject to specific additional legal
    requirements as to cultivation, composition and labelling.


         This adjective may be justified in respect of a well established
    product, to distinguish it from subsequent variants marketed by the
    manufacturer. Likewise it could be used in respect of a product which
    was first in the marketplace to distinguish it from subsequent
    'me-too' imitations.


         This term, as a noun or adjective, has previously been used to
    refer to 'microorganisms and substances which contribute to the
    intestinal microbial balance'. However, the inclusion of 'substances'
    created the paradox that antibiotics could be probiotics if they were
    specific enough to destroy harmful bacteria thereby restoring the
    intestinal microbial balance. Accordingly, it is now suggested that
    'probiotic' should be taken to refer to 'a live microbial preparation,
    either as a food or animal feed, which can benefit the host through
    restoring its intestinal microbial balance'.

         The microorganisms most commonly involved as probiotics are the
    Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, Streptococci and some yeasts and moulds.
    Probiotic preparations may have one or a mixture of organisms of
    genera, species, sub-species or strains, and may take a variety of
    physical forms.

         There is conflicting evidence, and controversy, about the extent
    which colon flora can be influenced by oral administration of the
    various microorganisms involved, at the levels found in conventional


         Having been subjected to treatment designed to change one or more
    of the properties (physical, chemical, microbiological, sensory) of

Processing aid

         In the UK Food Labelling Regulations 1984, 'processing aids' are
    not separately defined; but the definition of 'additive' 'includes
    processing aids insofar as they added to, or used in or on, food'. It
    follows that a processing aid is an additive which facilitates
    processing without significantly influencing the character or
    of the finished product. Examples would be a tablet release agent used
    to coat the inside of tablet moulds, or a spray used to allow bread to
    be released from baking tins or trays. There are, however, anomalous
    instances. For example, if an anti-caking agent is added to a powder
    ingredient to facilitate its flow properties while being conveyed to a
    mixer, where it is incorporated into a liquid product or a dough for
    baking, the anti-caking agent is used solely as a processing aid, and
    hence need not be declared. If however, that powder ingredient is
    directly packed into containers for sale as such, or is incorporated
    in a dry mix product, the anti-caking agent is not acting solely as a
    processing aid and must be declared as an additive.


         This word is used as a marketing term, and is usually applied to
    single ingredient with no additions, e.g. pure vegetable oil, pure
    orange juice, whether in the form of a single ingredients food or when
    used as a major ingredient of a compound food.


         When applied meaningfully to the character of a food, 'quality'
    refer to (a) the degree or standard of excellence; or (b) the fitness
    for purpose; or (c) the consistency of attainment of the specified
    properties of the food. In the context of food control, it is meaning
    (c) that applies.

         The term is sometimes used in a meaningless marketing sense (e.g.
    'X is a quality product').


         In the earliest or primary state, after harvesting or slaughter,
    not having been subjected to any treatment apart from cleaning, size
    grading or size reduction, (e.g. diced raw vegetables, raw minced

         Some ingredients termed 'raw materials' may actually be 'raw'.
    Often, however, one manufacturer's starting materials are other
    manufacturers' finished products; and a more accurate description
    would be 'starting materials'.


         A marketing term, used normally to emphasise the presence of an
    authentic ingredient in a product, as distinct from a substitute (e.g.
    biscuits with a real chocolate coating).

         See also Genuine.


         'Re-formed' meat is an artefact having the appearance of a cut,
    joint, slice or portion of meat, formed by combining pieces of meat
    which have undergone processes generally including tumbling or
    or specific alignment of fibres, with or without the addition of
    finely comminuted meat and/or meat emulsion, and then forming in
    moulds or
    shapes. Codes of Practice exist for the labelling of cured meat
    and quick frozen meat products respectively, made from re-formed

Reduced ...

         Complying either with a declared or, where existing,
    legally-specified percentage reduction compared with a product not
    making a ""reduced" claim, for the parameter involved.


         See Fortified (foods).

Rich in ...

         See High in ...


         The probability that a particular adverse consequence results 
    from a hazard within a stated time under stated conditions. "Risk
    assessment" should take account of both the probability of occurrence
    and its seriousness if it occurs. See Hazard and Risk Analysis.

Risk Analysis

         This comprises risk assessment, risk management and risk 
    communication. Risk assessment requires expertise both in the 
    product or process in which the risk has been identified, and in
    modern risk assessment techniques. While experts also have a
    responsibility to contribute to risk management (i.e. the action to be
    taken in relation to the assessed risk), it is not the province of
    experts alone; in relation to a product or process within a food
    operation, it is the responsibility of top management; in the wider
    context of food legislation it is the responsibility of the
    appropriate governmental authority after consultation. Consultation is
    part of the process of risk communication, which should take place
    both before and after risk management. 


