When Natural Isn’t Good for You: Managing Food Safety, Litigation & Regulatory Risk

Posted on:May 1, 2014

What is clean labeling? There is no uniform definition, but in part, clean labeling is a response to consumers’ lack of knowledge regarding food science and safety. “Clean labels” tend to involve: 1) reducing the number of ingredients generally; 2) eliminating “chemical sounding” ingredients; and 3) implying “natural” without necessarily using that term.

Xanthan Gum - Bob's Red Mill

Xanthan gum was used as an example of the subjective nature of the term “natural.”

Clearly, there is pressure on industry from consumers and advocacy groups for labels with pronounceable words. “The exception is if the ingredient is ‘hip’ and sounds natural; for example, ‘açai’ where the pronunciation gets a pass,” explained Anthony Pavel of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Clean label is a subjective term influenced by consumers’ lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of ingredients, said Pavel. Take, for example, xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is the product of fermentation of sugars and, depending on the production technique, can be considered a “natural” ingredient. Nonetheless, there has been some level of reformulation to remove xanthan gum, because it sounds artificial. However, xanthan gum ironically assists in the formulation of gluten-free baked goods, another consumer trend based at least somewhat upon misunderstanding.

Consumers are also interested in good prices; however, many are willing to pay a premium for organic and “natural” products. Taste, texture, healthfulness, good shelflife—yet minimal processing and safety—are all desirable properties. Labels also must comply with FDA and FSIS requirements.

For example, ingredients are still required to be listed by the common and usual name, unless a regulation provides for a different term. Sugar is still sugar; highfructose corn syrup is not simply “corn syrup.” Exemptions to listing are limited in number and include incidental additives and processing aids that are present at insignificant levels with no function in the finished product. An insignificant level is not clearly defined, except with sulfites; they are considered to be incidental only if present at less than 10ppm.

Ingredients many consider to be “natural” and organic have some overlap, but not always. For example, the USDA’s National List of organic ingredients currently allows ammonium bicarbonate, calcium hydroxide, potassium carbonate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate and xanthan gum in certain organic products, even though they likely wouldn’t be considered “clean label” ingredients.

Pavel stressed that when reformulating to create a clean label product, safety should be the number one concern. Formulation changes that affect shelflife and stability need to be validated and reviewed in the context of final labeling. For preservatives, there are not always effective clean label alternatives.

“Labels must be truthful and accurate, not misleading or false in any way. Omission of material facts can be misleading. FDA places a big emphasis on front-ofpackage claims, and FTC has increased scrutiny of foods. Health-related claims are becoming more prevalent in food advertising, and so are being given increased scrutiny,” advised Pavel. Statements that claim to treat or prevent disease are a big target, he added.

Specific food additives are also under attack by consumer pressure groups. For example, CSPI has a Food Additives mobile app which warns consumers about ingredients. The app warns that caramel coloring may sound innocent, but may made with ammonia, sulfites or both. All issues discussed here are potential targets. FDA is picking its labeling battles as a result of strained resources.

At this point, natural claims are a lower priority than safety issues. A gap has been created by FDA’s inaction on developing a definition of “natural,” but lawyers in the plaintiffs’ bar are filling that gap and suing companies directly over their labeling and marketing claims.

In conclusion, there is a need to respond to consumer demand for clean labels, but reformulation requires a holistic review of safety, shelflife, product attributes and related label claims. Regulatory requirements must still be met, and consumers need to be educated.

This is an excerpt from the 2013 Clean Label Conference Report.

Cooking to Save Your Life – More than a Cookbook

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cooking to save your life book cover(June 1, 2014—Global Food Forums, Inc.) In the opening page of  “Cooking to Save Your Life,” by Chef Kurt Stiles, John Morey, Executive Chef of DNC Sport Service, Bank of America Stadium, Carolina Panthers writes “Five short years later [after Chef Stiles’ stroke], Kurt has taken all his experiences, knowledge and love, and put it to work. I believe his research in this book comes from his life experience, passion, and knowledge of good cooking. I know using this cookbook will help families and friends eat healthier to live life fully!”

This is more than a cookbook. It is a story of the experiences endured by a successful father of a young family upon having a stroke and how he dealt with it. Most of the first section has been written by his friends and family and touches on topics ranging from his therapy and natural medicine to the challenges faced by caregivers. From there it segues into fitness and his new lifestyle, meal planning and lastly some 180 pages dedicated to healthful food recipes.

“Extras” include a system of allergen icons to indicate the presence or absence of allergenic ingredients in the basic recipes, ideas for substitution of certain ingredients to better customize for health concerns and personal interests, the nutritional content of recipes and personal notes.

I am posting a blog on this book, not only because Chef Stiles is a friend and his book is an unusual spirited effort that will benefit many, but also because of his creative usage of new tools now in the business world. They include use of the San Francisco-based crowd funding organization Indiegogo and a “must watch” short professional YouTube video on his story, see He raised $8,310 toward his modest goal of $7,500. He has a productive relationship with academia; three students at Southwest Minnesota State University’s (SMSU’s) Culinology & Professional Writing and Communication programs helped him with the book and he now donates $1 per book sold to SMSU’s Culinology Foundation for scholarships and another $1 is donated to help stroke survivors.

