Top Ten: Industry Terms

We’ve all heard these key industry words buzzing in magazines, legislation, conversations and online, but do we truly know what they mean? Let’s take a closer look at the Top 10 Specialty Dessert Industry terms we’ve been hearing a lot of and see what the experts are saying they really stand for.

10. “Artisanal” Hand-made – A food that is hand-crafted and produced via methods of production which reflect those of pre-industrialized America—in other words, those foods which would never be made in a factory environment. It has been seen in current food trends in America that consumers are not necessarily concerned with the costs, but are becoming more focused on finding and procuring those foods that are special, handcrafted and healthy. Consumers perceive that artisan foods are wholesome, all-natural and nutrient packed, and they are created by hand, in small production environments to a level of quality approaching artwork, however it’s important to note this isn’t always the case.

9. Preservatives – Preservatives generally fall into one of three categories: those used to prevent bacterial or fungal growth; those that prevent oxidation (which can lead to discoloration or rancidity); and those that inhibit natural ripening of fruits and vegetables. According to an article written for the FDA, “it’s almost impossible to eat food without preservatives added by manufacturers,” unless you eat exclusively fresh food that you cook yourself.

8. Probiotics – The most widely accepted definition of probiotics was created by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) in 2002. The definition classifies probiotics as live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Put simply, years of research on these “good” bacteria have suggested the health benefits of consuming probiotics as a part of a healthy and
balanced diet.

7. Aspartame – Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used in foods and beverages in more than 100 countries around the world. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. The calories in foods can be substantially reduced, and in some products eliminated, by using aspartame in place of sugar. This low-calorie sweetener offers a way to reduce calories in sweet foods and beverages, which may help consumers lose or maintain their weight. It also offers a way for people with diabetes to decrease their carbohydrate intake.

6. Lactose Intolerant – Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. An intolerance or malabsorption implies difficulty with absorption of nutrients. Lactose intolerance means difficulty absorbing nutrients from milk (lact) and sugar (ose). When we digest lactose, it is broken down in the small intestine by the enzyme lactase into glucose and galactose. The galactose is modified to become a glucose molecule for utilization in the body by the liver. Being lactose intolerant is not the same as having an allergy; a food allergy provokes an immune response to a particular substance. Note, many people who are lactose intolerant (or malabsorptive) can eat yogurt and have no gastrointestinal issues because of the active live cultures.

5. Food Additive – In its broadest sense, a food additive is any substance added to food. Legally and according to the FDA, the term refers to “any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result − directly or indirectly – in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food.” This definition includes any substance used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage of food. The purpose of the legal definition, however, is to impose a premarket approval requirement. Therefore, this definition excludes ingredients whose use is generally recognized as safe (where government approval is not needed), those ingredients approved for use by FDA or the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to the food additives provisions of law, and color additives and pesticides where other legal premarket approval requirements apply.

4. Artificial − Ingredients that are not found in nature and therefore must be synthetically produced as artificial ingredients. Also, some ingredients found in nature can be manufactured artificially and produced more economically, with greater purity and more consistent quality, than their natural counterparts. For example, vitamin C or ascorbic acid may be derived from an orange or produced in a laboratory. Food ingredients are subject to the same strict safety standards regardless of whether they are naturally or artificially derived.

3. Organic – The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows. Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

2. Gluten-Free – Gluten-free means the food is free from gluten or products that contain gluten. This is mainly useful for people who have problems with gluten in food, but can also be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight. Gluten is a protein that can be found in grains and wheats, such as rye and barley. Gluten is also found in breads, dough, pastas, flour and oats. Foods that are gluten-free include maize (corn), potatoes, rice and tapioca (derived from cassava), and several grains and starch sources are considered acceptable for a gluten-free diet.

1. Natural – As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do NOT contain meat or eggs. According to FDA policy, “natural” means the product is free from synthetic or artificial ingredients. The USDA agrees that food can only be labeled “natural” if it contains no artificial flavor or flavorings, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives. It also states that the product should be minimally processed. Instead of using artificial flavors, the food is made with only natural ingredients derived from natural resources.