New food glossary

On this page, we give brief explanations to some of the terms you might encounter when exploring the world of new food. 

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check out our New Food FAQ.

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Algae
Can be used as food ingredients and food additives. There are strains of unicellular “microalgae” that can be used for biomass or precision fermentation processes.

Alternative proteins
An often used umbrella term for proteins produced either from animal cells or plants, or through fermentation. 

Bacteria
Microscopic unicellular organisms found almost everywhere. Certain strains of bacteria are used in precision fermentation processes to produce target cells for functional ingredients.

Biomass fermentation
A process to produce high quantities of a specific microorganism. The microorganisms that grow and multiply during fermentation are themselves the ingredients that are “harvested” and used in food and beverage production. Also referred to as “single-cell production”.

Bioreactor
A vessel that provides a controlled environment where living cells or enzymes can convert raw materials into products. Bioreactors are a key piece of equipment in biomass and precision fermentation processes as well as in meat cultivation.

Cellular agriculture
The production of agricultural (mainly animal-sourced) products from cell culture – a method to make foods that conventionally are animal-derived, but without involvement from those animals.

Cultivated meat
A process whereby meat (muscle and fat) is grown directly from cells. Also referred to as “cultured meat”.

Cultured meat
Another term for “cultivated meat” (see above).

Enriched beverages
Beverages with added nutrients or other ingredients. Examples of these are fruit juices, energy drinks and beverages with health benefits.

Fermenter
A vessel that carries out the fermentation process by utilizing microorganisms. See also bioreactor above.

Filamentous fungi
Fungi that grow as thread-like filaments (the word “filamentous” basically means “thread-like”). Filamentous fungi is used in production of fermented foods and is, for example, the source of dietary proteins, lipids and vitamins.

Filtration
A physical separation process that separates solid matter from fluid. In food production, the aim of filtration is to minimise contamination by removing impurities and to protect the taste and quality of the product. In fermentation processes, it can also be used to concentrate the microbial biomass after fermentation.

Flexitarians
People who do not keep strict vegan or vegetarian diets, but from time to time choose plant-based, fermented or cultivated alternatives over conventional, animal-based food products. This consumer group is likely to continue to grow, both in numbers and importance.

Fungi
Eukaryotic organisms (=organisms whose cells contain a nucleus). There are strains of fungi that can be used for biomass or precision fermentation processes.

Future foods
Another term for “new foods” (see below).

Genetically modified food – GMOs and GMMs
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.

Heme proteins
A group of strongly coloured proteins. Heme proteins contribute to the appearance, taste and mouthfeel of beef products. Precision fermentation is used to create heme-based ingredients that are added to plant-based mince products.

Lab-grown meat
Another term for “cultivated meat” (see above).

Lipids
A broad group of molecules, which includes fats, oils, hormones and waxes.

Meat analogues
A substitute or alternative to meat – a food product made from vegan or vegetarian ingredients. Meat analogues typically have similar qualities – e.g. mouthfeel, taste and appearance – as a particular meat product.

Microorganisms
Microscopic organisms. Microorganisms like yeast and bacteria carry out fermentation processes to produce beer, yoghurt, cheese and other types of food.

Mycoprotein
A broad term for proteins derived from filamentous fungal biomass. Mycoproteins come in many forms, ranging from powders to wet-paste like structures and chunks.

Multicellular
Having, or consisting of, multiple cells.

New foods
A term broadly referring to any food ingredient that lacks an established history of human consumption, or ingredients made from innovative new processes. Also referred to as “novel foods”. Precise legal definitions vary from region to region.

Novel foods
Another term for “new foods” (see above).

Precision fermentation
A process where microorganisms are “programmed” to produce specific target proteins, fats or other compounds. These are “harvested” for use as functional ingredients in food and beverage products.

Recombinant proteins
Proteins that are produced by giving genetic “instructions” to a host cell in order to synthesize the protein of interest.

Rennet
Enzymes of animal or vegetable origin. Rennet has the ability to coagulate milk. Animal rennet was originally extracted from the fourth stomach of a calf, but today it is more common to use non-animal rennet produced through precision fermentation. Rennets are available in liquid and dried form.

Single-cell production
Another term for “biomass fermentation” (see above).

Sustainable food systems
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a sustainable food system is one that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

Unicellular
Having, or consisting of, a single cell.

Value-added beverages
Beverages that have been enhanced to become more valuable by providing specific benefits to consumers. See also “enriched beverages” above.

Yeast
A single-celled organism which is naturally present in our environment. There are strains of yeast that can be used for biomass or precision fermentation processes.

Sources:
* Good Food Institute, https://gfi.org/
* WHO, https://www.who.int/
* Government of Canada (2017, updated 2023). Novel foods: Overview. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/genetically-modified-foods-other-novel-foods.html
* U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2022). Focus area: Novel Foods and Food Ingredients. 
https://www.fda.gov/science-research/focus-areas-regulatory-science-report/focus-area-novel-foods-and-food-ingredients

 

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