         Primarily a marketing term, implying superior quality. It should
    not be used unless it can be substantiated that the product quality
    has been enhanced by an actual selection process.


         Relating to the use of the sense organs. (Note the distinction
    'organoleptic' 'relating to an attribute of a product perceptible by
    sense organs')..

         BS 5098 (identical with ISO 5492: 1992) entitled 'Sensory
    Vocabulary' provides an extensive and authoritative set of definitions
    of terms relating to sensory analysis.


         A small quantity of food, eaten informally between, or in place
    main meals.

Snackfood (Snack food)

         A convenient food item specifically manufactured for use as a


         Any perceivable change undergone by a food, through any cause,
    renders it unwholesome or unacceptable for use. Spoilage is usually
    the result of enzyme or microbial action resulting, for example, in
    lipolytic rancidity, putrefaction, fermentation, or mould growth; but
    food can also spoil by other means, for example overlong storage,
    non-enzymic browning, or exposure to air or light. In practice the
    term is most frequently applied to categorising such deteriorative
    changes (other than food infection or intoxication) when caused by


         'Steak' has, in the past, been taken to mean a cut or thick slice
    from the beef animal. However, a judgement in the Court of Appeal in
    1986 allowed a re-formed product to be called 'Chicken Breast Steaks
    Flaked and Formed Chicken in a Crispy Crumb' on the grounds that the
    description of the product, as a whole, was clear, accurate and not
    misleading. This judgement, therefore, means that 'steak' can be used,
    provided that it is properly qualified, as a generic term, probably in
    relation to any animal, bird or fish normally used for human
    and whether or not the meat has been re-formed.


         One way of defining 'traditional' in relation to foods and food
    processes is to say it is the opposite of 'new' or 'modern' (cf. the
    FAC's use of 'traditional' with the intention to exclude novel foods,
    see 'natural', above). It can also be applied to a particular
    characteristic of a food; for example 'traditional flavour', 'made in
    the traditional way'. This leaves unresolved, however, the question
    "at what point does yesterday's 'new' or 'modern' become today's
    'traditional'?". One suspects that for each generation, 'traditional'
    means anything up to and including the foods and methods of one's
    early youth! For some, 'traditional' appears to mean rule-of-thumb
    rather than based on science/technology.


         A food material containing no additions or contaminants foreign
    the normal product which otherwise would debase it or confer or
    inferior quality.


         Any food which contains all its naturally occurring components,
    (e.g. pulses, raw vegetables) and without the addition of other
    substances. A wholefood can be a mixture of wholefoods.


         'Wholesomeness' is a convenient single term which embodies a
    number of aspects and attributes of a food. In summary, a wholesome
    is one that satisfactorily meets the expectations of the segment of
    consumers at which it is aimed; and that has been made, stored and
    handled in compliance with any relevant legislative standards and with
    all of the principles of good manufacturing practice.

         Full consideration of these characteristics is given in IFST
    Professional Conduct Guideline 'Wholesomeness of Food'. This relates
    to a clause in the Code of Professional Conduct, requiring each member
    "to take legitimate steps through proper channels to ensure (or assist
    in ensuring) the wholesomeness of any food with which he or she is


         When used in the labelling, advertising or description of a food,
    the main (and sometimes total) role of the terms listed under this
    heading is to promote the sale of the product rather than provide
    necessary information to the purchaser. Terms often falling into this
    category include 'health food', 'designer food', 'functional food',
    'improved', 'natural', 'new', 'pure', 'quality', 'selected',

         Food scientists and technologists who are in a position to advise
    on product labelling, advertising or promotional material should do
    their best to ensure that such terms are not used in ways that could
    mislead (see IFST Professional Guideline No 6 'Scientific Issues and
    Food Promotion').



------- End of forwarded message -------


 information to the purchaser. Terms often falling into this
     category include 'health food', 'designer food', 'functional food',
     'improved', 'natural', 'new', 'pure', 'quality', 'selected',

          Food scientists and technologists who are in a position to advise
     on product labelling, advertising or promotional material should do
     their best to ensure that such terms are not used in ways that could
     mislead (see IFST Professional Guideline No 6 'Scientific Issues and
     Food Promotion').



Paul E. J. King
FAQ Archive Maintainer

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