Finally, the recipes themselves are heartfelt suggestions from Chef Stiles that provide information for individual customization to one’s own needs and desires and, most importantly, made me want to run to the kitchen to try them out.

For more information, Chef Kurt Stiles can be reached at For more information on purchasing the book “Cooking to Save Your Life,” click on the link.

— Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Co-owner, Global Food Forums, Inc.

New Natural Sweetener D-psicose Marches toward Commercialization

Posted on:April 21, 2014
D-psicose natural sweetener

D-psicose is considered a “rare sugar” due to its scarcity in nature. Efforts are underway to extract it in a cost-efficient manner.
Illustration source: Wikipedia

(April 21, 2015—Global Food Forums) The preference for sweetness is innate in humans. Even newborns turn their heads toward a sweet solution versus one with plain water. Many animals also show a preference for foods with some sweetness. This preference is hard-wired; in nature, sweet foods correlate with those foods being a source of energy. See the Global Food Forums’ blog “Why is There So Much Sugar in our Foods?

With health concerns from obesity to diabetes, however, over-consumption of high-caloric sweeteners can be problematic. Consumer interests, and thus the food industry’s interest have turned to ingredients that provide sweetness with few to no calories. Additionally, some consumers segments strongly prefer “natural sweeteners” (regardless of their calorie or fructose content as in the case of agave syrup or honey).

Stevia and monk fruit extract are two high intensity (thus low calorie) sweeteners generally considered to be naturally-derived from plants. They have gained much popularity with the US food industry and their use is expanding globally.
However, a new, natural, almost zero-calorie sweetener may be not too far off. An article entitled “Formulating for a Sweet Perception with Natural Sweeteners” (Food Processing, April, 2014, page WF-15 and also online) examines D-psicose, a “rare sugar” found in nature and which has garnered FDA-notified GRAS status by at least one supplier.

Key physciochemical properties that may prove it very beneficial in future food formulations are that it is about 70% as sweet as sucrose but provides only 0.2kcal per gram (versus 4.0 for sucrose). In some applications it may also function as a bulking agent to help replace the volume needed in a formula when sucrose is reduced or removed.

—Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, co-owner, editorial content, Global Food Forums, Inc.

Emerging and Applied Clean Label Starch Technologies

Posted on:April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014, Global Food Forums — The following is an excerpt from the Ingredion-sponsored “2013 Clean Label Conference Report.”

2013 Clean Label Conference-Patil-Chart

Click for PDF of chart.

Emerging and Applied Clean Label Starch Technologies

Starch is a natural carbohydrate polymer packed into a granule. Its shape, size and morphology depend on the plant species. Starch granules contain both linear and branched starch polymers that swell with heat and water during gelatinization, and retrograde or recrystallize upon cooling.

Chemically modified starches provide benefits, such as improved food processing and shelflife stability under acidic conditions, and extreme temperature and shear and during storage. Functional characteristics of chemically modified starch include altered viscosity development, improved film-forming properties, selected aestheic properties, and retrogradation control of amylose and amylopectin.

“However,” explained Sakharam Patil, President, S.K. Patil and Associates, “consumer desire for foods with simple, non-chemical-sounding ingredients has created excellent opportunities for non-chemically modified starches.” Clean label, modified starches can be produced without chemicals, by physical or enzyme modification, yet possess properties similar to chemically modified starches.Clean 
label starch modifications include heat moisture treatment (HMT), annealing (ANN), dry roasting, spray-drying and enzyme modifications.

HMT and ANN are physical modifications that change the physicochemical properties of starch without destroying its granular structure. In HMT, starch is heated to temperatures above gelatinization temperature but with insufficient moisture to
gelatinize. Regardless of the starch origin, HMT promotes an increase in the gelatinization transition temperature; a widening of the gelatinization temperature range; decreases
in granular swelling and amylose leaching; and increases in thermal stability. HMT induced changes in starch structure and properties vary with starch source and amylose content.

During ANN, starch is exposed to excess water for an extended period of time at temperatures above the glass transition but below gelatinization temperature, explained
Patil. ANN specifically changes the physicochemical properties of starch by improving its crystalline perfection and facilitating interactions between the starch chains, resulting in controlled swelling, gelatinization and enhanced stability.

Enzyme-modified starches are another clean label solution. Modern biotechnology has provided several commercial enzymes for clean label starch modification. “Enzyme modification of starches eliminates undesirable byproducts and improves starch purity, producing consistently high-quality products at potentially low cost,” stated Patil.

Major starch-modifying enzymes include endoamylases, which attack starch randomly and reduce viscosity rapidly. Exoamylases attack the glucose polymer chain from the reducing end group and successively remove glucose or maltose units from the starch polymer. Debranching enzymes, like isoamylase, exclusively hydrolyze a -1,6 glycosidic bonds that specifically degrade amylopectin, leaving long linear polysaccharides.

