A blog about the latest developments in the food technology sector.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
"INFLATED" CHICKEN-DOES IT DESERVE THE "NATURAL" TAG?
Food industry never leaves an opportunity to play to the sentiments of the consumers if that can fetch them additional mileage for their products. It is too often one sees the indiscriminate use of the world natural in many labels though its interpretation can vary amongst the manufacturers. Latest controversy is generated by the rampant practice by a section of Chicken meat industry in using the adjective "Natural" on the label of chicken meat infused with water, salt and other ingredients, ostensibly to ensure safety to the consumers. But there appears to be a strong backlash from the consumer activists regarding the misuse of this word as natural chicken cannot contain added water or salt to be eligible to be called natural. It is some thing like adding water to milk and calling it a natural product!
"A disagreement among poultry producers about whether chicken injected with salt, water and other ingredients can be promoted as "natural" has prompted federal officials to consider changing labeling guidelines. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had maintained that if chicken wasn't flavored artificially or preserved with chemicals, it could carry the word "natural" on the package. But the agency agreed to take another look at its policy after some producers, politicians and health advocates noted that about one-third of chicken sold in the U.S. was injected with additives that could represent up to 15 percent of the meat's weight, doubling or tripling its sodium content. Some argue that could mislead or potentially harm consumers who must limit their salt intake. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to issue new proposed rules this fall. Perdue, the nation's third largest poultry producer, is among those pushing for a change. The company has joined a group called the Truthful Labeling Coalition, which has hired a lobbyist and launched an advertising campaign. "Our labels say natural or all natural only if there is nothing added," Perdue spokesman Luis Luna said. "Under no circumstances is it acceptable to label poultry that has been enhanced with water or broth or solutions as natural, or all natural." Such mixtures are injected into poultry to make the meat tastier and more tender. The two largest chicken processors, Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson Foods, are among those that affix "natural" labels to chicken injected with extra salt and water. Industry experts said the practice has become more common in the past decade. Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company sponsored a national study that found most consumer didn't mind those labels if the ingredients added were deemed natural".
How the industry can defend such a practice is beyond any body's comprehension. While labeling regulations all over the world stipulate declaration of any external ingredients in food why the poultry industry should be exempted is a valid question. Use of water by frozen food industry to gain unfair advantage of the consumer ignorance is prevalent in many countries and such practice must be prohibited to protect the consumer from this form of economic fraud.