It’s a phrase that seems to be dominating the media – ‘clean food.’
From supermarket chains and fast-food giants to thousands of media articles written on the subject, the preservative/additive free food movement is everywhere.
And statistics show the trend is increasing. Nearly 13 per cent of total food and drink launched globally in 2013 used additive and/or preservative-free claims, up from 10 per cent in 2008.
The use of preservatives and additives to foods isn’t new. It’s been in existence since prehistoric times and has long been a way that people have been able to keep food surpluses for leaner times.
The preservation of foods has evolved over thousands of years and has been a major force in increasing food security. But in the last century or so the move to manufactured preservatives has certainly become a bigger issue.
Now in 2018, there is a global push to highlight just what chemical preservatives and additives go into our foods and it seems the food industry is listening.
The increasing demand for ready-to-eat fresh food products has led to challenges for food distributors regarding the safety and quality of their foods.
Artificial preservatives meet some of these challenges by preserving freshness for longer periods of time, but these preservatives can cause negative side-effects as well.
For over 30 years, there has been a debate about whether or not preservatives and other food additives can cause hyperactivity.
This, according to Aldi, was the push behind its decision to banish all foods from their line which had added preservatives and additives. Many supermarkets are following the reform.
Aldi was the leader in eradicating food with added preservatives and additives.
The clean food trend also extends to Genetically Modified (GM) foods. Food manufacturers, predominantly in the snack, bakery and dairy sectors, had the most significant amount of launches with the GM – free labelling. This was seen to be a reflection of GM ingredients in sectors using high levels of cereals for food or feed, ahead of meat, fish, eggs, confectionery and ready meals.
By law, food that contains GM protein must be labelled. And GM foods that have an altered characteristic (e.g. soy beans with increased oleic acid content) compared to the non-GM counterpart must be labelled.
Many brands claiming ‘natural’ ingredients also continue to come under fire regularly because of the lack of clarity around the definition. However, companies pushing their brands free of preservatives and additives don’t experience the same scrutiny.
Take the case of McDonalds America claiming it had removed artificial colours, flavours and preservatives from most of its top selling burgers – it’s still fast food and there are still plenty of other products sold there that contain additives and preservatives. While this move by McDonalds America was in response to consumer feedback, it will be a while before McDonalds follows suit in Australia.
McDonalds response to removing preservatives was to consumer feedback.
For this reason alone there is an increasing amount of information available for consumers to understand and read food labelling and not succumb to tricky marketing.
It really is a case of reinforcing the need for consumers to be fully aware of what they are buying and ultimately eating.