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4. Food Related Terms Definitions N-N


This article is from the Food Science FAQ, bypking123@sympatico.ca (Paul E. J. King) with numerous contributions by others.

4. Food Related Terms Definitions N-N


The extensive use of 'natural' in labelling and advertising arises
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 in
widespread indiscriminate use of 'natural' despite the efforts of food
scientists and technologists in industry and enforcement to restrict its
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) or permitted
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 foods
such as mycoprotein which may be products of natural sources but were
not considered by FAC to accord with the public perception of 'natural'.
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 brand
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 as
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 is
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


Primarily a marketing term, and sometimes used in conjunction with
'improved', it may cover a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from a
minor formulation or packaging change from a previously marketed product,
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 by
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 submission
to the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).


See Functional food.


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