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News Packaged Food Technology

Say Goodbye to Produce Stickers With These Laser-Printed Labels

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Photo: Laserfood

We all know that when we purchase produce like apples or bananas, part of the struggle of eating one is removing those stickers that are often attached. We usually just peel them off and toss them in the trash, creating a lot more plastic waste that is honestly unnecessary.

These stickers don’t have bar codes and don’t scan at grocery checkouts — clerks have to input the fruit type and weight to register a sale. They’re literally just meant to showcase what company got the produce in question to the grocery store.

Produce usually comes with its own natural packaging already — the rind or peel. The little extra sticker for the brand that grew or distributed that fruit or vegetable is an inconvenience and a harm to the environment.

Turns out there’s a company that wants to get rid of these stickers and make our lives a whole lot easier, all while reducing their environmental impact on the planet.

A Spanish company called Laserfood is aiming to use laser-based printing to remove labels off of our produce. Called “Natural Branding,” the produce is naturally marked with a laser engraving and special “contrast liquid” to make the labels clear. This type of natural labeling doesn’t harm or alter the produce in anyway, and is completely safe to eat (although with most produce, we can just peel off the outer rinds/skins and won’t eat it regardless).

Laserfood developed this type of labeling to combat the use of food stickers that are often un-recyclable and use a ton of plastic. The company’s first major client, ICA in Sweden, will be able to remove 725,000 labels and save over 225 km of plastic, according to PC Mag.

If all of our produce (and food) across the world could be labeled in this safe, clean manner, it would save a ton of plastic and be great for the environment.

Let’s hope this laser-engraved branding continues to spread worldwide and forces those plastic stickers off of our food.

Categories
Culture Health Hit-Or-Miss

Here’s What Those Labels on Your Food Products Really Mean

The food industry absolutely loves to throw a ton of healthy buzzwords onto food labels. Most food products these days bombard consumers with a variety of words like “clean label,” “non-GMO,” “gluten-free,” “organic,” and several more that consumers want to see on food labels.

These all sound great to consumers, because to consumers, all of these words make the foods that carry them sound healthy. However, a lot of people don’t know what all of these words mean, as has been proven by Jimmy Kimmel on numerous occassions.

As a food scientist, it’s my job to know what these words mean so I know if companies I work for meet the label requirements. My aim is to use what I’ve learned to clarify to consumers, so that the next time you go grocery shopping, you have an idea of what actually goes into the meanings for all of these words.

 

Organic

usda-organic-food-label

Photo: The Plate

Organic is definitely one of the most complex labels out there. Food products that have varying percentages of organic ingredients are allowed to have different labels or say different things on their product packages, such as “Made with Organic Ingredients” or “100% Organic.” While consumers think that organic is great, a lot of people don’t understand what it means for something to be certified organic.

Organic labeling itself began in 1993, and was presented under a strict set of requirements. Organically grown food had to be free of specific chemicals that were established by the law (and the list continues to be modified even today), and the land it was grown on had to be free of these same chemicals for at least three years prior to growth. A whole host of other agricultural and farming practices are required for organic certification to be reached.

One of the biggest things to understand about organic that most people don’t, however, is that all organic products are also non-GMO by legal definition. So, if you purchase organic products, you don’t have to worry if GMOs exist in those products too, since they legally can’t be in there.

 

Non-GMO

non-gmo-logo

Photo: Food Scape Finds

While the federal government is just starting to get on board with non-GMO labeling, independent programs like the non-GMO project are sweeping across the nation. Having one of these verifications of non-GMO is just as important to consumers as the US requiring labeling of products containing GMOs will be.

While the US requirements are pretty simple to understand, the requirements for some of the independent verifiers are a little more tricky. The Non-GMO Project’s standards are broad, covering everything from traceability to the feed that livestock consume. It’s a big reason as to why their label is so coveted by a lot of food producers – as is the claim of non-GMO.

To be non-GMO requires the absence of any genetically engineered food ingredients or organisms in the production or growth of any product (Genetically modified is too loose of a word, since all living things’ genes are naturally modified over time). While there is no change in the actual nutritional content or toxicological risk of the food between GMO and non-GMO, ethics becomes the big question when choosing non-GMO products over GMO. There are good usages of GMOs, like in the reduction of food waste or scaling natural ingredients that couldn’t be grown in large amounts on their own. There are also bad uses, like we all saw with Monsanto in Food, Inc. Having the traceability to understand exactly what GMOs are in your product is key to understanding those ethics, though that could be a whole week of articles on its own.

 

Gluten-Free

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Photo: Men’s Journal

Gluten-Free is pretty straightforward: No gluten can be found in the product (Technically, less than 20 ppm is okay). Any food not containing wheat, rye, barley, or any of their hybrids can also be labeled as gluten free.

For those unclear on what gluten is, it’s a protein network developed inside of wheat, rye, and barley when mixed with water. Two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, contribute to the development of gluten and give bread its stretchiness a – while being painful for those with Celiac disease.

 

Whole Grain

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Photo: Don’t Panic Mom

Various label claims for whole grain like the amount in a food or “100% whole grain” are permitted by the FDA. They’ve also required that for whole grain to be on the label, the entire grain (or matching compositions of a whole grain) must be in the product.

These whole grains include cereal grains like amaranth, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, millet, wheat, and corn.

