Glossary of Terms

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Additives
Additives are substances that make our food more appealing.  They may preserve, add color to, and stabilize the flavors and textures of foods.


Allergens

An allergen is a substance, often a protein, that causes an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity in some people.   The presence of the most common allergens in a food or drink is required to be listed on the ingredient panel.

Top 8 allergens: fish, crustacean shellfish, milk, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, legumes, (and sulfites)


Artificial Flavor

Quite simply, artificial flavors are flavorings that don’t meet the definition of natural flavor.

There isn’t much difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavorings.  What is different is the source.  For example, an artificial strawberry flavor may contain the same individual substances as a natural one, but the ingredients come from a source other than a strawberry.


Distillate

The liquid which is extracted from a food product by heating and condensing vapor.


Essential Oil

A volatile substance (meaning something that easily evaporates into the air) that is obtained by distilling or expressing (pressing) plant material from a single botanical form and species.  Essential oils are used to create flavors destined for a range of foods and beverages.


European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

The European Food Safety Authority is the agency within the European Union that provides guidance and scientific advice on issues related to risks within the food chain.  EFSA’s work covers all direct and indirect impacts on food safety.


Extract

An extract is a solution that contains essential components of a complex material.  A flavor extract is such a solution, but composed specifically of compounds that create flavors.  One popular example is the vanilla extract, vanillin, which is the most often used flavor ingredient in the United States.

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FEMA Expert Panel

The Expert Panel of the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) has served as the primary body for the safety evaluation of food flavorings for the flavor industry, and the public through its “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) assessment of flavoring substances for more than 50 years. Flavoring substances are determined to be GRAS by the FEMA Expert Panel pursuant to the authority granted in Section 201(s) of the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which is administered by the FDA.

The Expert Panel has operated continuously since it was first appointed in 1960. The Expert Panel’s primary goal is to ensure that flavoring substances added to foods are safe for their intended use — the conclusions of the Expert Panel on GRAS status apply only to the use of a flavoring substance in food. The Expert Panel is comprised of experts in the fields of chemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, medicine, pathology, and statistics; all are also experts in flavor safety assessment.

The flavor industry takes great pains to ensure the independence of the panel’s work. Panel members do not know the identity of companies seeking FEMA GRAS™ status for their flavorings. The Expert Panel determines its own agenda, develops its own safety standards, informs the Food and Drug Administration of its GRAS determinations, and publishes its findings.


FEMA GRAS™

A Generally Recognized As Safe program overseen by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) Expert Panel.  This independent panel of esteemed scientists evaluates the safety of flavoring substances.  Additionally, the FEMA Expert Panel periodically and routinely carries out re-evaluations of FEMA GRASTM substances.


Flavor

Flavor is the entire range of sensations that we perceive when we eat a food or drink a beverage. Flavor encompasses a substance’s taste, smell, and any physical traits we perceive in our mouths, such as “heat” (for example, cinnamon) or “cold” (for example, spearmint).


Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA)

Founded in 1909, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association is the voice of the US flavor industry.  Its members are comprised of flavor manufacturers, flavor users, flavor ingredient suppliers, and others interested in the flavor industry.  FEMA works with legislators and regulators to assure its members’ and consumers’ needs are met.  FEMA is committed to assuring a substantial supply of safe flavoring ingredients.


Flavor Palette

Flavorists work in a combined field of art and science, using a “flavor palette” the same way a painter uses color or a sculptor uses texture.  There are a range of flavor ingredients that impart tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory), smells, and physical traits (“heat” and “cold”), and we experience these flavors and traits at different points while we eat.  Flavorists refer to these as “notes,” with the “top note” being the first thing you taste, and the “bottom note,” the last.  Flavorists can mix and match from their palette to make a seemingly unlimited number of flavor combinations.


Flavorist

Flavorists are specially trained scientists who design flavor combinations that you find in foods and beverages on store shelves and in your favorite restaurants.  They are part-chemist and part-artist, since they have a strong scientific background and a creative flair that allows them to imagine new ways we can experience flavors in both expected and unexpected ways.  Flavorists undergo many years of training to develop the skills needed to create the flavors we enjoy.


