Making life taste better

– News Items –

The fascinating chemistry in your kitchen…


Over the years, the perception of food additives has been bedevilled by a lack of understanding that nutrition is a chemical process. In the Mix brings out the chemistry in familiar culinary tasks, such as cake-making, and shows how the use of additives is rooted in such processes as making sauces, jam, bread and wine.

In The Mix (PDF)


TV programme discovers the surprising truth about MSG

Often on the receiving end of negative comments and bad publicity, a new TV programme has uncovered the truth about flavour enhancer MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).

Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped recently went behind the scenes at MSG manufacturer Ajinomoto, and unearthed some surprising facts.

For example, MSG – the subject of more than 80 scientific studies – is actually derived from natural ingredients, primarily tapioca.

Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. And glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid found in nearly all foods, including stock cubes, dried noodles and even breast milk!

In the European Union, monosodium glutamate is classified as a food additive (E621) and regulations are in place to determine how and when it can be added to foods.

It’s added to savoury prepared and processed foods, such as frozen foods, spice mixes, canned and dry soups, salad dressings and meat or fish-based products. It’s also used as a table-top seasoning in some countries.

To find out more, watch Food Unwrapped here:


Good news on food pesticide residue levels

More than 97% of food samples evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contain pesticide residue levels that fall within legal limits, with just under 55% of samples free of detectable traces of these chemicals. The findings are part of EFSA’s 2013 annual report on pesticide residues in food, which includes the results for almost 81,000 food samples from 27 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

The 29 reporting countries carry out two monitoring programmes for the report: a national programme designed by each country, and an EU-coordinated programme under which all food control authorities monitor the same “basket” of food products. A combined total of 80,967 samples of a wide variety of processed and unprocessed food products were tested for the presence of 685 pesticides. The main findings are:

  • 97.4% of the samples analysed fell within legal limits;
  • 54.6% were free of detectable residues;
  • 1.5% clearly exceeded the legal limits, taking into account the measurement uncertainty, thus triggering legal or administrative sanctions against the food business operators responsible;
  • Residues of more than one pesticide (multiple residues) were found in 27.3% of samples.

A taste of things to come?

As the EU gets set to scrap ‘best-before’ dates on long life food packaging in a bid to stop millions of tons of edible produce being thrown away every year, a US businessman is preparing to open a supermarket and restaurant selling only food that is out-of-date. Doug Rauch, the man behind the successful Trader Joe’s chain in the US, plans to open the Daily Table in Boston this autumn, and will sell meals and basic groceries at discounted prices. Staff will gather groceries that are about to be thrown away at supermarkets and food service outlets, and a trained chef will then use them to cook on-the-go meals.

Did you know?

Tortilla chips If they start to taste stale, put them in an oven with oil to re-crisp them, then store in a sealed container.

Chocolate can last a long time but often develops a white coating, known as ‘bloom’, when it’s exposed to the air. This happens when some of the crystalline fat melts and rises to the top. It’s not mould and is fine to eat.

Eggs can last 3-5 weeks, but be sure to keep them at a temperature below 5˚C (41˚F).

FAIA in Nutraceuticals Now magazine

The latest issue of Nutraceuticals Now includes an article on FAIA…


Survey reveals food hygiene concern for those eating out

The Food Standards Agency’s Biannual Public Attitudes Tracker for November 2013 shows the top food safety issue of concern for respondents was food hygiene when eating out (36%).

When asked about wider food issues, the top three issues of concern were food prices (60%), food waste (50%), and the amount of salt in food (44%).

Almost half (49%) of the respondents reported concern about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways.

PICTURE THIS! Ingredients of all-natural foods…

James Kennedy, a British chemistry teacher based in Australia, has combined a love of graphics with a love of science, and produced a series of posters and images which he hopes will dispel the many myths surrounding enumbers and additives.

“As a chemistry teacher, I want to erode the fear that many people have of ‘chemicals’,” he says. “I want to demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab.”

