Cleaning Up

Clean Label, Clean Food, Clean Health?

If you’re looking for a case study of the disconnect between “healthy food” and actual health, you might want to look at the clean label movement. And in particular, data today released at the 50th Annual ESPGHAN Congress tells a disturbing story.

Clean Labels: A Benchmark for Food Makers

The movement to clean labels is one of the hot trends in food products. The “clean label” is an insider’s term of art that refers to labels on food that tell consumers a product has none of the bad stuff they’ve been taught to fear. Fragments of nutrition science from consumer health media help to set the norms. No hard and fast definition exists for a clean label.

“Free-from” claims are one of the key markers of a clean label. And among the many things that consumers have been taught to fear is gluten. So the quest for a clean label with gluten-free claims is driving a lot of activity in the food industry.

Gluten-Free and Nutrition-Deficient

Researchers at the ESPGHAN Congress presented data on the nutritional profiles of 654 gluten-free products and compared them to the profiles of 655 similar products with gluten. They found that gluten-free products had significantly higher energy density, less protein, and more saturated fat. Professor Naveed Sattar from the University of Glasgow summed up the concern:

People who do not need to take gluten-free products as they don’t have a bowel condition that is improved by their consumption should not gravitate to gluten-free diets simply because they think they will be healthier. This may not be the case it seems.

But that is precisely what consumers are doing. And “clean labels” are leading them to do it.

Click here to read more from the ESPGHAN Congress and here to read more from the Independent.

Cleaning Up, photograph © Tina Franklin / flickr

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May 11, 2017

One Response to “Clean Label, Clean Food, Clean Health?”

  1. May 11, 2017 at 10:15 am, Allen Browne said:

    Marketing works!