ISO 8586:2023—Selection And Training Of Sensory Assessors

Sensory assessor performing sensory analysis of sea fish sample in a test tube  that adheres to ISO 8586:2023.

In the early 1950s, a milestone for sensory evaluation occurred when the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute developed the nine-point hedonic scale: a category scaling method that contains nine categories that range from “dislike extremely” to “neutral” to “like extremely.” This scale became the gold standard for measuring the acceptability of food, beverage personal care products, household products, and cosmetics. Sensory analysis has been one of the core pillars of food science, vastly aiding the study and production of foods, and ISO 8586:2023—Sensory Analysis – Selection And Training Of Sensory Assessors specifies criteria for the selection of and procedures for the training sensory assessors.

What Is Sensory Analysis?

Humans have always used their senses to evaluate food safety and quality since they can determine whether a food or beverage is good or bad from their sense of sight, smell, taste, and touch. Hence, sensory analysis examines the properties (texture, flavor, taste, appearance, smell, etc.) of a product or food through the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound) of the panelists—the group of sensory assessors conducting sensory evaluations. It is used to examine food products to ensure that the consumer receives a high quality product that appeals to the senses and has been tested using scientific methods. Moreover, sensory analysis has been used for centuries for the purpose of accepting or rejecting food products, thereby ensuring quality control and standardization of products.

Examples of Sensory Analysis

Examples of sensory analysis/evaluation include the Flavor Profile Test and Texture Profile Test:

  1. The Flavor Profile Test: Evaluates the characteristics, intensity, order of attribute appearance, aftertaste, and amplitude (the overall impression of the analyzable and non-analyzable flavor components) of the food sample.
  2. Texture Profile Analysis: Determining the textural properties of foods (via mimicking the action of biting with a texture analyzer) and is occasionally used in other industries, such as pharmaceuticals, gels, and personal care.

After these tests, the sensory assessors making up the board of panelists provide a sensory evaluation. This evaluation provides a detailed profile of a food product’s sensory attributes, as well as a qualitative measurement of each attribute’s intensity. Every sensory assessment is conducted by human subjects who have been specifically trainedas outlined in ISO 8586:2023—to obtain a comprehensive analysis of four key qualitative sensory descriptors: appearance, aroma, flavor, and oral texture.

The ISO 8586:2023 Standard for Sensory Analysis

ISO 8586:2023 specifies criteria for the selection of and procedures for the training of trained sensory assessors and expert sensory assessors for food and beverages, as well as home and personal care products. Sensory assessor refers to any person taking part in a sensory test. So, an expert sensory assessor is a sensory assessor who has considerable experience in sensory testing and is able to make consistent sensory assessments of various products. ISO 8586:2023 specifies that expert sensory assessors go through an extensive training process from being screened sensory assessors/trainees (i.e., those who have been screened for their sensory abilities), trained sensory assessors (i.e., those who have been trained for a method or methods), and eventually receiving additional training and validation to become an expert.

The standard is applicable to all industries concerned with the evaluation of products by the sense organs. Lastly, it supplements the information given in ISO 6658—the standard for sensory analysis methodology.

What Is the Recruitment and Training Process of a Sensory Assessor?

There are two types of recruitment, internal and external. Internal candidates are recruited from office, plant or laboratory staff; external recruitment is conducted outside the organization. ISO 8586:2023 details that the selection and training methods to be employed throughout the recruitment process depend on the expertise and overall level of training of the sensory assessors. There are various screening tests used to establish the suitability of candidates and familiarize them with the methods and products they will use if selected. Here are the tests as described in the standard:

  • Test 1: Determining impairment
  • Test 2: Determining sensory acuity
  • Test 3: Evaluating a candidate’s potential for describing and communicating sensory perceptions

The selection of candidates takes into account the intended application, the performance of the candidates at the interviews, and their potential rather than their current performance. A selection among candidates is made after the screening tests have been conducted. Characteristics such as good descriptive ability and reliable sensory acuity are of consideration. Once trainees are selected, they start the training program, where they are taught the correct way to make the assessments and how to examine appearance, odor, texture, flavor, taste, and aftertaste/afterfeel. The purpose of training is to develop the trainees’ ability to detect, recognize, describe, and discriminate sensory stimuli as well as to provide opportunities for trainees to use this expertise.

ISO 8586:2023—Sensory Analysis – Selection And Training Of Sensory Assessors is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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