This article is from the Food Science FAQ, email@example.com (Paul E. J. King) with numerous contributions by others.
(See FAQ part 1, No. 20 for comparisons between organic and
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'
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 various
genera, species, sub-species or strains, and may take a variety of
There is conflicting evidence, and controversy, about the extent to
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
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 properties
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 a
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.