Food Science in the News: The INFORMATION edition

Do you believe “information is power” or “ignorance is bliss”? In my opinion, it depends on whether we’re talking about accurate or misleading information. I bring you two news stories which both involve providing more information to the consumer, and let you decide whether this information helps you in any way.

 

Food Science in the News – Information is Power

Nutritional Outlook recently posted an article describing the results of a test on different Front of Pack label formats. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation conducted a study in which they gave consumers four different packages, quizzed them on the nutrient amounts, and asked them which labeling system they preferred. Here were the options, excerpted from the Nutritional Outlook article (full article here):

“The study asked participants to look at four different packages, each featuring a nutrition facts panel as well as a unique FOP label:
1) a control version without any nutrition information on the FOP,
2) an FOP listing calories only,
3) an FOP listing calories plus nutrients to limit, and
4) an FOP listing calories, nutrients to limit, as well as nutrients to encourage.

After looking at these labels, participants were asked to identify the nutrient amounts and percent daily values per serving in each product, rate the ease at which they were able to answer those questions, and pick which product was the best choice nutritionally.”

*SPOILER ALERT* the fourth option won. The key here is not just providing the information, but also answering the question, “What am I supposed to do with this information?” Information is almost always useless without context.

Food Science in the News – Ignorance is Bliss

If you haven’t heard this story yet, give it time. This is just the type of story that mass media loves to jump all over — a new tool to help consumers with their food choices, combined with the right amount of fear-tactics.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG, not to be confused with Eric Will Gymnastics aka my second home) recently published a food database which contains a scoring system for nutrition, ingredients of concern, and degree of processing. Every product in the database has an overall score, which consumers can use to find “greener, healthier and cleaner food choices.” A database like this is a phenomenal tool with the potential to help consumers identify smarter choices for themselves and their families.

How “healthy” is this?

HOWEVER, anytime a database involves a rating system, it must also have specific criteria to remove the gray areas for assigning a one score or another. Case in point, how would you rate a vegetable smoothie that has 47g of sugar and contains ingredients with inherently high heavy metal counts (think seaweed) and pathogenic bacterial contamination (think leafy greens and E coli)? What metrics do you use to weight the severity of the “ingredients of concern”? Any ingredient also found in a yoga mat is obviously toxic, but what about salt? Sugar? Caffeine? For the degree of processing ranking, what about raw milk and the dangers associated with it’s lack of processing?

I urge you to read the short rebuttal to the EWG ratings system from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (available here). A few of their most crucial points are excerpted below:

“The Environmental Working Group’s food ratings are severely flawed and will only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy. The methodology employed by EWG to develop their new food ratings is void of the scientific rigor and objectivity that should be devoted to any effort to provide consumers with reliable nutrition and food safety information. Their ratings are based almost entirely on assumptions they made about the amount, value, and safety of ingredients in the products they rate. Adding insult to injury, EWG conducted no tests to confirm the validity of any of their assumptions. Not only will the EWG ratings provide consumers with inaccurate and misleading information, they will also falsely alarm and confuse consumers about their product choices. Embedded in the ratings are EWG’s extreme and scientifically unfounded views on everything from low-calorie sweeteners to the nutritional value of organic foods.”

 

BOTTOM LINE

Information can be empowering, when provided in the right context. Watch out for fear tactics and overly simplified assumptions as to what constitutes “healthy food.” As I tell myself every time I do a Risk Assessment for a new ingredient, CONSIDER THE SOURCE. Also, “keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.”

Related Posts and Links:

I Ate the Whole Thing – Food Label Renovation perspective

FACTS and Fear - how they influence consumer perception

The Dosage Makes the Difference – Lessons from the Father of Toxicology

Help Us Get to 50 Likes! https://www.facebook.com/energydrinkguide

Schedule a 1-on-1 with GreenEyedGuide on Google Helpouts

 

Energy Drink of the Month — October 2014

Food Scientists, Quality professionals and those in marketing (“Marketeers”) don’t always see eye to eye. As the Green-Eyed Guide, my goal is to challenge myself and others to expand perspectives, to try to see a situation from another’s eyes. Thus, for this month’s energy drink pick, I wanted to provide my interpretation of how three different professionals in the food industry would see the same product.

