Food quality markers

Some markers are associated with the five senses. From a consumer’s point of view, color is one of the key quality indicators. For instance, a baked good that is not sufficiently browned lacks appeal, much like spaghetti that is either too light or too black. Likewise, a product that exhibits evidence of mold must be discarded right once unless mold is a feature of the product, as it is with some dairy products. Equally significant is the food’s aroma, which depends on the presence of essential chemicals that categorize it as either enticing or repulsive. The perception of the quality of a smell is immediate and is often permanently associated in a person’s memory. Sometimes it is complex to measure and identify key olfactory elements due to the indirect effect of their levels of concentration on the organism (this depends on the specific threshold of perception for each element). Smell and taste are related to the chemical aspects of the food, while texture is associated with the microstructure of the item. In addition to these, there are the microbiological aspects like shelf-life, and also pre- and pro-biotic additives. And then there is the nutritional value. The final item on this rather complex list is the recent branch called “Foodomics” that joins together metabolomics, genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics and is aimed at correlating metabolites, genomes, mRNA, and proteins to their functions as related to human nutrition.

The perception of color by the human eye has a significant impact in how we perceive the flavor of food.

According to research, we link different flavors with specific food colors, even though flavors like bitter and sweet are not connected to specific colors. The impact of food color is greater the stronger the flavor/color relationship. Our sense of flavor and flavor intensity both rise as color levels do. People who are colour blind might not be able to distinguish between some foods, and we have trouble correctly identifying foods that are either miscolored or uncolored. This could make it more difficult for them to evaluate the nutritional value of food and might make it harder for them to appreciate some foods.

Taste is mostly derived from smell, and flavor is typically a concoction of taste, smell, food temperature, and texture. Taste alerts us to the food’s nutritional value before we eat it. Our sensory systems were modified to recognize and obtain these rare food kinds when our ancestors’ sensory systems evolved in a low-salt, low-fat, and low-sugar environment. Foods with a sour taste usually contain vitamin C and unripe fruit. Food with a salty flavor indicated salt and significant minerals. Bitter suggested poisonous plants. Savoury umami taste – precious protein. Fatty tastes reveal valuable energy-rich foods. Sweet or sugary tasting substances were valued as they increased body insulin levels that promote cell growth and were excellent sources of short-term energy, sparing our fat reserves. Researchers have evidence that there is a further taste – that of calcium. This makes sense for our survival, as calcium is vital in cell operations and for skeleton building.

Being able to hear the noises of food, including the sizzle and spit of cooking as well as the crackle and crunch as we eat, adds to the satisfaction of eating.

Eating crunchy, crisp meals like potato chips and biscuits enhances the perception of hearing noises. There is evidence that it also affects how we perceive taste and scent.

The ability to feel feelings brought on by an object’s exterior surface (its texture) is provided by the sense of touch. Food texture describes characteristics sensed with the tongue, teeth, palate, and fingertips (sometimes referred to as the “mouth feel”). Jelly feels slippery and slimy because of texture, much as a cookie feels crunchy and chewy.

Food is continually being assessed as it is being chewed. The force that the teeth, tongue, and jaw apply to the mouthful depends on how easily it dissolves and flows in the mouth. This allows us to categorize it as thick, chewy, brittle, runny, slippery, effervescent, or prickly.

As consumers place greater demands on the food they eat, food texturisation is seen as an area of challenge and increasing opportunity for the food industry, and development of new, innovative textures are seen as a key area when considering new food developments.

Smell acts in tandem with taste to identify food flavours and helps us to appreciate the alluring flavours of food and drink. Scientists believe humans innately like smells signalling valuable nutrients. For example, a fruity smell hints at vitamin C, sugar and energy, while meaty odours suggest iron and B group vitamins.

Research shows a decrease in the number of functional olfactory (smell) genes through primate evolution to humans. During the process of evolution, we moved from an arboreal (tree-dwelling) way of life to a more erect-postured ground-dwelling mode with our noses moving away from the ground and all of its lovely smells! So, our noses became smaller, our jaws less prognathic (jutting forward) and our eyes moved towards the middle of the face, giving greater depth of vision.