Do Clean Labels Have Unintended Health Consequences?

Posted on:October 3, 2019

Dietary recommendations for clean eating are consumer-driven and not backed by science, according to Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., RD, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota. Slavin’s presentation was titled: “Do Clean Labels Have Unintended Health Consequences?”

Clean labels are not based on decades of nutritional recommendations, which haven’t changed a great deal since first articulated in 1894 with a focus on protein and calories.

Enrichment of foods, such as vitamin A and D in reduced-fat milk or dairy-alternatives, is needed to help consumers meet recommended levels of intake of these nutrients. However, their listing on labels as “vitamin A palmitate” and “vitamin D3” may be viewed as chemicals and not acceptable when clean label “rules” are followed.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have been published since 1980 and are developed by experts on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees (DGAC). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the department of Agriculture, jointly publish the DGA every five years to provide evidence-based recommendations to promote health, prevent chronic disease and maintain healthy weight. The DGA are important, as they form the basis of federal nutrition policy and programs; help guide health promotion and disease prevention initiatives; and inform various organizations and industries. However, Slavin noted that some recommendations “are unrealistic, difficult to communicate to consumers and promote a ‘hit list’ of dietary components associated with disease.”

Slavin asked: “What is a clean label?” In his 2008 book In Defense of Food, journalist and activist Michael Pollan stated that consumers should “not eat anything with more than five ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” In 2014, one international ingredient vendor offered that “a clean label means the product can be positioned as natural, organic and/or free from additives/ preservatives.” These definitions stress use of ingredients accepted by consumers. The ingredient list should be short, simple and feature minimally processed ingredients where possible.

In the pursuit of clean label, the ultra-processing of foods has been demonized by some. Ultra-processed has been defined as “made from processed substances extracted or refined from whole foods… with little or no whole foods. Products include burgers, frozen pizza and pasta dishes, nuggets and sticks, crisps, biscuits, confectionery, cereal bars, carbonated and other sugared drinks, and various snack products.” Ultra-processed foods are associated with for profit, big food and drink companies.

NOVA food classification, proposed by World Public Health Nutrition Association, is a four-tiered classification system ordered according to the extent of processing rather than nutrient content. NOVA Category 4, ultra-processed foods, includes industrial formulations with many ingredients, usually. “Although public health advice of NOVA is that ultra-processed foods—with an emphasis on fat, sugar and salt—should be avoid- ed to achieve improvements in nutrient intakes,” noted Slavin, “disease links between intakes of ultra-processed foods and health are lacking.”

There are nutritional and health challenges to clean eating, including Orthorexia Nervosa—a condition coined by Steven Bratman, M.D. in an essay published in the October 1997 issue of Yoga Journal. “Orthorexia Nervosa is defined as a fixation on the virtue of food or an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating,” in which people feel a sense of satisfaction and control with extremely restricted and ordered healthy eating.

“Required vitamins and minerals for enrichment cannot meet rules of clean label, as many view these as chemicals. Intakes of nutrients of concern—fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D—will only get worse by clean label ‘rules,’” explained Slavin. She provided the example of protein quality for plant-based ingredients, such as soy, which has improved digestibility and absorption due to processing. The same is true for the addition of healthy ingredients—whole grains, vegetables, fruits, pulses—as well as the removal of added sugar, sodium, and saturated and trans fats in some processed foods.

Slavin concluded that the movement to greater support for plant-based diets over nutrient intake will continue. Ultraprocessing is the new villain associated with a distrust of food technology as the solution for nutrition problems—even if that technology solves issues. She stressed, “It is critical to have those skilled in food technology and production on scientific panels that determine nutrition policy.”

“Do Clean Labels Have Unintended Health Consequences,” Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., RD, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota

This presentation was given at the 2019 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Clean Label Conferences at

The Clean Label Movement’s Evolution Toward Sustainability

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Innova’s database contains 130 million records. Over 500,000 products from 90 countries are added each year. Using this tool, Mindy Hermann, MBA, RDN, Innova Market Insights, delved into the evolution of clean label, the results of which were revealed in her presentation titled “Understanding the Clean Label Movement & What it Means for the Industry.”

The definition of clean label has evolved dramatically over the past several years, she said. Five years ago, organic, natural, vegan, and free-from additives and preservatives defined the category. For example, “If we look at a classic definition of clean, from 2014- 2018, more than 25% of new product launches have the words ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ ‘no additives,’ ‘no preservatives’ or ‘GMO-free’ on their labels.”

As the classification of clean label became more well-defined, it expanded to include minimally processed, dairy alternatives, meat substitutes and sugar/salt/fat reformulations. Today, human and animal welfare, supply chain transparency, sustainably sourced and plant-based nutrition are top contenders that define this space, suggested Hermann. Ethical claims, including animal and environmental, also are rising in importance, and plant-based claims are up 68% from 2014-2018.

