Food Scientists Say Clean Labels Have Trade-Offs in Food Safety

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.

clean label food safety consumers

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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Unhealthy Additives Are Transforming Gatorade

Consumers are now connecting their health to the food and beverages that they consume. PepsiCo, who owns Gatorade, is facing a backlash regarding the types of unhealthy additives used in making their signature drinks.

So what’s inside a 32-oz Gatorade? It contains 54.4 grams of sugar which are more than the recommended daily allowance of an average person. Although 50 grams of sugar provides energy for individuals who are always working out or on the go, an average person does not have a need for it.

gatorade-label-serving-size-sugarSugar is the Silent Killer in Sports Drinks

There are different types of sugar. In chemistry, sugar is categorized as sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, and lactose. They are carbohydrates that fuel the body by providing the energy that it needs to sustain daily activities. Many food experts believe that sugar is one of the unhealthy additives that we include in our diet. It is important to take note that there are different forms of sugars, but one of the dangerous types of sugar for our health is sucrose, also known as white sugar or table sugar. Sugar is made from plants, and they can come from sugar beets or sugar cane. The natural juices are extracted from both plants and are crystallized to form white sugar which is made up of 99% sucrose.

Sugar is not a low-calorie additive. In fact, it has a high glycemic index (GI) which is a measure of blood glucose response after eating a particular food. Since its GI is high, this means that your blood sugar level is immediately elevated just a few minutes after consuming a tablespoon of it.


The Fight Against Sugar & Unhealthy Additives 

The ability of table sugar to raise the blood sugar level within a few minutes of ingesting it is the reason why people want to avoid Gatorade and other beverages.  For this reason, beverage companies are now launching innovations to keep their customers not only happy but also healthy. Many beverage companies are now offering low-calorie drinks, but their marketing strategy does not end there. Many companies are now attempting to create natural drinks by cutting out synthetic ingredients from their beverage mixtures.

For instance, PepsiCo removed the brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade’s formula in addressing the call of a 15-year old activist who launched an online campaign against the unhealthy additive. Moreover, the company also developed a sports drink that does not have artificial coloring and is sweetened with natural cane sugar.

The new line of beverages looks promising, but consumers are seeking drinks that fit their nutritional needs. Sport drink companies are trying to capitalize on the opportunity by creating healthier drinks without sacrificing the taste. For instance, both PepsiCo and Coke are now investing in coconut water, Suja juice, and sparkling water after calls by nutritionists to switch from sports drinks to drinks with less sugar and unhealthy additives.

Today, beverage companies are not only looking into making low-calorie drinks, but they also want to deliver beverages that are healthy—to fit the lifestyles of its many health-conscious consumers.

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beverages from whole fruit and vegetables nutrients vitaminsWhere are the Nutrients?

How are we able to market a beverage as “sports nutrition” and there are ZERO nutrients in the drink? On the other hand, some of these “nutritious” drinks are using synthetic vitamins and minerals to fortify their products. How is that any better? We should be looking for ways to deliver whole food nutrients into beverages like Gatorade and Powerade.

NutriFusion® developed a  patented method for stabilizing the nutrients in whole fruits and vegetables. We are here to help sports nutrition brands bring healthy, nutritious products to market. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Beverages page below for more information.

New Book “Ingredients” Uncovers World of Additives

A new book called “Ingredients” by photographer Dwight Eschliman and writer Steve Ettlinger was recently launched and this is definitely more than a must-read. “Ingredients” seeks to expose 75 common food additives by providing an easy-to-read encyclopedia which will give insight to the structure, use and history of each additive.

Eschliman had the task of sourcing and categorizing each additive before taking a photo.  He said that he was surprised as to how thorough the world was with white powders and clear liquid ingredients. The photographer also said that most of the ingredients were not hard to identify for purchase. Around 60 percent of the ingredients were from chemical supply companies that purchase their additives from China.

The two authors are promoting eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting down on processed foods. They plan to use the book to expose how dangerous some additives are and to raise awareness among consumers. Hopefully, this will start to force food companies to commit to clean labels and natural additives in the future.

“Everybody wanted us to align very much with those on the soapbox talking about how bad the food was…I wanted to take some measures to prevent that.” – Dwight Eschliman

Two Common Additives to Understand


additives food ingredients msg

Eschliman’s first step was to organize the additives into three categories: neutral, negative, and positive. He admitted that he initially placed monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the negative pile because of the additive’s reputation for causing “Chinese restaurant syndrome” – health concerns such as heart palpitations, allergic reactions, and so on. However, scientists now agree that this negative reputation is entirely unsupported. Glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid. It is a flavor-enhancer that makes tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese tasty. It has developed a bad reputation due to poor understanding of the structure of MSG and public mistrust.


Another misunderstood additive is a yellow powder called azodicarbonamide, or ADA. Last year Vani Hari, blogger and activist behind the name Food Babe, petitioned Subway to remove the “yoga mat chemical” found in its bread. The production of ADA has been documented to cause asthmatic symptoms and skin irritations to people who manufacture it, but has no evidence of any risk to people who consume it.

It definitely sounds strange that the same additives found in yoga mats, fertilizers, fire retardants, rust dissolvers and rocket fuel can also be found in the food we eat. But it doesn’t really mean that we are eating these items. Additives such as salt, for instance, are composed of sodium and chlorine and have an estimated 14,000 industrial uses.

Ettlinger and Eschliman provide a fantastic insight about additives in their book. There is even trivintor each additive on every single page. It’s easy to be scared of these additives when you have very little knowledge about each of them. “As it happens, it doesn’t take much to understand,” Ettlinger says.

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