Culture & Travel

What are the advantages and disadvantages of clean label foods? 

Liam Clark 

Welland, ON 

December 12, 2016 

Clean label foods are on the rise, so much so that they were named the Food Business Trend of the Year, but with the stigmas, rules, and regulations that we as society have associated with them, we may discover that clean label foods may only be that; a simple trend. We Canadians see trends come and go everyday, and see the occasional trend come into norm, but should clean label foods be more than just a trend? It has the ability to affect more than just us as consumers, but the companies that make the food themselves and the government who controls the rules and regulations.

I knew in order to go any further I needed more information, and decided that the first place I needed to look was with the definition of “clean label foods” themselves. And right off the bat, I had already run into my first issue. When you google a concept or a definition, most often times a common idea appears on many websites. However, for clean label foods each website had a varying idea of what it was, so I navigated towards the original clean label website. As it stood there was an underwhelming amount of information for the consumer or food industries. Included in the available information of the website was the following quote: “In our opinion, must orient itself a term such as "clean label" or "declaration-friendly" exclusively on the consumer expectation. Thus, the definition must be defined, not unalterable, but must constantly be re-evaluated and explored.” (e.K., 2016) This is where we would have to rely on our governments to provide regulations and control to our food chains. This is very challenging, because for our governments it is very time consuming and expensive, and the topic itself is such a wild card that the risk may not outweigh the reward and possibly the idea of if it is not broken, do not fix it.

"Clean Label" also stands for natural ingredients with no artificial ingredients and chemicals. (e.K., 2016) This statement is the most concerning for the food industries themselves. As a lot of food companies have developed a strong product and used some foreign ingredients to the natural product themselves, or companies that have used a secret ingredient for their product that has made their company thrive for years. Now this becomes a question of now ethics and morals. Is what we as food consumers are putting into our meals something that we wouldn’t mind eating every day, and should we not be putting it in our mouths if we cannot read or understand the ingredients? Assuming everything is organic and natural, does this make for safer eating practices better for the greater good? This is the most frightening idea for the big companies that control majority of the food chain because that means the rise of more, smaller, sustainable companies.

The last is the largest and most relevant party to clean label foods, the consumer. This word believe it or not versus all other words written, has the largest stigma. We often see the consumer group as rigid people that want what they want, but consumers are still also you and I. Unfortunately for the consumer in the modern day grocery store, it’s the blind leading the blind. You walk around and see what you like and put it in the buggy. We seldom stop to read the labels, and think about what we’re putting into our bodies. Why? Because this brand looks trustworthy, or it was less expensive, or because we don’t know? I personally would like to see a change in the way we shop in order for us to be informed and be concerned with what we’re putting in our bodies, but that’s the ides of consumerism and a whole different ball park. I believe in the power of clean label foods, but WE need to believe in the power of clean label foods before we do anything else.

From the clean label foods website I did learn a few new things, but the information is not out there for everyone to be completely informed. A few questions they did ask on the website did however resonate with me.

  • How do you feel when a whole-wheat flour is contained in a bun?
  • How do you find it, if one includes sodium stearoyl lactylate-II in a Danish pastry?
  • How do you feel when a Calciumdinatriumethylendiamintetraacetat is contained in a canned vegetable?

Would you put it in your mouth?

The views and opinions expressed in all articles are those of the author alone. They do not reflect the positions of the author's current or previous employers, any organization to which the author belongs, or The Young Canadian Media.