Fluid Extract

A liquid system of flavorant and solvent.  Example: vanilla extract.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
Passed in 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act is the most sweeping reform to the United States’ food safety program in 70 years.  It seeks to shift federal regulators’ focus from responding to contamination issues to preventing them.  Rules related to FSMA are being released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the next few years.

Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
GRAS is an acronym for Generally Recognized As Safe. It designates that a compound or substance added to food is considered safe by experts with scientific training and expertise.  GRAS status may be achieved either through the FDA’s voluntary GRAS notification program (FDA, 1997) or through a properly conducted GRAS determination made by a private party.

The statutory definition of GRAS has four key criteria, all of which must be met for a food ingredient to be considered generally recognized as safe and exempt from the requirements for food additive approval:

  1. There must be general recognition of safety by qualified experts.
  2. The experts must be qualified by training and experience to evaluate the substance’s safety.
  3. The experts must base their determination of safety on scientific procedures or on common use in food prior to 1958.
  4. The determination of general recognition of safety must take into account the conditions of intended use for the substance, in other words its function in the food, e.g. flavoring.


Halal

Refers to meat that has been slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the Shari’a (Islamic law); humane slaughter. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared.  Halal mostly specifies meats and animal tissue.


Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives
(JECFA)
JECFA is a joint effort by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to evaluate the safety of selected food additives used worldwide intended for human consumption.


Kosher

Refers to food or food ingredients that are prepared within Jewish dietary laws.  It is sanctioned as ritually fit for use, or acceptable.


Masking

Often times, Flavorists use ingredients that are able to lessen or reduce the intensity of a particular flavor extract.  These are masking compounds.


Natural Flavor

Natural flavors are ingredients that come from natural sources such as a spice, fruit, or vegetable.  They can even come from herbs, barks, roots, or similar plant materials.  Natural flavors also come from meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.  Flavors are only used to add taste to foods; they are not nutritional.

If something is labeled as “natural flavor” it must fit the definition of “natural flavor.”  Different countries define what it means for a flavor to be considered “natural.”  In the United States, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have definitions of “natural flavor” in their regulations.


Oleoresin

An oleoresin is an extract, typically from natural food or flavoring raw materials. They are a combination of an essential oil and resin compounds, and often having distinct and characteristic odors or flavors.


Organic

Refers to ingredients that are of, related to, or derived from living organisms, and only involve the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are strictly of animal or vegetable origin.


Powerful
The strength of flavors are so strong that some aromas would be detected at this  comparable level; the square footage of a desktop versus the square footage of the map of the United States (Including Alaska)

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Self Limitation
The concept that flavors are so strong (We can detect some of them in parts per trillion) that the point at which the chemicals even approach toxicity is so far above our acceptance level that no one would be able to swallow flavorings at levels to be hazardous – See Generally Recognized as Safe.


Synergy

Flavorists sometimes use materials that increase the perception of a flavor.  These ingredients synergize with the flavor, and can intensify it.


Taste

Flavor is the entire range of sensations that we perceive when we eat a food or drink a beverage. Flavor encompasses a substance’s taste, smell, and any physical traits we perceive in our mouths, such as “heat” (for example, cinnamon) or “cold” (for example, spearmint).


Trigeminal

The chemical sense.  Trigeminal is the sense of cool as in mint, hot as in pepper, and dry as in tea.  These are neither tastes nor odors.


United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The USDA is the agency within the federal government responsible for developing and executing policies impacting farming, agriculture, forestry, and food.  It is also responsible for policies impacting the use of some flavors and flavor ingredients, and has authority over “Organic” products and certification.


United States Food and Drug Association (FDA)

The Food and Drug Administration is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.  Broadly speaking, the FDA is responsible for regulating and promoting public health within the United States by regulating and supervising food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, and medications.  It is also chiefly responsible for regulations impacting the safety of flavors and flavor ingredients.


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