CALIBSENSORY - A matter of taste

Harmonised test methods with means for calibration are urgently neededby the paper industry for use in trade specifications.

An EU funded project CALIBSENSORY (Calibration of sensory testing of food contact materials - paper and board) has been set up to provide such calibration methods, where the main output of the project is a method for calibration of sensory testing of food in contact with paper and board.The final output of the project is a written formula for preparation and evaluation of calibration samples.

develpment of standards methods

Food packaging is often made from paper or cardboard and the criteria set by the Council Directive (89/109/EEC) for use of such materials and articles intended for contact with foodstuffs requires that such materials must not transfer their components to the food in amounts which could give an unpleasant taste or odour. Currently European standard methods for measuring taints and off-flavours do exist however; they are very basic and set only the principles of testing.

finding the right samples

Sensory testing to determine taint potential of food packaging is commonly carried out by a panel of assessors, by rating the intensity of the off- flavour in a food, or the level of taint on paper or cardboard material according to an arbitrary scale. The scale is a five-point scale with 0 equals ‘no perceptible odour or off- flavour’ and 4 equals ‘strong odour or off- flavour’. In this project, as a first step towards calibration, samples of tainted paper were prepared with substances commonly known to taint paper and board samples. The substances were spiked onto an odourless paper sample and using a range of concentrations of the spiking compounds, a set of calibration samples were created representing various scores on the scale from 0-4.

Similar methods were used to create calibration samples for determining off-flavours in foods that had been in contact with tainted paper or board. Test samples investigated were coconut fat (representing fatty foods) and icing sugar (representing dry foods). These test samples were spiked with test compounds and then tasted and evaluated by a sensory panel.

stability is important


The samples used in this project were tested for stability. The fatty food samples were found to be stable over a four-week period, whereas it was recommended that the dry food samples were tested within 2 hours of completion of the spiking procedure. The first draft of the methodology of the spiking procedure for all three test samples has been submitted to the EU as part of the first year report on this project. Work is ongoing amongst other partners in the consortium, which is currently engaged in validating the methodology and the concentrations.

supporting european standards

ReliabilitThe second aim of the project will be to develop and document a validated method for training assessors in the use of the calibration samples. Furthermore, this calibration procedure will be evaluated by additional self financed partners from the paper and board industry. The final outcome of this project will be to produce a harmonised calibration method for supporting the European standards, allowing for comparable method for supporting the European standards, allowing for comparable results to be obtained wherever the tests are used. The food industry will benefit from a reliable means of assessing the quality of packaged food, and the paper and board industry will be able to demonstrate the quality of its own products.


Project specifications:

Contract: G6RD-CT-2001-00514

Starting date: 1.9.2001

Duration: 36 months

Project funded by the European Community under the ‘Competitive and Sustainable Growth’ Programme (1998-2002)


European Partners:

Coordination: KCL, FIN

Centre technique du Papier (CTP), F

Instituto Tecnológico Agroalimentario (AINIA), E

Iggesund Paperboard AB (Iggesund), S

Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), FIN

University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (UNEW), UK

Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association Group (CCFRA), UK

Sniffing out the off- flavours

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