Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The new mantra being touted for attracting the junk food wary consumers is to eat more foods made from "whole grains" and there are thousands of products now being marketed touting to contain more of whole grains. Though putting the logo on the label of "whole grain" is legal as per the letter of the law, its spirit is being violated by many processors by manipulating the recipe to include some whole grains. Unfortunately this is a skewed approach because most products contain more sugar and fat than normal products though they have marginally higher dietary fiber. If this is not perpetuating a fraud on the consumer, what else it is? In the absence mandatory restrictions on labeling such products as healthy, industry will get away by its new brazenness! It is a tragedy that there are many products being churned out by the industry claiming to be multi grain based ones, a close look at the proportion of "other" grains to the main one, usually wheat is minuscule. Here is a critical look at these unethical practices of the food industry which must be frowned upon!  

"The benefits of switching from refined to whole grain foods are well established, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes, the journal Public Health Nutrition reports. "Given the significant prevalence of refined grains, starches, and sugars in modern diets, identifying a unified criterion to identify higher quality carbohydrates is a key priority in public health," said Rebecca Mozaffarian, study author from the social and behavioural sciences department at Harvard School of Public Health. Based on this evidence, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 2010 dietary guidelines recommend that Americans consume at least three servings of whole grain products daily, and the new US national school lunch standards require that at least half of all meals be whole grain-rich. However, no single standard exists for defining any product as a "whole grain". From two major US grocers, researchers identified a total of 545 grain products in eight categories: breads, bagels, English muffins, cereals, crackers, cereal bars, granola bars, and chips. They collected nutrition content, ingredient lists, and the presence or absence of the Whole Grain Stamp on product packages from all of these products, according to a Harvard statement. They found that grain products with the Whole Grain Stamp, one of the most widely-used front-of-package symbols, were higher in fibre and lower in trans fats, but also contained significantly more sugar and calories compared to products without the Stamp. The three USDA recommended criteria also had mixed performance for identifying healthier grain products. Overall, the American Heart Association's standard (a ratio of total carbohydrate to fibre) proved to be the best indicator of overall healthfulness".

The suggestion that in stead of giving wide latitude to the industry in using such consumer attracting label claims, food safety agencies both national as well as international must work out a consensus on what constitutes a healthy whole grain food. The ratio of carbohydrate to sugar may be a criterion or ratio of carbohydrate to sugar as well as fat could be a better parameter. Alternately the dietary fiber content could be a major consideration while allowing such labeling practices. of course some clever players may add fiber from external sources which may not confer the same benefit as using whole grain flours which are much more diverse in terms of nutritional contents. Food scientists and nutritionists must put their heads together to help the consumers to choose healthy foods by evolving realistic standards for foods claiming to be manufactured from whole grains or from a blend of grains.


No comments: