The book, ‘Swallow this: serving up the food industry’s darkest secrets’, was written by Joanna Blythman, who accused the sector of tricking consumers about the content of manufactured food.
In it, Blythman denounced clean labels as “superficial” and accused manufacturers of hiding behind them.
However, Jenny Arthur, strategic insight manager at Leatherhead Food Research (LFR), told Food Ingredients, Health & Nutrition at a nutrition day held by LFR last month (March), that manufacturers weren’t wrongly labelling food products.
“Food manufacturers have to state clearly what ingredients are in a product it’s the law,” she said.
“They can’t even make any claims on the packaging without prior approval from the European Food Safety Authority – it’s a tightly controlled industry and it’s not worth lying about such things.”
Over the years, food and drink manufacturers had worked hard to make their products more appealing to consumers by responding to demands for simpler labels, Arthur added.
Industry methods of providing consumers with what they wanted should be celebrated and not criticised, argued Nick Court, interim director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation.
“It means people have access to competitively-priced products with the options of added nutrients, fewer calories and less saturated fat,” said Court.
Yet, Steve Osborn, principal consultant at the Aurora Ceres Partnership and a former business innovations manager at LFR, warned food firms last year to be sure there was no question of misleading consumers about the perceived benefits of clean labels and the term ‘natural’.
“They [manufacturers] see that natural is perceived as being healthier in some way or another and also there’s some perception [among consumers] that the food industry at large has been misleading them for a number of years by putting ingredients into their food that they do not recognise.”