Reading Organic Food Industry Product Specifications

Table of Contents

  1. Key Acronyms
  2. Units of Measurement
  3. Standards Tests
  4. More Information Details

At foodcircle, we compile technical product information (product specs, certificates etc.) as downloadable PDFs on our Product Description Pages (PDPs). The data is often categorised in short descriptions, tables and lists that are compiled with informative facts about the product at hand.

It should be noted that by no means do our product specs act as a replacement for batch-related lab results and specifics. They are merely indicators of specific information and properties to better understand what to expect from the product(s) at-hand.

In this article, we take a closer look at some of the acronyms, units of measurement, standards, and information you will find on many of our product specs to support you on your purchasing journey. This guide is designed to be used for reference purposes only. 

 

Key Acronyms

  • GMO: Genetically Modified Organisms

  • ABCERT/ECOCERT/COSMOS/BIO: Organic certificates and certification bodies

  • ISO 22000/FSSC 22000: Food Safety Management System

  • RH: Relative Humidity

 

Units of Measurement

Lesser-known units of measurement that you will often find on product specifications include (but are not limited to): 

mEq

Milliequivalent (one-thousandth (10−3) of a chemical equivalent).

ppb

Parts per billion (the number of units of mass of a contaminant per 1000 million units of the total mass)

mcg OR

μg

Microgram (a unit of mass equal to one-millionth of a gram)

ufc/g

Colony-forming unit per gram (the term ‘colonies’ refers to the microbiological colonies)

ppm

Abbreviation for “parts per million” (can be also expressed as milligrams per litre (mg/L);  usually refers to the mass of a chemical or contaminant)

 

Standards & Tests

You will typically find a mix of acronyms and numbers next to any given value, such as for microbiological content or nutritional reports, in product specifications. These are indexes that indicate the standards by which a product has been tested as well as the specific testing methods used in the laboratory. While these may be easy for lab technicians to decipher by lab technicians, they can lead to confusion for those less-affiliated with testing. Examples include:

  • AOAC [Number + Method HPLC]: The Association of Official Analytical Chemists is a US-based scientific non-profit that brings government, industry, and academia to one table to establish standard methods of analysis that ensure the safety and integrity of foods and other products.

  • ISO [Number]: The International Organization for Standardization, a worldwide federation of national standards bodies (ISO member bodies). The number following ISO (e.g. ISO 4831) refers to the type of test itself (e.g. the microbiology of food and animal feed). So, every time you see the ISO+Number, it will be one specific standardisation regulated by the ISO entity.

  • AACC [Number]: American Association for Clinical Chemistry is an entity that standardises analytical grain methods; the number succeeding the acronym (e.g. AAC 86-06) refers to a specific testing method (e.g. vitamins A and E by high-performance liquid chromatography).

  • SANS: Similarly, the South African National Standards is maintained and promoted by the National Standards Body of South Africa.

 

More Information & Details

Below is an overview of the information you will find on most product specifications to help you navigate these documents with ease:

GENERAL DATA

  • Origin (where an ingredient was cultivated or sourced)

  • Botanical name (indicate which genus and species, e.g. Cinnamomum cassia vs. Cinnamomum verum)

  • Composition (e.g. 100% maca powder)

  • Processing (e.g. whether a product has been altered or undergone refinement steps)

CERTIFICATIONS

  • Organic (In the EU, foods must contain at least 95% of organic ingredients and additionally respect further strict conditions for the remaining 5%)

  • Fair Trade (internationally recognised social and ethical worker standards)

  • Halal (certified according to Islamic law)

  • Kosher (certified according to Jewish law)

  • ISO 22000 (food safety management standard)

ORGANOLEPTIC PROPERTIES

  • Flavour (taste)

  • Colour (appearance)

  • Odour (smell)

NUTRITIONAL VALUES

  • Carbohydrates/fat/sugars (energy)

  • Vitamins & minerals (vitamin C, iron etc.)

  • Antioxidants

MICROBIOLOGICAL CONTENT

  • Aerobic mesophilic (microorganisms)

  • Moulds (fungi)

  • Yeasts (single-celled fungi microorganisms)

  • Coliforms (e.g. Eschericia Coli)

  • Salmonella (a bacterial disease that infests the digestional tract)

  • Enterobacteriaceae (Gram-negative bacteria that naturally inhabit the human gut)

CHEMICAL AND PHYSICAL PROPERTIES

  • Melting point (the temperature at which a substance liquifies)

  • Acid value (the mass of potassium hydroxide required to neutralise one gram of chemical substance)

  • Moisture (presence of liquid, i.e. water)

  • Granulation (size of particles)

  • Ash (the process of mineralisation for preconcentration of trace substances)


CONTAMINANTS

  • Pesticides (e.g. acidic pesticides, glyphosate, chlorate, perchlorate, glufosinate, residues of pesticides)

  • Heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium)

ALLERGENS

  • General (By law, all foodstuffs must clearly indicate and declare the presence of any of a list of 14 allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, cereals containing gluten, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, lupin, sulphur dioxide, sulphites.)

  • No Allergens/Allergen-Free (To declare that a product is free from allergens, the possibility of cross-contamination must also be fully ruled out.)

  • Cross-Contamination (The product itself is not made using an ingredient that contains a listed allergen, however, the machinery or factory in which the foods are processed or produced may deal with foodstuffs that contain allergens. This could potentially result in passive exposure. Because some allergies are life threatening, customers must always be alerted if there is a potential for cross-contamination anywhere along the supply chain.)

PACKAGING

  • Size (Depending on the product, the size can vary from very small sachets to 920 kg drums.)

  • Materials (Plastic, cardboard, paper and metal are all examples of materials used in food grade packaging.)

STORAGE

  • Parameters & recommendations (Recommended storage conditions to ensure that the product remains safe for consumption.)

TRANSPORT

  • Type (Dependent on packaging and storage conditions, such as temperature, humidity and safety precautions.)

SHELF LIFE

  • Best-Before-Date (determined by the production date for any given batch.)

Head here if you wish to read about the various segments in more detail.

Disclaimer

The scope of the product data we compile differs between products and is dependent on the level of information our suppliers provide us with. Be it cosmetics, food or personal care, each industry has its own standards, and further analysis or certificates may be required.


 

 

Magazine Highlights

Stay up-to-date on new products, prices, and industry insights.