During the spice trade, spices were tightly guarded and generated immense wealth for those who controlled them. For instance, nutmeg was once worth more by weight than gold; Roman soldiers of the time were frequently paid in salt; in the 16th century, London dockworkers were paid their bonuses in cloves; and in 410 AD, when the Visigoths captured Rome, they demanded 3,000 pounds of peppercorns as ransom. Despite the incredible and tumultuous history of spices, they are today widely accessible and inexpensive. ISO 939:2021—Spices And Condiments – Determination Of Moisture specifies a method for the determination of the moisture content of spices and condiments to ensure their safe consumption.
Monitoring Moisture Content in Food
Moisture content affects the processibility, shelf-life, usability, and quality of a product. Accurate moisture content determination is crucial in ensuring quality and adhering to legal and labeling requirements for many industries including Food, Pharmaceuticals, and Chemicals. In regards to the food industry, moisture content refers to the number of water molecules that become incorporated into a food product. Moisture can enter into a product in a number of ways: it could be related to the production method of the product, the atmospheric moisture in the food production area, the packaging method of the product, or it can be related to the method of food storage.
Moisture content effects food’s physical appearance (texture, taste, and weight) and impacts its shelf-life (freshness, quality, and resistance to bacterial contamination). Monitoring moisture content in spices and condiments helps to prevent mold, bacteria, and yeast growth as excess water in a food product can increase in the rate of microbial growth. This can both spoil a product before it reaches the shelf and decrease the length of time a food product stays fresh for. Therefore, moisture content analysis methods, like those in ISO 939:2021, can serve to protect revenue and profits by ensuring product consistency and safety, minimizing waste, and reducing unplanned downtime of food production machinery.
What Is ISO 939?
ISO 939:2021 specifies an entrainment method for the determination of the moisture content of spices and condiments. “Moisture content” refers to water extracted or collected in accordance with the method prescribed in this standard. The method in ISO 939:2021 is the determination of the amount of water entrained by azeotropic distillation, using an organic solvent immiscible with water, and collected in a graduated tube. Unless otherwise specified, toluene is the solvent used for the determination of the moisture. The apparatus to conduct the determination consists of a glass flask heated by a suitable means and provided with a reflux condenser discharging into a receiver connected to the flask. The material should be sampled by the method specified in ISO 948.
Herbs Vs Spices
Both herbs and spices come from plants and it is possible for one plant to provide an herb and a spice. For example, for the plant Coriandrum sativum, the leaves are used as the herb cilantro while the seed is used as the spice coriander. In general, spices have a more pungent flavor than herbs. Here is the main difference between herbs and spices:
- Herbs are the fresh and dried leaves of generally temperate plants, typically green in color. Examples are basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, and oregano.
- Spices are the dried root, dried stalk, bark, seed, flower, or fruit of the plant and is almost always dried not fresh. They are typically of tropical plants and range from brown to black to red in color. Examples are cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, star anise, and turmeric.
What Are the Top 10 Most Used Spices?
From being used to enhance cuisine or for treating ailments, spices have been used for centuries worldwide. Here are the 10 most popular spices around the world:
ISO 939:2021—Spices And Condiments – Determination Of Moisture Content is available on the ANSI Webstore.