Demystifying food ingredients

Sept. 6, 2012

A new consumer resource, What's in Our Food: Understanding Common Food Ingredients, takes the mystery out of common food ingredients by describing how and why they are used and the U.S. government's process for determining if they are safe to eat and accurately labeled.

A new consumer resource, What's in Our Food: Understanding Common Food Ingredients, takes the mystery out of common food ingredients by describing how and why they are used and the U.S. government's process for determining if they are safe to eat and accurately labeled.

Food ingredients, which include anti-caking agents, emulsifiers, enzymes, fats and oils, food colors and leavening agents, are added to foods for a variety of reasons, such as to maintain or improve safety and freshness, improve taste, provide texture, or improve appearance.  Some food ingredients have been used for centuries, whereas some were developed more recently, and they can contribute to making foods safer, more convenient, healthful, flavorful and more affordable.

The long names of some food ingredients listed on food labels are often unfamiliar to consumers, leading to many questions, but that is because the FDA requires them to be listed using their formal, scientific names. Baking soda, for example, is referred to as sodium bicarbonate. The new IFIC Foundation resource includes a "Quick Reference Guide to What's in Our Food" that describes many common food ingredients and their functions in our food, provides more familiar terms for some ingredients, examples of foods that contain certain ingredients and an outline of FDA's approval process for food ingredients.

Developed by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation and favorably reviewed by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), it can be downloaded below.

"Our Food & Health Survey results show that nine out of 10 consumers give thought to what's in their food and pay attention to ingredients listed on food labels," says RD, LD, FADA, IFIC Foundation Senior Vice President, Nutrition and Food Safety Marianne Smith Edge. "For this reason, it is important to bring clarity to those unfamiliar 'chemical' sounding names of ingredients that are really quite common, readily found in nature and play important roles in keeping our food safe, affordable, and delicious."

"AANP is pleased to be part of this important effort to provide information about food safety," said AANP President Angela Golden, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP.  "In addition to diagnosing and managing acute and chronic illness, NPs place a strong emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, counseling their patients to make healthy lifestyle choices. Providing patients with information about the ingredients in food and food safety is a natural fit."

To download: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=What_s_in_Our_Food_Understanding_Common_Food_Ingredients