Six market categories accounted for greater than 50% of new food and beverage launches with clean label claims in 2018 (see chart “Categories as a % of New Clean Label F&B Launches, Global 2018”). Sauces and Seasonings is the largest of the six defined categories. Bakery followed by the Soft Drinks are the next two categories with the most claims. For example, Passage Foods’ Passage to Asia Thai Basil and Sweet Chili Stir-Fry Sauce provides an insight into claims such as natural, gluten-free, BPA-free and non-GMO. “Consumers consider ’gluten-free’ to be a clean claim, and ‘BPA- free’ is a clean claim in the environmental space,” said Hermann.

The Sports Nutrition category is seeing 40% growth of clean label claims per year, 2014-2018, noted Hermann. Aside from ingredient integrity, companies are telling a relatable story. For example, Organic Valley Organic Fuel Whey Protein Powder builds a relationship with the consumer by claiming that it does not contain “unnecessary additives you can’t pronounce, artificial flavorings or sweeteners, GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones.”

Hermann also presented an example from the snack market. Billy Franks Hot n Spicy, British Beef Jerky’s label indicated it had no artificial colorings, flavorings or preservatives. The label also claimed that the product was “air-dried grass-fed,” which is “a newer clean claim,” Hermann noted.

Three in five consumers want to know the origin of the ingredients in products they purchase. No artificial flavors or colors; made with real ingredients; natural; and low/no/reduced sugar top the list of factors that influence purchasing decisions. And, consumers are adopting lifestyle diets, such as vegetarian/vegan, plant-based, keto, etc. But flavor is still the number one factor influencing food and beverage purchasing decisions, said Hermann.

Health is the biggest driver behind consumer purchases of alternatives to bread, meat or dairy. Research data reveals that dairy-free is growing at 18% per year, and meat substitutes are growing about 17% per year. “The plant-based marketplace shows no sign of slowing down,” claimed Hermann. “Innova sees a 33% average annual growth in vegan claims from 2014-2018, and plant-based claims grew 60+% during that same time period.” Brands are “greening up” their foods and beverages by adding plant-based ingredients to a variety of products, including dairy.

Animal welfare is growing in popularity, as well. Innova reports a 21% increase in annualized growth over the past five years. As an example, Pre Beef Ribeye Steaks’ label claims: “Grass fed and finished. No added hormones. No added antibiotics.” “Grass fed and finished” connotes a more natural and clean process.

Consumers’ age comes into play when considering environmental, social and ethical factors. Regarding Gen Z, 50% are concerned about the sustainability of the planet. One in two Millennials are concerned about environmental impact. Baby Boomers (43%) feel that food waste and redistribution matter most. Gen X (58%) indicate that waste and pollution is a concern.

These trends are evidenced in Rubies in the Rubble Chipotle Mayo—a vegan product made with aquafaba, the water leftover from cooking chickpeas that is ordinarily waste. And Numi® Organic Tea is made with “compostable tea bags and use…post-consumer recycled packaging for improved sustainability.”

Hermann closed with these key takeaways. “Looking at growing expectations for clean label, the impact of food production on climate change is expected to drive food product development. On the consumer side, consumers expect clean labels to communicate trust, transparency and sustainability.”

“Understanding the Clean Label Movement & What it Means for the Industry,” Mindy Hermann, MBA, RDN, Innova Market Insights

This presentation was given at the 2019 Clean Label Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Clean Label Conferences at

Wella Cashew Cacao Chaga Bar 2020 Protein Sampling Station

Posted on:October 1, 2019

A new variety of Wella Bar, Cashew Cacao & Chaga, was launched in 2019. It has a number of “on-trend” characteristics such as the need for a refrigerated distribution chain (thus avoiding the need for emulsifiers), plant-based proteins and chaga mushrooms. This product will be available at the Protein Product Sampling station during the 2020 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar’s Technology Program: Formulating with Proteins

Cashews*, Sunflower Seeds*, Maple Syrup*, Cacao Butter*, Brown Rice Protein*, Cacao*, Coconut Butter*, Coconut*, Chaga Mushroom*, MCT Coconut Oil*, Vanilla Extract* (contains ethyl alcohol), Sea Salt, Monk Fruit*, Cayenne Pepper*, Cinnamon*.       *USDA Organic.

Serv. Size: 1 bar (45g), Amount Per Serving, Calories 240; Total Fat 18g (28%DV),  Cholesterol 0mg (0%DV), Sodium 110mg (5%DV), Total carb. 14g (5%DV), Fiber 3g (5% DV), Sugars 5g, Protein 8g (16% DV)

COMMENTS FROM PRODUCT WEBSITE: “A bar is so decadent you won’t believe you’re eating chaga mushrooms! We amped it up with brown rice protein to ensure that you’re satiated long after the last bite.”

*Chaga is a mushroom that grows on the bark of birch trees in cool Northern climates. This antioxidant-rich adaptogenic super mushroom has been used in folk medicine for centuries, prized for its immune supporting and anti-aging properties.

Labeling Regulations & Emerging High Protein-Based Foods

Posted on:September 23, 2019

EMERGING HIGH PROTEIN-BASED FOODS could trigger implications under existing U.S. Federal Standards of Identity (SOI), explained Jessica O’Connell, Partner with the international law firm, Covington & Burling LLP, in her presentation titled “From Cellular Agriculture to Plant-based Milks: Hot Issues in the Protein Arena.”