“James’ images are incredibly powerful, as they shatter – at a glance – all the common misconceptions many have about additives,” says FAIA Executive Director Michelle Maynard. “In this instance, a picture really does paint a thousand words.”

‘No need for action on aspartame’ says expert review

Experts who have reviewed a study of aspartame have concluded that ‘the results did not indicate any need for action to protect the health of the public’.

The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer products and the Environment (COT) peer reviewed a double blind randomised crossover study of aspartame, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

COT is a committee of independent experts that provides advice to the FSA and other parts of government.

The full minutes of the COT discussion have not yet been published, as a report of the study has been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The study was led by Hull York Medical School and aimed to record any effects from eating a snack bar that may or may not have contained aspartame. The study recruited individuals who reported reactions after consuming aspartame, alongside a matched control group of individuals who normally consume foods containing aspartame without problems.

The work took the form of a double blind randomised crossover study, the gold standard of scientific research. This type of study is designed to test the effect of a substance in such a way that neither the research team nor the participants know whether the bar consumed contains the test substance or not. Double blind studies therefore eliminate the risk of prejudgement by participants or researchers which could distort the results.

Aspartame is an intense sweetener, approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar, which has been used in soft drinks and other low calorie or sugar free foods throughout the world for more than 25 years.

Sweet success for United Biscuits

Jim MoseleyUnited Biscuits received the top accolade at the recent Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Awards.

The company was commended by FDF President Jim Moseley (pictured) for its success in exports, for which it won the Exporter of the Year (Large Company) Award.

The FDF Awards recognise the achievements of food and drink businesses across a number of categories including: Innovation, Community Partner, Good Employer, Exporter of the Year, Environmental Leadership, Health and Wellbeing Champion, Growth Business, Education Initiative, Food and Drink Scientist, Food and Drink Engineer, and Apprentice of the Year. The FDF President’s Award winner is chosen by the FDF President from amongst the category winners.

“Winning an FDF Award is a real coup for any food and drink business,” says Jim Moseley, FDF President. “This year’s award entries were truly inspiring and reflect the hard work, passion and creativity of those working in our industry. I believe that United Biscuits deserves special recognition in this year’s Awards for its work to boost exports, its collaboration with others to address the looming skills shortage and the way it drives innovation in the industry.”

President’s Award

United Biscuits

Food and Drink Engineer

Ian Rigby – PepsiCo UK and Ireland

Apprentice of the Year

Paul Morgan from Mondelèz International

Highly commended: Jordan Philips from Nestlé UK

Food and Drink Scientist

Tom Hollands – Raynor Foods

Education Initiative

(SME) Agrico UK Ltd – Tattie Tastic Project

(Large) Mondelez International – Taste of Work Programme

Growth Business

Charlie Bigham’s

Health and Wellbeing Champion

Mondelez International for ‘Health for Life’ in Primary schools

Environmental Leadership

(Large) Nisa and DHL – Go Green

(SME) Raynor Foods – Minimising Food Waste


Apetito Ltd

Good Employer

Britvic Soft Drinks plc

Exporter of the Year

(SME) Elmgrove Foods

(Large) United Biscuits


Mid-Counties Co-Operative

New meat detector technology will distinguish between horse and beef

Retailers will soon be able to distinguish almost instantly between beef and horsemeat in products, thanks to a new device built by British engineers.

Oxford Instruments and the Institute of Food Research have developed a machine that can identify meat before it is processed.

The technology can distinguish between fatty acids from horses, cows, geese, pigs and sheep. It is also being developed to recognise rat meat.

“The methods being developed will be rapid and low cost,” says a spokesman for Oxford Instruments. “Dozens of samples could be analysed per day, taking 10-15 minutes per test, at a typical cost of less than £20 per sample.

“This makes the system ideal and affordable for high-throughput screening, or for pre-screening ahead of more time-consuming and expensive DNA testing.

“The research has reached a point where we are able to differentiate between whole cuts or chunks of beef, lamb, pork and horse. Further development work will be carried out over the coming months, to extend the methodology to the detection of small amounts of minced meat in the presence of another, mimicking many of the adulteration events that came to light earlier this year.”

