The blood of beef and pork may soon be an ingredient added to your meat but its name will probably not be on the product label. If it is, chances are it will be listed as “natural flavor enhancer.”
DSM, a global producer of Food Specialties, was the 2013 winner
The Savoury/Meat Innovation of the Year Award announced recently at the Food Ingredients Europe meeting in Frankfurt, Germany. The prize was for Maxipro HSP, an enzyme which enables the extraction protein from “existing animal protein.” DSM, which started out years ago as a small Dutch mining Company, says that if all pork and beef blood were available for human consumption, an additional 65 million people could meet their protein needs for a full year.
Cindy Gerhardt, the Innovation Manager of Enzymes at DSM Food Specialties said about the award,” It acknowledges our commitment to providing innovative solutions that are sustainable, affordable, and at the same time have a great taste to meet consumer demands.”
If the product really makes the food more nutritious as well as tasty than it may be worthwhile but if Muslims and Orthodox Jews knew a product had an additive “derived from pork and beef blood” would it be acceptable?. But how would they know? Under current practices, if it is to be listed on the label at all, it would most likely be described as “natural flavoring”.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working on updating the nutrition facts panel on food labels which has not fundamentally changed since it was first created in 1993. The FDA is rumored to be close to releasing its proposal for tweaking label information in January.
The Affordable Care Act includes a label ruling by the FDA which has been overshadowed by the medical controversies in the Act. Remember the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) ? It has been a year and a half since the FDA issued a proposed rule requiring calorie labeling on the menus used by chain restaurants and “similar retail food establishments”. Immediately a battle began that pitted convenience and grocery stores and pizza chains against the restaurant industry and consumer groups over which establishments should be covered. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has said publicly “the menu labeling rule has proved much more complicated than expected.”
The FDA is also struggling with “Natural” listed on labels and in promotions of food and drink products. A growing number of food and drink companies including Pepsi and Campbell’s have unobtrusively been removing such claims from their products. Why? Food labeled “natural” raked in more than $40 billion in U.S. retail sales over the past 12 months. That is second only to food claiming to be low in fat, according to Nielsen. A survey last year by Mintel, another market research company, found 51% of Americans seek out “all natural” when food shopping. Lawsuits, however, are flooding the courts challenging the “naturalness” of everything from potato chips to ice cream to granola bars.
In the Seventh Edition of my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives I quote the Federal Trade Commission as ruling “A food advertised as ‘natural’ may not contain synthetic or artificial ingredients and may not be more than minimally processed.”
The Food and Drug Administration has no definition, says a spokeswoman, but rather a long-standing policy that it considers “natural” to mean that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”
Beef and pork blood are “natural” and so is MSG (monosodium glutamate)– also used as a flavor enhancer. MSG is derived from a non-essential amino acid, one of the body’s building blocks of protein. In some people, MSG when ingested has adverse effects such as headache numbness and asthma.
The FDA’s website (FDA.gov) admits it is “difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.”
A “food labeling modernization” bill, introduced in September in Congress, could force the FDA to establish a single, standard nutrition labeling system, including new guidelines for the use of “natural.” But such rules usually take a long, long time to form and then enforce.
In the meantime, multiple lawsuits have been amassing alleging false advertising. Attorneys say at least 100 lawsuits have been filed in the past two years challenging the “natural” claims of Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, Kellogg, and Skinnygirl as well as dozens of other brands. Some lawsuits have been thrown out, but others have ended with multi-million-dollar settlements. Still others are pending. For the most part, the suits are filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers on behalf of consumers, who purchased the products and are seeking class-action status. Naturally!