These days, it seems like every huge food conglomerate is dropping the additives, preservatives and other unfashionable ingredients from its products. But what does this really mean for the consumer?
Marion Nestle, a food studies professor at New York University and a James Beard Award–winning writer, recently wrote a piece for The Guardian reacting to Campbell’s announcement that its soup cans will no longer contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly found in food containers that might interfere with the human endocrine system. Campbell’s earlier declared that it would begin phasing out genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — another highly controversial issue — from its products as well.
Nestle (no relation to the food company) says that while BPA-free cans and GMO-free soups are all fine and dandy, the fact of the matter is that canned foods are still canned foods. They’re not “fresh, local or sustainable.” Likewise, just because Taco Bell isn’t using Yellow Dye #6, high fructose corn syrup, palm oil or artificial preservatives any longer doesn’t mean that the greasy, high-calorie Quesoritto is good for you.
While the elimination of these ingredients may benefit consumers “to an extent,” Nestle points out that “free from” labeling (packaging that boasts no additives, no artificial colors, et cetera) mostly works to companies’ advantage on the business front — a new way to repackage the same old processed foods.
Instead of paying attention to what these foods don’t have, maybe consumers should focus on what these foods do contain: things like copious amounts of sugar and sodium, monopotassium phosphate, potassium chloride, trehalose. Brownie points for anyone who knows what trehalose is.