UK food and drink exports on the up

Total UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports grew by 2.5% to £6.1 billion in the first half of 2013, according to figures from the Food & Drink Federation.

Although 2013 began slowly with food and non-alcoholic drinks exports down by 3.4% in Q1, this was offset by strong Q2 growth (+9%) – exports in June alone were up over 13%.

Exports to the EU27 showed positive signs (+1%) though this was eclipsed by continued high growth to non-EU markets, up 7.5%. China leapt up ten places to enter the top 10 markets for food and drink companies, a climb largely accounted for by a boom in British pork exports (+591%).

Value added foods were up in both EU (+4.9%) and non-EU markets (+8.2%), and sweet biscuits performed particularly strongly (+14.2%). Against a difficult backdrop with cumulative UK exports down by 3.3%, food and non-alcoholic drink exports have performed solidly, showing a 2.5% increase compared to the same period last year.

New advice for people with food allergies

Advice for people with food allergies has been updated, prior to new rules on allergen labelling being introduced.

New regulations will mean that information about allergenic ingredients will be made available for non-prepacked as well as prepacked foods. This is to make information clearer and more consistent for consumers.

These new rules on food allergen labelling will apply from 13 December 2014.

“You may already notice differences in the way that allergenic ingredients are presented within the ingredients list of prepacked foods as businesses prepare themselves for the change,” says a spokesman for the UK Food Standards Agency.

To help consumers understand these changes, the Food Standards Agency has reissued its advice for food allergic consumers, after working in collaboration with Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign, British Dietetic Association, British Retail Consortium, British Nutrition Foundation, Coeliac UK and the Food and Drink Federation.

Click here to read the advice.

A World Without Food Science

A World Without Food Science: What would a trip to your local grocery store be like without the benefit of research and technology? How would food shopping look with no knowledge of microbiology, food safety, food processing, food packaging and transportation?

Global additives market ‘set to grow steadily’

The global market for food additives is set to grow steadily over the next five years, according to a new report.

The market was worth £18.4 billion in 2011, and is expected to reach £23.6bn in 2018, says Transparency Market Research.

The analyst says the increase will be as a result expected growth in the food and beverage industry, and increasing awareness of and demand for functional food additives.

Europe dominated the food additives market in 2011, accounting for over 32% of global consumption. However, surging demand from India, China and South Korea, means Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market for food additives, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 5% from 2012 to 2018.

“Huge opportunities exist in the segments of flavours and enhancers, enzymes, fat replacers and the shelf life stabilisers market,” says a spokesman for Transparency Market Research.


Follow us on Twitter

You can now follow FAIA (Food Additives & Ingredients Association) on Twitter @FAIAnews. We’ll be bringing you daily news and views on food and drink colours, flavourings and additives.

Overweight people ‘less likely than average to consume soft drinks’

Despite a difficult year for the soft drinks industry, the overall retail value of the industry rose by 3.3 per cent in 2012, to nearly £15 billion.

According to the 2013 Soft Drinks Report, soft drinks are consumed in more than 99 per cent of households. Soft drinks containing added sugar made up 39 per cent of the market, while no added sugar drinks represent 61 per cent.

The report also revealed that overweight and obese consumers were less likely than average to consume soft drinks, exploding the myth that soft drinks consumption is the cause of obesity.

“When they do choose a soft drink, overweight and obese consumers are more likely than average to choose a no added sugar drink rather than a drink containing added sugar,” says Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drinks Association.

He adds: “It’s been a tough year for the economy, but the soft drinks industry has come through it well.”

Salt levels slashed in shop bread

Supermarket bread contains 20 per cent less salt than it did a decade ago, according to new research.

Bread is a major source of salt in the diet, providing almost a fifth of the total derived from processed foods.

The recommended daily intake for UK adults is a maximum of 6g, compared with the current average of 8.1g a day.

