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New ISO standard to promote consistency in sensory analysis

06 November, 2008

When trying to describe the taste, smell or feel of a product, a universe of terms and sensations will come to mind.

This can be problematic when comparing products through sensory analysis. A new ISO standard will reduce this complexity by ensuring that sensory tests and results are communicated in a consistent manner.

Sensory analysis applies sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing to test and compare consumer products. Food, cosmetic, fragrance, textile and other industries use it to evaluate new and established products, ensure that product quality is maintained, assess shelf life, and investigate new products or revise and improve existing ones.

ISO 5492:2008, Sensory analysis – Vocabulary lists terms and definitions relating to sensory analysis, thus promoting global consistency in a field which must often rely on the subjective experience of assessors and an overwhelming multiplicity of descriptive terms.

This last version updates the original ISO 5492 standard published in the 1990s. Now fully revised, the new document features a comprehensive compilation of terms used by sensory laboratories.

“The standard provides the vocabulary to assess sensations and reactions to products, so that we know exactly what we mean by, for instance, a note or a bouquet of flavours and odours” says Mrs. Huguette Nicod, Chair of the technical subcommittee that developed the standard (ISO/TC 34/SC 12, Sensory analysis) .

“With ISO 5492 test subjects will know when to use terms such as chewiness or umami in product evaluations, as well as be able to describe all the characteristics of products such as aromas, colours and textures.  

“As sensory analysis routinely takes place around the world, often for the same products, it’s particularly important that we have an agreed and precise uniform vocabulary to facilitate comparison and consistency” Huguette Nicod concludes.

ISO 5492 covers:

  • general terminology
  • terminology relating to the senses
  • terminology relating to organoleptic attributes
  • terminology relating to methods.

The standard applies to all industries concerned with the evaluation of products by the sense organs, including sensory research providers, food and beverage industry, cosmetic industry, textile industry, fragrance industry, automotive industry and tobacco industry among others.

ISO 5492 includes terms and definitions in the three official ISO languages (English, French and Russian), and in addition provides the equivalent terms in German and Spanish – published under the responsibility of the ISO member bodies for Germany (DIN) and Argentina (IRAM).

ISO 5492:2008, Sensory analysis – vocabulary was developed by ISO/TC 34, Food products, subcommittee SC 12, Sensory analysis. It costs 202 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing & Communication department (see right-hand column).

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