A food ingredient is any food material used to make a food product and which contributes nutritional value to the final product.
Some food ingredients are simple food materials e.g. olive oil which is a pure vegetable oil, while some are much more complex and contain mixtures of fats and oils, proteins and carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals, such as wheat flour used in the manufacture of pastry for Cornish pasties, and diced beef, potato, carrot and onions used in the filling.
The term ‘food materials’ is a term that describes any component of food, or a food ingredient or additive used in the manufacture of a foodstuff for consumption.
It is not to be confused with the term ‘food contact materials’ which refers to materials used by the food industry in the manufacture and packaging of food, eg. stainless steel used to make food processing equipment and plastic packaging materials used to contain food products.
The packaged food products sold in retail outlets display – in the form of an ingredients list – the ingredients and additives from which they are made. UK food law requires that if a product contains 2 or more ingredients, then they must all be listed in the order of weight, with the main ingredient first.
If a food product contains any specified allergens then this must be clearly displayed on the label to warn consumers who may be allergic to a particular allergen.