A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

C3 Food matters Module summary

Food and the chemicals of which foods are made up: making decisions

This is about the 2006 course. The 2011 modules are mostly similar. See the OCR 2011 specification.

This module summary and the downloadable module map, are taken from the GCSE Science Teacher and Technician Guide published by OUP. We are grateful to OUP for permission to publish these resources on this website.
>> Download Module Map C3 Food matters (73 KB).

Why food matters?

Food, diet, and health feature prominently in the news media. Popular magazines have regular features that need to be read critically because they often include misconceptions about chemicals.

Chemicals (Science explanation)

This module uses the contexts of agriculture and food to explore the meaning of the term ‘chemical’, which popularly has strong negative connotations. As this module shows, natural chemicals are not inherently good and safe, while synthetic chemicals are not by nature bad and hazardous.

Here, as in module C1 ‘Air quality’ and C2 ‘Material choices’, the main focus is on molecular compounds, especially the polymers in food and their digestion.

The chemical cycles of life (Science explanation)

The cycling of elements in the natural environment has been hinted at in module C1 ‘Air quality’ and featured in P2 ‘Radiation and life’. Here the main topic is the nitrogen cycle in the context of maintaining soil fertility through intensive or organic methods of farming.

Risk (Idea about Science)

Food and agriculture show that applications of science in new technologies can greatly enhance people’s lives. They can also have unintended and undesirable side effects. People make choices in terms of a balance of risk and benefit. Several issues are used to explore the interplay of risk, personal choice, and regulation. These include pesticide residues and the link between obesity and diabetes.

Making decisions about science and technology (Idea about Science)

Personal and social decisions require an understanding of the science involved, but also involve knowledge and values beyond science. The choices that individuals make about their diet can have severe consequences for their health. Nothing can be completely safe. When new issues arise, the science may be uncertain. Regulators have to use judgements, in the context of public opinion, based on what evidence there is, to decide how to act while bearing in mind costs and benefits.

Skills assessment

There are often topical issues related to food and health being reported in the media. So this module is an excellent opportunity for students to complete a Case Study skills assessment activity.

Health and safety

The topics of obesity and diabetes can be very sensitive for some students. It is important to establish ground rules for discussion, so that individuals are not unreasonably upset.

Advance preparation

The lists of requirements in the Guidance section show that a small number of everyday food items or packages can enhance this module. These may need to be collected in advance.


See our guide to OCR website for the GCSE Science specification to which this module relates.

Module B3 is on pages 35-9: this gives you the Science Explanations and the relevant Ideas about Science.

Read more about Ideas about Science in Appendix F pages 85-91.
For this module you want Idea about Science 3 ‘Developing explanations’ and 4 ‘The scientific community’. You will find it especially useful to read the overview on page 85.