The Energy Drink of the Month for October 2014 is Rockstar Roasted with Almond Milk

Ever since my first exposure to energy drinks (back in 2003), I wanted others to see what I saw, wanted them to know the tips and tricks I know when it comes to reading labels and deciphering the contents of an energy drink. In place of my usual written review for the Energy Drink of the Month, I present this review:

Three-Point Perspective on Rockstar Roasted Energy Drinks with Almond Milk

Perspective Energy Drink Rockstar Roasted GreenEyedGuide

Caffeine in Rockstar Roasted – Caffeine Informer
Rockstar Energy Drink – main site

Five Levels of Fatigue –booklet on Ebay; excerpt from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Energy Drink Guide FACEBOOK PAGE — Help push it to 100 Likes!!!

I am Beachbody, I am (me)

Chosen “I am Beachbody” employee for October 2014, I had to make a video about who I am and what I do. It’s not quite Jenna Marbles quality, but it’s imperfect and has character, like myself.

 

For your viewing pleasure, in case you’d like to be a Food Scientist, Quality Specialist or just want to know what I do all day (as in, usually 10 hours per day).

15 Ways to Convince Your GF Baseball is the Best Sport

greeneyedguide:

Just as a reminder… Yay for Postseason!!!

Originally posted on Green-Eyed Guide:

What do you do when your darling girlfriend (or boyfriend) doesn’t understand why you NEED to watch the baseball game? How do you convince them that this seemingly boring sport is truly the best sport of all? Try theseargumentson them:

1.When hockey players win the Stanley Cup and when football players win the Super Bowl, they get commemorative baseball hats.
2.Even those who don’t enjoy baseball can’t deny they enjoy getting to “first base” on a first date.
3.Also like dating, baseball is “a game of inches”.
4.Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
5.Watching baseball makes one better equipped to communicate because baseball metaphors permeate the English language – Examples:
·Swinging for the fences
·Striking out
·Stepping up to the plate
·Bringing the heat
·Swinging at a fastball in the dirt
·Hitting a homerun
·Landing in foul territory

View original 214 more words

Energy Drink of the Month — September 2014

If someone asked you to draw a Venn diagram showing energy drink consumers and loyal Jamba Juice customers, how much would those two groups overlap? If you are familiar with my Energy Drink of the Month blog posts, you know by now that all energy drinks are not created equal. Some don’t fit the mold, and there are many “energy-drinks-in-disguise” at your local grocery store and/or gas station. This month’s pick is dedicated to another energy-drink-in-disguise, and also to telepathy.

The Energy Drink of the Month for September 2014 is Jamba Blueberry Pomegranate.

Energy Drink of the Month Sept 2014

Energy Drink of the Month Sept 2014

Have you ever looked at a food or supplement label and thought, “I wish I knew what the food scientists think about this”? Allow me to present this opportunity for you to be Mr. Spock or Dr. Xavier (your pick) and read my thoughts as I assess this product.

 

7 Thoughts on Jamba Energy

1-There’s pictures of blueberries and pomegranates on the label…alert the press!

Since this is the first image I have of the product, we’ll start here. Whether or not you’re in the food industry, you might’ve heard the news story about Pom Wonderful suing Coca Cola over a pomegranate blueberry juice blend. The excerpt below from a Nutritional Outlook article explains the problem (click here for full article):

POM Wonderful is suing Coke, alleging that the company deceptively uses the words pomegranate and blueberry on its Minute Maid Pomegranate Blueberry 100% Fruit Juice Blend label, when in fact the drink contains very little pomegranate and blueberry juice… On his show, Oliver joked that “one of Coke’s actual arguments this week in the Supreme Court is that they’re allowed to give their product a name that refers to juices that provide the characterizing flavor—an argument that has the characterizing flavor of bullsh*t.”

Full (hilarious and informative) John Oliver video here

With the can now in hand, we move from these prominent images to the next point.