Some already are. O’Connell suggested today’s food and beverage consumers’ needs and expectations have evolved well beyond the original intents and purposes of SOI. The original reason the U.S. government established SOIs was in order to protect against adulteration, food fraud and the use of inferior ingredients. Conversely, SOIs also help protect product categories against lower cost, lower quality competition…as in butter vs. margarine, for example.

“Today’s deviations from standards are not so much about adulteration and the use of inferior quality ingredients, but more about technological advances made to ‘improve’ foods,” said O’Connell. This begs the question: What constitutes “improvement?”

Since 1939, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has established more than 280 standards, largely for staple foods and beverages, said O’Connell. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has authority to establish standards in consultation with the FDA. Two product segments of particular relevance to the SOI debate are dairy (in particular, plant protein-based products labeled as “milk” and the emerging sector of meat alternatives, including cell-cultured meat proteins).

O’Connell pointed out that violations of existing SOI are hardly unique. For example, she said, “The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines ‘milk’ as a ‘lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained from one or more healthy cows.’” Click here to see a selection of dairy products with established Standards of Identity.

Sheep and goats need not apply, which may come as news to some cheese manufacturers. Similarly, she continued, the CFR defines “flour” as acquired by “grinding and bolting cleaned wheat, other than durum and red durum wheat.” So, oat, potato, barley, rye and other bread flours also need not apply.

Bread is also implicated, as “the SOI for bread requires that it be made using ‘flour, bromated flour, phosphate flour or a combination of two or more of these;’ ergo, only wheat flour.” Small wonder, then, that more emerging foods are all but guaranteed to raise concerns about outdated SOIs and the need for potential reform.

The FDA and USDA are both under pressure from a number of sectors to address these questions quickly. In a fairly recent case, the FDA cited the alternative vegan mayonnaise product, Just Mayo, for not containing eggs, as per the SOI for mayonnaise. The FDA allowed a compromise by accepting the addition of qualifying language to the product label.

The National Milk Producers Federation recently petitioned the FDA to enforce existing “imitation” labeling requirements against non-dairy soy and nut milks. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association also petitioned the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to enforce a USDA-derived standard that defines “beef” as product “born from cattle, raised and harvested in the traditional manner.” This would preemptively target the potential threat posed to cattle producers by beef alternatives, such as plant-based or cell-cultured beef proteins.

A further complication is that individual U.S. states are taking the initiative to regulate these products on their own, which could throw a monkey wrench into interstate commerce considerations. Within the last two years, the State of Missouri prohibited the misrepresenting of “meat” by any product not directly produced from livestock or poultry.

In 2019, the State of Arkansas passed a law prohibiting the mislabeling of products containing meat and rice, in order to preempt imitative or cultured alternatives. O’Connell warned that these actions mark only the first trickles in a pending flood of similar state initiatives, so pressure has ratcheted up on both the FDA and USDA to develop pre-emptive regulatory guidelines for such products.

“One very important aspect, from a legal perspective, is that we need to consider what consumers think about these products,” added O’Connell. “Do consumers understand the differences?” The FDA issued a press release in 2018 declaring their intention to investigate consumers’ understandings of nutritional and other differences between these products—especially in relation to their public health consequences. But, while recognizing that it ultimately should be all about consumers, one should also recognize that nothing moves quickly in Washington, D.C.

“From Cellular Agriculture to Plant-Based Milks: Hot Issues in the Protein Arena,” Jessica O’Connell, Partner, Covington & Burling LLP

JUST Eggs Sampled at 2020 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar

Posted on:September 21, 2019

JUST Eggs will be offered for tasting at the 2020 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar

Promotional details offered to consumers note “Made from plants not chickens. JUST Egg is packed with 5g/serving of clean, sustainable protein, and scrambles and tastes like eggs. JUST Egg makes delicious, fluffy breakfast scrambles, and is also great for omelets, quiches, stir-fries, French toast, waffles, pancakes, and much more. It’s egg-free, non-GMO, cholesterol-free, and dairy-free, with no saturated fat, carrageenan, preservatives, FD&C colors, artificial flavors nor artificial ingredients. Easy to use – simply scramble like an egg.”

Ingredients: Water, Mung Bean Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Contains less than 2% of Dehydrated Onion, Gellan Gum, Natural Carrot Extractives (color), Natural Flavors, Natural Turmeric Extractives (color), Potassium Citrate, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Tapioca Syrup, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Transglutaminase, Nisin (preservative). (Contains soy.)

Click on images to see an enlarged views.

Click on image to enlarge.

NUTRITION FACTS: Serving size 3 Tbsp (44ml) sAmount (% Daily Value) Calories 70; Calories from Fat 45; Total Fat 5g (8%); Saturated Fat 0g (0%); Trans Fat 0g; Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5g; Monounsaturated Fat 3g; Cholesterol 0mg (0%) Sodium 17mg (7%); Total Carbohydrate1g (0%); Dietary Fiber 0g (0%); Sugars 0g; Protein 5g; Vitamin A (0%); Vitamin C (0%); Calcium (0%); Iron (4%)

For more information:

2020 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar

JUST Eggs Website Page


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