To no surprise, two food safety and nutrition professors at Iowa State University believe there are significant trade-offs in cost and food safety for clean labels. The clean label is one of the most significant trends hitting the food and beverage industry. While there is no clear-cut definition, it is understood that clean label products do not contain additives or preservatives and typically have easy to read ingredients.
Why do Clean Labels Present Issues in Food Safety?
The two food scientists believe that not all food additives and preservatives are bad. Many of those hard-to-pronounce names are used to guard against pathogens and spoiling. While market demand is driving food companies to get rid of these additives, the scientists believe there should be a measured consideration for keeping some of these ingredients. The professors mentioned taking nitrates out of Hotdogs and deli meat as an example since their presence can help prevent clostridium botulinum bacteria.
Professors Ruth MacDonald, Ph.D. and Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D. believes that social media can take a lot of the blame for this hysteria around additives and preservatives. They insist consumers not to believe everything they read on social media and to take a deep dive into any research mentioned in posts.
How are Clean Labels Costing us More?
Label-readers have become fascinated with the “no high fructose corn syrup” claim, but they are not looking closely at one is being replaced to sweeten the product. Many times companies are using tapioca syrup which is made from cassava, and typically more expensive. The professors say that the industry is developing all of these “cleaner” syrups like beet syrup, etc. and they are all sugar. They are no better than high-fructose corn syrup.
There seems to be a clear issue with what consumers expect and the reality of ingredients. Consumers want ingredients they understand, they want them cheap, they want them nutritious, they want them safe, and they want them to be beneficial. However, it is almost an impossible feat for food scientists. Consumers are more willing to accept technology in other aspects of their life but have now wholly shifted when it comes to food. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out as consumers become more educated about the science of food.
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