The Analytical quest for the “free from” truth
In this increasingly complex and confusing world we live in, consumers are looking for aspects of their lives to simplify and, to have a better understanding of the areas that impact their lives. In addition, consumers are realizing that food and its components may have a large impact on their health and well-being. This has culminated in consumers taking more control of the food choices they are making, demanding to know what is in their food, and even more so, what should not be in food products. This consumer-driven need to utilize simpler ingredients and remove components that are considered by some to be unhealthy, has initiated products to be marketed as being “free from” certain food additives or food components, such as added sugars, synthetic colors or gluten. However, confirming that these foods are actually “free from” these components is much more complex than one would think. Industry experts have provided insight on both the work necessary to prove “free from” claims, and some of the technological advances to substantiate these claims.
Consumers the world over are looking to get back to the basics in their dining experience, valuing authenticity in the flavor and texture of foods. To this end, the trend of “free from” foods is gaining traction. As the name implies, these foods are “free from” a certain type of ingredient or component of food, such that the “free from” food is believed to be a better, healthier form of the conventional food. “Free from” claims include foods being free of gluten, processed sugar, or a specific ingredient such as carrageenan. However, are these claims really justified? Claims made for food or food ingredients are required by federal agencies (both in the European Union and in the United States) to be “truthful and not misleading” such that the claims need to be substantiated with scientific evidence of the truthfulness of the claim. Sometimes the hard part of proving the “free from” claim is both having the correct analytical methodology in place to document that the product functions as advertised, AND proving to the authorities that the methodology used is sound and reproducible. We have asked several people from different areas of the foo ...