Transferases, such as amylomaltase and cyclodextrin glycosyltransferase, cleave a -1,4 glycosidic bonds and transfer part of the donor molecule to a glycosidic acceptor, forming a new glycosidic bond. Slowly digestible starches (SDS) and resistant starches (RS) result from these new bonds and are in demand because of their fiber-like behavior, both functionally and nutritionally.

Corn, pea and lentil starches are sources of SDS and RS when heat and enzyme treated. SDS also provides sustained or slow energy release, modulating the glucose release in the blood stream, thereby providing the low- or slow-glycemic effects to manage diabetes.
Amylomaltases have a similar type of reaction but result in linear starches, while cyclodextrin glycosyltransferase gives a cyclic product. Starch treated with amylomaltases
have thermoreversible gelling characteristics and can be dissolved numerous times upon heating, a behavior very similar to gelatin.

The choice of which clean label modified starch to use depends on formulation, processing conditions and shelf-stability. Sources can include waxy, regular maize, potato, tapioca, rice, pea and wheat starches. Applications for clean label modified starches include a wide variety of foods. Examples include a pregelatinized
native pea starch that provides pulpiness in tomato sauce and a gelatin-replacing, enzyme-modified potato starch, as a vegan alternative in jelly-type confectioneries.

Enzyme-modified starches can replace fat in cakes and dairy products, to reduce fat up to 30%, while amylomaltase-treated starches enhance creaminess in yogurts.

Sakharam K. Patil, President, S.K. Patil and Associates,Inc, 219-922-1033,,



Packaging Does Much More than “Contain”–It Defines Your 1st Sale

Posted on:April 10, 2014
2013 Clean Label Conference Packaging Presentation

Please click on this graphic for an enlarged version of the chart.

April 10, 2014, Global Food Forums — The following is an excerpt from the Ingredion-sponsored “2013 Clean Label Conference Report.”

Consumers buy products on the basis of relative perceived quality. Packaging gives the first impression of a product to consumers, so it can greatly impact sales, noted Kenneth
Marsh, Ph.D., Kenneth S. Marsh & Associates, Ltd., as he began his presentation.
Packaging contains and protects products, but it also promotes distribution, presents the product and offers information through the label. For a new product, the package determines the initial sale of the product. Product quality influences subsequent sales.

Distribution of grocery products can occur through two basic systems. Traditional grocery product manufacture has limited manufacturing and distribution facilities, and products
travel long distances to reach consumers. This requires longer shelflife, achieved through a combination of ingredient choice, processing and packaging. Alternatively, distribution
can take place through many regional manufacturing and distribution facilities. This is exemplified by Frito Lay, in which products travel shorter distances; experience a
more rapid turnover; and require shorter shelflife and less protection.

“Packaging for a food depends on how it is processed, formulated and distributed,” stated Marsh. “Packaging should be considered as the product is developed, not as an afterthought. During product development, shelflife and distribution options need consideration, along with formulation and processing options, in order to increase
choices for a viable product with increased profitability and chance of success.”

Consider a snack product that goes rancid in a glass container in a dark room. Options to save it include antioxidants, a barrier package with nitrogen purge, and refrigerated distribution with many manufacturing and distribution sites. Preservatives, antioxidants, humectants or encapsulation can make the product less sensitive. Barrier
packaging can protect the product during transport, and refrigeration can slow down the degradation. These steps, combined with more rapid distribution, can make
an otherwise not-viable product acceptable.

Packaging also represents the company image. It gives impressions from the aisle and shelf; thus, material, shape, texture, label and graphics are important. Brand identification is promoted by package graphics that tie the product line together, such as the spoon on
Betty Crocker cake mixes, or the red and white label for Campbell’s soups. Individual varieties and flavors can then be differentiated as the consumer looks directly at
the products.

“Fresh” can be suggested through open-air markets and often simple packaging, such as plain plastic bags often used for bulk spices, nuts, etc. Matt bags, such as those used for many potato chips, give a fresh, deli look and yet compete with grocery items with laminated structures that offer better barriers than paper bags.

Packaging is often based on expected conditions, but one is not always certain. Climate in the U.S. varies in time and locale. Environment affects shelflife. If distribution is not temperature- and humidity-controlled, then shelflife is influenced by where and when it is produced and warehoused, and any abuses inflicted along the way.

Depending on timing and abuses, shipments may need adjustment from normal FIFO (First In-First Out) order. If conditions are recorded, then shelflife calculations can be
made for quality attributes and shipments made based on basis of available shelflife (i.e., product quality). Marsh suggested, “Computer-aided distribution is a tool
that utilizes temperature probes, recording devices and a database consisting of all shipments with dates and distributions. Computer calculation of quality impacts of
high temperature experienced in a truck delayed on a hot day, for example, can modify pull dates to allow mildly temperature-abused products to be shipped first.”

New options for efficiency include matching distribution to turnover rates; varying packaging for cost efficiency; packaging for the total market, not just the worst; and determining needs for new markets. For example, products regionally produced in the Northern states could require less barrier protection than the same product produced
and distributed in Southern states. Profitability results from the least costly system to deliver quality products which sell.
Kenneth Marsh, Ph.D., Kenneth S. Marsh & Associates, Ltd.,, +1.864.888.0011,


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