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Food Quality and Preference 17 (2006) 3–8

The universe of food quality
Claudio Peri
` DISTAM, Sezione di Tecnologie Alimentari, Universita degli Studi di Milano, Via Celoria, 2 Milano, Italy Available online 26 April 2005

Abstract The universe of food quality is presented as a system of product requirements both material and immaterial, related to theproduct in itself, the production context, the product-packaging system, and the product-market system. Also, the dynamics of the quality system is shown as a relationship between processing conditions, product characteristics, product performance, and consumer requirements. All this poses the problem of methods and strategies for studying/optimising the overall quality of food products. Twoapproaches are presented: (a) pyramiding by comparing pairs of antithetic consumer requirements, and (b) minimizing rejection as a more useful approach than maximizing preferences. It is suggested that sensory science be considered as the ‘‘science of quality perception’’. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Food quality; Sensory; Consumer

1. Introduction The crucial problem facingscience today is its ability to cope with complexity (Bocchi & Ceruti, 1992). DescarteÕs second rule for ‘‘properly conducting oneÕs reason’’, i.e. breaking down a problem into its component parts, which for three centuries has been the most central principle of scientific practice and has caused the multiplication of academic disciplines and specializations, no longer seems adequate for the study (andeven less for the management) of complex phenomena. It is more productive to study a system as a whole, according to an integrated approach, than to apply a reductionist approach by analysing the parts. Developments in ÔSystem ThinkingÕ are a response to this evolution and are now widespread in the field of food quality (Checkland, 1994; Peri, 1999). In the search for new methods for dealingefficiently with the complexity of real problems, Funtowicz and Ravetz (1994) have proposed an interesting

E-mail address: 0950-3293/$ - see front matter Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2005.03.002

definition of Ôpost-normal scienceÕ as the science providing expedient solutions to complex problems, under the pressure of multiple and oftenconflicting interests, in the presence of different points of view and values. Basically, many of the problems related to consumer science conform to this definition. Recent studies on the functioning of the human brain prove that DescarteÕs rule is not only inadequate from an epistemological point of view, but even from a biological point of view since it fails to correspond to the functioning of ourbrain, which is a highly powerful machine of synthesis and integration (Damasio, 1996). The field of ÔSensory ScienceÕ cannot elude the task of critically reassessing its experimental methods and approaches in relation to such evolutionary thought. Nor can developments in the field be considered purely in terms of further specialized fragmentation of its content. Instead they should be treated as anintegral part of a wider context of scientific knowledge, of professional competence and of ethical responsibility. The title of this paper suggests that it is opportune to consider food quality as a universe, whose elements and rules are here briefly outlined.


C. Peri / Food Quality and Preference 17 (2006) 3–8

2. A definition of food quality In utilitarian terms, quality can be defined as‘‘fitness for use’’ or, more appropriately for foodstuffs, ‘‘fitness for consumption’’, which leads to what the experts in ISO standards call ‘‘customer’’ or ‘‘consumer’’ satisfaction. Thus, quality can be described as the requirements necessary to satisfy the needs and expectations of the consumer.

3. An analytical model of food quality An analytical model defining food quality as a set of...
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