Glossary of terms

Here you will find definitions of terms used in resources on the Foodsource website. You will also find these definitions on the right-hand side within chapters. If you have any suggestions for new glossary items, let us know here.

2 (1) | A (12) | B (5) | C (16) | D (4) | E (8) | F (12) | G (4) | H (3) | I (6) | L (5) | M (12) | N (6) | O (4) | P (9) | R (8) | S (9) | T (1) | U (2) | W (4) | Y (1) | Z (1)

Nudge approaches

Nudge approaches are the specific application of nudge theory, whereby the physical or informational environment in which decision making takes place is purposefully changed in order to affect behaviour. On example is using smaller plates to subtly limit overall food consumption in canteens.

Nudge theory

Nudge theory is a concept in behavioural science, economics and political science which tries to achieve non-forced compliance with desired behaviours (e.g. policies). It does this through the adjustment of messaging and the context in which decisions are made, in ways that have been found to predictably affect the motives, incentives, and decision making of individuals and groups of people.

Nutritional epidemiology

Nutritional epidemiology is a sub-branch of epidemiology. This field of study focuses on the distribution and determinants of diseases and other medical conditions in a population. Nutritional epidemiology studies the relationships between dietary patterns, nutrient intake and their impacts upon public health. Common methods in nutritional epidemiology include dietary surveys and cohort studies, by which statistical associations between (say) food consumption and medical conditions such as cancer or obesity are studied.


Coined by the Australian academic Gyorgy Scrinis and popularised by the US journalist and food writer Michael Pollan, nutritionism is a term used to describe and critique the dominant assumption of much nutrition science research – and often of mainstream dietary recommendations – that it is possible to understand the health implications of individual food products as well as dietary patterns in terms of their micro and macronutrient profiles. From this nutritionist perspective, foods are primarily viewed as interchangeable vehicles for the delivery of specific and isolated nutrients. Criticising ‘Big Food’ and the food products it provides, users of the concept tend to highlight the role of food in social and cultural life and argue that healthy dietary patterns mostly consist of home-made meals and dishes that are largely based on unprocessed food ingredients. Scrinis also argues that nutritionism has contributed to the food industry’s use of reformulation and nutrient fortification, which are aimed at improving a food’s nutrient profile.

Organic farming

is an approach to farming in which synthetic chemical insecticides and herbicides and inorganic fertilisers are entirely or largely avoided. Underpinning organic farming is the idea that farming should rely on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects (e.g. agrochemicals such as pesticides and synthetic fertilisers). Certification bodies (e.g. the Soil Association in the United Kingdom) specify the practices, methods of pest control, soil amendments and so forth that are permissible if products are to achieve organic certification.


Excesses of energy or a particular nutrient. Overnutrition generally refers to excessive intake of energy, but it can sometimes be used to refer to excessive intake of one or more other dietary components such as specific macronutrients or micronutrients. Overnutrition in terms of energy often results in being overweight or obese.


A molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms (chemical formula O3; ‘trioxygen’). In the upper atmosphere (‘stratosphere’) ozone plays an important role in absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun, but is also a greenhouse gas, and at the surface has negative impacts on human health and plant growth. Ozone is also one of the by-products from atmospheric methane oxidation.

Ozone layer depletion

A decline in the level of ozone gas (O3) present in the earth's stratosphere, owing to its breakdown into oxygen (O2). This breakdown can be affected by natural processes, but is known to have been accelerated by the release of man-made chemicals, such as refrigerant gases. The ozone layer acts to reduce the amount of light at ultra-violet wavelengths reaching the earth's surface; wavelengths that can have harmful impacts on humans, including skin cancer.


PAHO-WHO is the abbreviation for the Pan American Health Organisation of the World Health Organisation.


A pandemic is the widespread occurrence (i.e. global or at multiple continents) of a disease during a particular period. Historically, many pandemics have involved infectious diseases that have been spread by viruses such as cholera and flu. Pandemics, however, can both be caused by communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Photochemical smog

Photochemical smog is observed as a haze in the atmosphere, typically near to cities. It is created through the action of sunlight on pollutants (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds) emitted by automobiles and other industrial sources, which creates other pollutants harmful to health, such as ozone.

Planetary boundaries

The planetary boundaries concept refers to the idea that humans are substantially altering natural systems, and that beyond a certain level of change this may become irreversible and self sustaining. The potential result is a planet with environmental conditions that differ substantially from those in which human civilisation developed and to which many species and ecosystems are adapted. Planetary boundaries have so far been proposed for climate change, biodiversity loss, biogeochemical cycles, ocean acidification, land use, freshwater, and ozone depletion.

Precision farming

is an agricultural management practice that aims to supply plants or animals with precisely the amounts of agricultural inputs (e.g. water, pesticides, and fertilisers) they need at a specific location and moment in time, thereby increasing efficiency by reducing the total inputs needed for agricultural production, and reducing environmental impacts. Precision farming uses different types of technologies to measure, observe, and act upon factors that are relevant to the growth of crops and livestock. These can range from big data, GPS, robotics, sensors, and drones, to low-tech measures such as using bottle caps for applying the right amounts of fertilisers to individual plants. Aiming to optimize crop or livestock production, precision techniques include measuring, modelling, and responding to (site-specific) data, including weather forecasts, soil properties, soil water content, pests, and weeds.

Price elasticity

Price elasticity refers to how much the demand for a good is affected by a change in its price. A good is said to be price inelastic if a change in price means that there is little change in demand. An example might be medication or addictive substances, like tobacco. A good is said to be price elastic if a change in price greatly changes the demand for the good.

Processed culinary ingredients

Processed culinary ingredients is a category of food ingredients in the NOVA classification that result from the further treatment of unprocessed and minimally processed foods by processes such as pressing, refining, grinding, milling, and spray drying. Examples include salt, spices, cane sugar, flour, honey and olive oil. Processed culinary ingredients are added to other foods in the preparation of dishes. Advocates of NOVA understand their purpose to be enabling the preparation of more varied dishes from minimally processed foods and improving the taste and appearance of such dishes. Processed culinary ingredients are usually not consumed on their own.