 

No Added Sugars

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Photo: Kev’s Snack Reviews

This is a trickier definition that was just defined recently by the FDA. With the new nutrition labels coming out requiring added sugars to be labeled, the FDA had to explain what added sugars are. In their words, added sugars are those added in during processing that are in excess of what could be found in natural ingredients added (ie. fruit juices).

No Added Sugars does NOT mean sugar-free, however. Sugars can still exist if it’s naturally in an added food ingredient (ie. fruit juice or milk), or comes from the breakdown of starches in food (by heat, fermentation, or grain sprouting). Keep that in mind as you shop for products and look at food labels.

 

All-Natural

all-natural-ingredients

Photo: One Green Planet

All-natural used to be one of the most popular claims on food labels, but has a taken a hit recently. That’s because people now understand that there is no real definition of natural from the FDA as of right now, and all-natural basically means all of the ingredients come from nature. While that includes things like strawberries and wheat, it also includes not-so-appealing natural ingredients like carmine (crushed bug extract used as a food coloring) or castoreum (a natural vanilla flavor derived from beaver secretions).

The good news is that the FDA is currently attempting to define “natural,” so hopefully it can be used meaningfully on food labels again in the near future.

 

Clean Label

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Photo: Ingredients Network

Much like “all-natural” above, there is no official legal definition for “clean label” food products, either. The FDA hasn’t begun to consider that definition yet, but it is a topic of hot debate. Nobody is quite clear on what the definition is, but some key ideals have surfaced. These include using simple, real ingredients, as well as the removal of a large number of additives – often nicknamed as the “No-No” List.

 

Several other healthy buzzwords are out there that you can find, but these are some of the more key – or controversial – buzzwords found on several food products. Hopefully, the explanations provided on what these mean gives you a better understanding of what they mean – and makes you look harder the next time you go shopping.

Categories
Beer Hit-Or-Miss

You’re About To Start Seeing The Calorie Count On Your Favorite Beers

The Beer Institute recently proposed an initiative called the Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative that would theoretically allow for ultimate transparency with its consumers with labeling that includes nutritional information and much more.

beer-shelves

The information that will be provided on the voluntary labels will include: suggested serving size, nutritional info (calories, carbs, fat, protein), a freshness dating or a date of production, alcohol by volume percentage, and an ingredient list. Currently, the only alcoholic beverages that require additional labeling are beers that make a nutritional claim like “light” beers.

The Beer Institute is an organization that was founded in 1862 as the U.S. Brewers Association. It represents the entirety of the beer industry including 3,300 brewers large and small. Their primary focuses include being an authority for industry information as well as community involvement, and personal responsibility.

The initiative comes in lieu of the FDA’s restaurant menu labeling requirements that are set to take effect next year, and will require restaurants with more than 20 locations to provide caloric information for their food items as well as beer choices that are listed on the menu.

The nutritional testing that will need to take place does not run cheap and has been reported to cost up to $1,000 per item, which may cause smaller breweries to decrease distribution of their beers to big chain restaurants. This may force chains to release any beers for which this information is not readily available in order to comply with new FDA regulations.

In 2007, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) proposed a labeling rule that, if passed, would require manufacturers to include nutritional information, but it only resulted in a similar proposal of voluntary labeling. Alcohol production and labeling is regulated by the TTB and not the FDA, which regulates nutritional info and labeling for food and non alcoholic beverages.

Brewers are encouraged to participate, and several of the biggest names in the game that comprise over 80% of beer sold in the U.S. have already jumped aboard with the initiative in efforts to remain relevant with full transparency of their product and brand, such as: MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries, and Craft Brew Alliance.

People are becoming more and more conscious about where their food comes from and what’s in it, and according to this press release, “72% of beer drinkers think it’s important to read nutritional labels when buying food and beverages.”

“It seems everything else does. Why do they get a pass on telling you how many calories, sugar and sodium they contain?” –orbitalmonkey

“I’d really like to see the calorie content of beer when selecting. If they could just have AVB, IBUs, and calories that would be great” –reddit user

“Ok, but I still want to know how many calories it has. Is that so much to ask?” –van_zeller

Another user admits that he often thinks of the lack of labeling, and thanks the reddit community for bringing it up to him, while sober.

“I literally ponder this every time I’m drunk but never have the wherewithal to find out the answer. thank you for bringing this to light for my sober self” -aquaintencounter

The labels are a step in the right direction for consumers to know and base their purchasing decisions off of what’s actually in their alcoholic beverages. For the people who know how to and intentionally read nutritional labels, the information is crucial in order to make informed health choices.

These labels could be useful for consumers that have allergies or other health restrictions, but will it take away from the guilt-free beer drinking that we’ve known for so long?

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Packaging Shows What Part of the Animal Your Meat Comes From

Corella Packaging

Informative packaging seems to have gained a bit more traction recently, like those bold, IKEA-esque sandwich labels. Although they haven’t gone mainstream quite yet, it’s a practical (and visually appealing) move for those who want to know what they’re actually eating.

Most recently, Spanish-based studio Fauna created a clever way to show consumers where their meat and cheese came from. The educational packaging, made for the Barcelona meat shop Corella, clearly displays the original location of the food and where on the animal the meat and cheese is from.

Corella Packaging

Corella Packaging

Corella Packaging

Your move, Purdue.

H/T PSFK + Picthx Fauna