2-Pomegranate and Blueberry location on the ingredient line

Ingredient Line for Jamba Blueberry Pomegranate Energy Drink

Ingredient Line for Jamba Blueberry Pomegranate Energy Drink

Surprise, surprise, neither pomegranates nor blueberries are the first ingredient in the ingredient list. Water is the first ingredient, followed by apple juice concentrate (and that’s significant when we get to point 4). The good news is pomegranates and blueberries are not last on the ingredient list, so they are not added in “fairy dust amounts” in order to make it onto the label.

 

3-Ingredient Line continued, Natural Flavor Alert

Since I have had the pleasure of working closely with flavor houses as a product developer, I never panic when I see the phrase “natural flavors”. I’m not sure where the food blog activists got their ammunition to freak out over natural flavors, especially since “natural” used to be the magic word of acceptability to some non-food scientists. By themselves, the fruit purees are not potent enough to convey the intended flavor. This is where natural flavors come in, but finding the right flavor for the intended consumer is a challenge.

For example, when a food scientist says to a flavorist, “I want the product to taste like strawberries”, the flavorist has to navigate through a wide spectrum to find the right flavor profile. Should it be a jammy strawberry? Artificial or candy-like strawberry? Creamy like strawberry yogurt? Juicy like fresh-picked strawberries? The possibilities are more numerous than the average consumer could imagine. It’s possible a hint of natural blueberry flavor is the key to the the ideal strawberry flavor profile. I’ll elaborate on natural flavors a future blog, but let’s move on to one of the most important points of this Jamba evaluation.

4-Sugar Search

Jamba Energy Nutrition Facts Panel GreenEyedGuide

Nutrition Facts Panel Jamba Energy

Completing the initial review of the ingredient line, I noticed no sugars are added, only Stevia. I like seeing Stevia on the label as opposed to artificial sugars – NOT because I’m convinced that artificial sweeteners are bad for you (the evidence is inconclusive), but it’s one of those “just-in-case” personal decisions. Moving our eyes up the label to the Nutrition Facts Panel we see that there are 20 grams of sugar per serving, and it’s all coming from the fruit juices (especially apple juice). This discovery is the make-or-break moment for me, as I am one of many consumers who try to limit excess sugars wherever possible. It’s not like raw blueberries are sugar-free, but obviously eating raw blueberries is different than consuming a blueberry juice flavored product. Since my objective is to get an energy boost and not to fight free radicals, I’ll keep going.

 

 

5-Caffeine Content

V8 servings count

How many freggies have you had today?

I am consuming Jamba’s energy drink for an energy boost, NOT to boost my freggie count for the day.  Thankfully the caffeine content is prominently displayed on the can, 80mg (see Nutrition Facts picture, above and look beside the words “Serve Chilled”). At the time of the evaluation, this amount of caffeine PERFECT for my Level of Fatigue (Level 2= 2 Tired to Go It Alone; i.e. I know my fatigue is not due to dehydration/boredom, Level 1).

6-When Energy Drinks Come With Juice

Carbonation is added to this product but energy drinks with juice are not as carbonated as their juice-less counterparts. The ways juice and carbonation affect the perceived energy boost is something I discuss in detail in the Energy Drink Guide. In this case, I just need a little boost, not a big energy kick, so the juice is a good indication this product will suit my Level of Fatigue.

7-Food Safety Nerd Alert

Raw juices make me nervous. I know too much food micro to be comfortable with the risk, especially since the product is 70% juice. I’m relieved to see that this juice is pasteurized. For more info on raw juices and the Juicing trend: click here

Bottom Line

Jamba Energy GreenEyedGuide

A Message from the Marketeers: Not intended for Chemistry Majors?

I can tell by the marketing blurb on the side of the can that the intended consumer is one who is trying to avoid the stereotypical energy drink. “Pure and simple”, this energy drink has a clean label, and is a good alternative to many other energy products. There is no added sugar; it’s coming all from the fruit juices. If the sugar content is a deal-breaker, consider this: sugar-free Red Bull has the same amount of caffeine — 80 mg. Personally I would rather drink a Jamba energy drink than a sugar-free Red Bull (though only if the line at Jamba was short).

 

Additional Resources

Jamba Energy product page

Caffeine Content in Jamba Energy — Caffeine Informer

Five Levels of Fatigue –booklet on Ebay; excerpt from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Energy Drink Guide FACEBOOK PAGE — Help push it to 100 Likes!!!