Food Science Terms - A

Absorption: Retention of oil or fat by a food product which has been fried. A certain amount of fat is desirable to provide flavor, eating quality, etc. to the food. However, excessive absorption imparts an unpleasant greasiness, masks natural food flavor and is costly. 

Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): Quantity of a food additive that can be ingested daily, over a lifetime, without any risk (expressed in milligrams additive per kilogram body weight). 

Acesulfame K: Acesulfame K, or acesulfame potassium, is a low-calorie sweetener. It is an organic salt consisting of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulphur and potassium atoms. It is 200 times sweeter than sucrose, has a synergistic sweetening effect with other sweeteners, has a stable shelf-life and is heat stable. It is excreted through the human digestive system unchanged, and is therefore non-caloric. 

Acetic acid: compound found in vinegar, amongst other foods, that gives a sour and pungent smell

Acid: Substance with a pH of less than 7.0 that can break down and release hydrogen ions

Acidified food: Product with a natural pH of 4.6 or below. 

Acidity regulators: Used to alter and control the acidity or alkalinity levels for different desired effects, which can include preservation, added/altered tartness, colour retention and to assist raising agents. 

Acrylamide: by-product made when foods high in starch are fried, roasted or baked at a high temperature

Activation energy constant, E: Temperature coefficient determined from the slope of a ln (k) versus 1/TA plot. 

Activation volume constant, V: Pressure coefficient obtained from the slope of the ln (k) versus a pressure difference (P-PR) plot. 

Active packaging: Contains active component allowing a controlled interaction between the food, package and internal gaseous environment, thus extends shelf life, improves fruit and vegetable safety or provides superior sensory quality. 

Additive: ingredients added to foodstuffs to alter them in order to preserve or enhance specific qualities (eg. taste, color)

Additives: Natural and man-made substances added to a food for an intended purpose of food preservation, enhancing appearance with colors, or flavors but it can also be added unintentionally as pesticides and lubricants

Adiabatic compression: Compression or decompression processes occurring without heat transfer. 

Adulteration: Deliberate contamination of foods with materials of low quality. 

Aerobe: Organism, especially a Gram E bacterium, that requires oxygen to live. 

Aerobic plate count: Method for determining the presence and concentration of aerobic bacteria in food products. 

Aerobic: Requires oxygen. 

Aflatoxins: Dangerous poisons, carcinogenic chemicals, produced by molds of the Aspergillus species, found in cereal grains, oilseeds, and nuts when incorrectly dried and stored. Often more widespread in hot, humid environments with poor storage facilities

Aftertaste: Taste and sensations, after-effect of flavor, that linger after food or drink is swallowed because of the coating left in the mouth



Airlock (fermentation lock): Device that attaches to the top of a fermentation barrel or carboy that allows C02 to escape out of an airtight connection but prevents bacteria from entering. 

Alcohol: Family name of a group of organic chemical compounds that includes methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and others. Ethanol is produced from crops or residues with a high carbohydrate content. Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol. 

Algin: Compound which is extracted from algae and used in puddings, milk shakes and ice cream to make these foods creamier and thicker and to extend shelf life. 

Alkaline: Substance that has a pH of more than 7.0. 

Aliquot: a measured sub-volume of sample. 

Allergen: Part of a food (a protein) that stimulates the immune system of food allergic individuals. A single food can contain multiple food allergens. Carbohydrates or fats are not allergens. Most common food allergens are nuts (especially peanuts), egg, milk, histamine, etc. 

Allergy - negative response triggered by the immune system from a range of causes such as consuming certain common food ingredients

Ally methyl trisulfide, dithiolthiones: Type of sulfide/thiol found in cruciferous vegetables which may provide the health benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol and of maintaining a healthy immune system. 

Alpha-carotene: Type of carotenoid found in carrots which provides the health benefit of neutralizing free radicals that may cause damage to cells. 

Alpha-tocopherol: Chemical name for the vitamin E form with the highest biological activity. Several other tocopherols and tocotrienols also have vitamin E activity. 

Ambient temperature: Temperature of the immediately surrounding environment. Ambient room temperature ranges from 19-23°C (68 to 77°F). 

Amino acids: these building blocks of proteins are small, simple organic compound made up of nitrogen-containing molecules that are linked together to form proteins. They are relatively small molecules which are made up by an amino group (- NH2) and a carboxylic acid group (-COOH) attached to the same carbon atom and are soluble in water. 

Amylopectin - part of the starch molecule, made up of glucose molecules in a branched structure

Anaerobe: Organism, especially a bacterium, that does not require oxygen or free oxygen to live. 

Anaerobic: Does not require oxygen. 

Animal fat or oil: Any naturally occurring or refined and processed fat from any animal. Animal fats may be edible or inedible depending upon source or type of processing. Examples of animal fats and oils includes refined, hydrogenated lard and edible tallow from cattle. 

Antemortem: Before slaughter. As used in the meat and poultry inspection program, the term refers to the examination that meat inspectors are required to conduct of all live animals just before they are killed. 

Anthocyanidins: Type of flavonoid found in various fruits which provides the health benefits of neutralizing free radicals and possibly reducing the risk of cancer. 

Antibiotic: Substance produced by bacteria or fungi that destroys or prevents the growth of other bacteria and fungi. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. 

Antibody: Protein produced by the immune system of humans and higher animals in response to the presence of a specific antigen. 

Anticaking agent: Used to ensure the free flow in products such as dried milks, icing sugar and table salt. 

Antifoaming agent: Important to prevent foam and bubbles during the cooking and concentrating process. 

Antigen: Foreign substance (almost always a protein) that, when introduced into the body, stimulates an immune response. 

Antioxidant: Chemical approved inhibit oxidation (rancidity) in food products and overall is particularly important in the preservation of stored food products. Approved antioxidants include: BHT, BHA, propyl-gallate. Regulations limit concentration to 0.003% for individual chemicals, 0.006% for combinations. 

Apple pomace: Remains after pressing apples for juice extraction; raw material for the production of apple pectin. 

Aroma: Odor given off by food (eg baked bread) and drink, detected by receptors in the nose

Artificial sweeteners: Designed by man, and usually prepared by a chemical process. They are designed to supply sweetness on its own, i.e., without the carbohydrate food values which are associated with sugar. They are used by consumers who may believe it disadvantageous to use sugars for sweetening foods and drinks. 

Ascorbic acid (or ascorbate): Chemical name for vitamin C. Lemon juice contains large quantities of ascorbic acid and is commonly used to prevent browning of peeled, light-colored fruits and vegetables. Green peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, and other fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C. Essential for the human body used for growth and defense against infection

Aseptic packaging: System wherein the food product and the container are sterilized separately, and the containers are filled and sealed in a sterile environment. 

Aseptic: Without contamination by micro-organisms, i.e. sterile. 

Aspartame: Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener used in a variety of foods and beverages and as a tabletop sweetener. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame is made by joining two protein components, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. 

Assembly-serve foodservice system: Foodservice system in which food is purchased at the middle to complete end of the food processing continuum, stored either frozen or chilled, portioned, and heated before serving to customers. 

Audit: Systematic and functionally independent examination to determine whether activities and related results comply with planned objectives. 

Automated: System where machines handle and control the processing from raw materials to the finished product. 

Average weight: Known proportion of containers have a fill-weight above system that shown on the label. 



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