This study published in the online journal BMJ Open shows that the salt content of bread has been progressively reduced over time, contributing to the evidence base that a target-based approach to salt reduction can work.

“The results show that bakers have gradually reduced the levels of salt in their products, and should be congratulated,” says Adds Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director for CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health). “These results provide evidence that the UK salt reduction strategy, based on a series of salt targets for different food groups, has been working.”

FAIA assists with top TV science show

BBC 1’s recent episode of Bang Goes The Theory asked how much the public really knows about what is on their dinner plate, and was produced with the advice and assistance of FAIA.

Find out more at

Aspartame ‘poses no toxicity concern’

The European Food Safety Authority’s draft scientific opinion following re-evalution of artificial sweetener aspartame reveals that ‘it poses no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels’.

To carry out the full risk assessment, EFSA undertook an in-depth review of peer-reviewed scientific and other literature on aspartame – which is used in some soft drinks and certain food products – and its breakdown products, including new human studies.

Regulatory bodies around the world have evaluated the safety of aspartame since the 1980s – however, this is the first full evaluation of aspartame that has been requested of EFSA, and carried out by the Authority’s Scientific Panel on Food Additive and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS Panel).

In this re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame, EFSA’s scientific experts drew upon all available information on aspartame and its breakdown products and, following a detailed and methodical analysis, concluded in its draft opinion that they pose no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels of exposure.

The current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is considered to be safe for the general population and consumer exposure to aspartame is below this ADI.


One-fifth of shoppers ‘rarely or never read food labels’

Just nine per cent of UK shoppers always read the ingredients label on their food shopping.

foodlabeThat’s the finding of new research by Canadean Consumer, which also reveals that while 32 per cent of consumers ‘often’ read the ingredients list, 21 per cent ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ read the ingredients.

This, says the market research company, means many shoppers are unfamiliar with ingredients such as DHA, stevia and taurine.

Women (44 per cent) are more likely than men (39 per cent) to ‘always’ or ‘often’ read the ingredients list on products they buy – in fact, 26 per cent of males ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ read the ingredients list, compared to only 17 per cent of females.

This difference may imply that women are generally more health-conscious than their male counterparts, and are specifically using ingredient information as a means of guiding their healthy product choices.

Moreover, the study revealed that consumers from a higher social status are more likely to check ingredients lists always or often (44 per cent) compared to consumers from a lower social status (38 per cent).

“Consumers from lower social status groups may be less likely to deviate from regular product purchases as a result of tighter budget constraints,” suggests Canadean Consumer research manager Alex Wilman. “When it comes to checking ingredients, consumers are more likely to do so with unfamiliar products. As a result, consumers from higher social status groups may therefore check ingredients more frequently.”

Everyday ingredients such as salt, caffeine and olive oil are familiar to virtually all consumers, regardless of whether they check the ingredients list on a product or not. Awareness of newer and more specialist ingredients, such as DHA, stevia and taurine, however, relies more heavily on consumers reading labels.

“With only nine per cent of consumers always checking the ingredients on products they buy, awareness levels of ‘less-common’ ingredients may stay low,” adds Wilman.

Scientists question validity of GM cancer study

cornTop scientists have called into question the credibility of a study suggesting that GM maize can cause cancer in rats.

Rodents fed a lifelong diet of a common strain of GM corn developed breast tumours and suffered damage to their livers and kidneys, according to a team from the University of Caen.

However, others said that the team had used a breed of rat naturally susceptible to cancer, and that the control group was too small.

“Until you know the degree of variation in 90 or 180 control rodents, these results are of no value,” says Anthony Trewavas, a professor of cell biology at Edinburgh University. “That is what should have been done and no doubt reflects the predetermined bias of the experimenters and the funding groups.”

Adds Prof Tom Sanders, head of nutritional sciences research at King’s College London:

“It would appear the authors have gone on a statistical fishing trip.”

