What Is Organoleptic Testing?

Organoleptic testing refers to subjective evaluations of the odor, flavor and texture of food and medicine, according to Frost & Sullivan Market Insight. Applications of organoleptic testing include detecting food borne pathogens and determining if packaging adversely affects the flavor, appearance, odor or texture of its contents.

According to Frost & Sullivan Market Insight, there are four major types of organoleptic testing. Difference testing compares multiple samples, while preference testing gathers data about test subjects’ preferred products or product attributes. Sensitivity testing measures data related to stimulus and response, and descriptive testing involves rating a list of pre-determined product traits.

The primary drawback of organoleptic testing is subjectivity. The tests depend on personal opinion, and researchers struggle to find subject pools large enough to accurately represent their target demographic. To compensate for this, organoleptic test results often appear alongside data obtained by more objective means.

One of the most important organoleptic tests is the Scoville test, which measures capsaicin levels to evaluate the relative spiciness of hot peppers. According to About Chemistry expert Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstein, test subjects receive a cup of water mixed with sugar and a small amount of capsaicin extract taken from a hot pepper. Through a process of trial and error, researchers determine the level of dilution necessary for testers to detect only faint heat in their sample cup. The corresponding Scoville score refers to the proportion to which the capsaicin was diluted with water.