Definition of food

Food is a LIQUID or SOLID, PROCESSED, SEMIPROCESED or CRUDE substance, to be consumed with the objective of:

  • Restablish, maintain or improve the body’s energy balance
  • Apply nutrients or other molecules important for the maintenance of the overall homeostasis or for the processes of growth and tissue repair
  • Conferring “pleasurable sensations” due to related organoleptic properties.

Food Regulation: Legislative Decree (DL) 109 of January 27, 1992.

Classifying foods

Food, Novel foods and dietary novel foods The best known classification is that of the 7 fundamental groups of foods, produced by the collaboration between the National Institute for Research on Food and Nutrition (INRAN) and the Italian Society for Human Nutrition (SINU), to facilitate the achievement of a healthy, balanced and specific diet for the ITALIAN POPULATION.
On the other hand, in addition to the criterion of nutritional prevalence used to divide the 7 fundamental food groups, other parameters can be used, such as: the ORIGIN of the food (whether vegetable, animal or fungal), the CONCENTRATION IN ENERGY MACRONUTRIENTS (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) and the NUTRITIONAL FUNCTION (plastic, energetic, regulatory).

Food products

Today, in addition to the classic foods of the above categories, it is possible to find some PARTICULAR products on the market: these are the new food products. Essentially, these represent the study and application of industrial products (especially marketing) useful to increase sales and company profits. The “vaguely sour” definition that I PERSONALLY attribute to the new food products derives mainly from the fact that this sector is often (therefore not always… but almost!) totally exposed to scientific instrumentalization (therefore fictitious or not properly proven on the human body) of companies to promote sales.
The new food products, in addition to the basic nutritional “standard”, promise numerous health effects that vary depending on the specific food; this feature can only “disrupt” further the concepts (already quite confused) that professionals try to convey to their clients. Ultimately, with the advent of novel foods, in addition to the difficulty in modifying lifestyles and diets, today professionals also have the task of educating the population about the real function of these foods and debunking their essentiality in the dietary regime.
They are new food products:

  • Organic foods and/or natural foods
  • Wholemeal foods
  • Light or “light” foods
  • Fortified, enriched, supplemented
  • Functional foods
  • Innovative foods

It is obvious that, among the various food groups mentioned above, there are significant differences both in terms of usefulness and nutritional contextualization (comparing the group of organic foods to the group of light foods, the difference is obvious!); however, it is appropriate to specify that novel foods are ALL united by the fact that they are NOT essential within the collective diet.

Diet foods

Even dietetic foods are NOT essential products for human nutrition, on the other hand, in some circumstances their use can be much more useful than the previous category; for this reason, dietetic foods are regulated by the EEC directive 89/398 that describes all products intended for a “particular” diet, specifying their field of application.
In summary, dietetic foods must meet particular nutritional requirements such as:

  • absorption defects or metabolic alterations
  • specific physiological conditions (gestation and lactation)
  • weaning and early childhood (if in good health)

Dietetic foods are NOT products for current use and must have a specific nutritional objective; they are NOT FOOD SUPPLEMENTS, they must be distinguished from foods for current use, they must be suitable for the nutritional objective indicated and are marketed indicating compliance with this objective. Examples are foods for celiac disease (gluten free), products for diabetics and diet salts.

Bibliography: Food and Health -S. Rodato, I. Gola – Clitt – page 158:201.