The Institute of Food Science & Technology also issued a statement on the study. It said: “Food scientists and technologists can support the responsible introduction of GM techniques provided that issues of product safety, environmental concerns, information and ethics are satisfactorily addressed. IFST considers that they are being addressed, and need even more intensively to continue to be so addressed. Only in this way may the benefits that this technology can confer become available, not least to help feed the world’s escalating population in the coming decades.”

Health claims regulation ‘a new dawn’ says FAIA boss

Today’s publication of Commission Regulation EU 432/2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims on food (other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health) has been declared ‘a new dawn for the functional food industry’ by Nigel Baldwin, Chairman of the Food Additives & Ingredients Association (FAIA.)

EU FlagThis long-awaited regulation (which applies from 14 December 2012) completes the list of positive list of health claims permitted in the European Union by the addition of general function ‘Article 13.1’ health claims to the already adopted lists of new ‘Article 13.5’ general function health claims and ‘Article 14’ health claims.

“This is a new dawn for the functional food industry in Europe,” says Baldwin. “However, everybody agrees it’s not perfect and many are still trying to understand what this means for their future innovation.

“But it does create as many new opportunities as it does restrictions. We can now use more than 200 new health claims. And where there are gaps in the market, such as for weight loss products, there is obviously opportunity for those prepared to invest in high quality scientific studies.

“We, the industry, look forward to further constructive dialogue with the UK Department of Health, the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to continue to develop a robust but proportionate approach. We are ready for the challenge as ingredient producers.”

Acrylamide levels ‘do not increase concern about human health’

A new Food Standards Agency (FSA) study shows an upward trend in acrylamide levels in processed cereal based baby foods (excluding rusks) but a reduction in other products, such as pre-cooked French fries, potato products for home cooking and bread.

However, the FSA says the levels reported in the study do not increase concern about the risk to human health.

Acrylamide has been present in food ever since humans began cooking, but it was not known about until April 2002.

The formation of acrylamide occurs as the result of a reaction known as the Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction between an amino acid (the building block of protein) and a sugar such as glucose, fructose or lactose.

Heat is required to start the cooking reaction that causes a chemical changes which ultimately result in the ‘browning’ of the food. One of the most common examples of the Maillard reaction is the heating of white bread to give brown toast.

Since its discovery in food, major research projects have been conducted by scientists to better understand the risk of exposure to acrylamide through food.

At high doses, it has been found to cause cancer in some laboratory animals. However, the FDA, the World Health Organisation and most other health regulatory bodies have not determined if the presence of acrylamide in food presents a health risk to humans, and do not recommend that consumers change their diets in order to avoid acrylamide.

“Public authorities worldwide are not advising people to stop eating any foods found to contain acrylamide,” says an FAIA spokesman. “That said, food manufacturers have taken measures to reduce acrylamide formation in food.”

Soft drinks giants change manufacturing process to avoid ‘unfounded health warning’

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing how they make an ingredient in their drinks to avoid being legally obliged to put a cancer warning label on the bottle which they say is ‘scientifically unfounded’.

The new recipe for caramel colouring in the drinks has less 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) – a chemical that California has added to its list of carcinogens.

However, Coca-Cola says there is no health risk to justify the change – but that it is doing so to ensure to ensure its products ‘would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning’.

The caramel colour in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe, Coca-Cola said in a statement.

Indeed, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reaffirmed the safety of caramel colouring back in March 2011 – following a
comprehensive review of the scientific literature – saying that the presence of 4-MEI in caramel colouring is not a health concern.

The chemical has been linked to cancer in mice and rats, according to one study, but there is no evidence that it poses a health risk to humans, says the American Beverage Association, which represents the wider industry.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims a person would need to drink more than 1,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi a day to take in the same dose of the chemical that was given to the animals in the lab test.

“Both EFSA and regulatory authorities around the world say caramel colouring is safe for use in food and drink,” says an FAIA spokesman.

“Just last November, Health Canada said that 4-MEI does ‘not represent a risk’ to consumers. Also, the FDA has approved caramel as a colour additive and lists it as ‘a generally recognised as safe’ food ingredient.”

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