‘Clean Food’ Leads To Food Waste


By Greg Henderson, Drovers, Editorial Director

via AgWeb - Nov 10, 2017


Many Americans have embraced the “eating clean” movement, the concept that we should eat whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains and healthy proteins and fats. And we should consume less refined grains, pesticides, additives, preservatives and fats.


Sounds logical, because who wants to eat pesticides and preservatives? New research from Iowa State University, however, shows that consumers are unaware of the costs related to producing “clean” label foods.


Ruth MacDonald and Ruth Litchfield, professors of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, warn of the consequences in terms of food waste, safety and cost. Clean food advocates suggest avoiding foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce. MacDonald says several food manufacturers, restaurants and grocery stores have responded by removing additives to fit the definition of clean.


The ISU professors say just because an ingredient or additive has an unfamiliar name does not automatically make it bad for you. The decision to remove additives appears to be driven more by market demand than consideration of the benefits these additives provide and the potential food safety risk, they said. Removing nitrates from deli meats and hot dogs is just one example.


Food manufacturers use ingredients such as sodium benzoate, calcium propionate and potassium sorbate to control the growth of microorganisms in foods without changing the character or taste of the food. Without such additives, foods will spoil faster, increasing food safety risk and the likelihood of more food ending up in the trash.


 “People have a hard time understanding the risk-benefit ratio when it comes to foods. They see a chemical, such as nitrates, listed on the label and assume it is bad or the food contains a high amount,” MacDonald said. “The food safety risk without these preservatives is so much greater.”


Litchfield, an expert on food safety and health promotion, has this advice for consumers: