‘No Nitrates Added’ Labels Are Often Misleading

Allison Aubrey wrote . . . . . . . . .

Packing a turkey sandwich in your kid’s lunchbox, or serving up bacon or hot dogs?

When shopping for processed meats, many health-conscious consumers look for products with words like “no nitrates added” or “uncured” on the packaging. But we may have been misled, experts say.

A new report finds that deli meats with those labels actually contain similar levels of nitrates as meats that don’t carry these labels.

Part of the explanation lies in federal labeling rules for processed meats. When hot dog or bacon manufacturers use natural curing agents, such as celery powder, in lieu of synthetic sodium nitrite, they can be required to use terms such as “no nitrates added” and “uncured.” In other cases, food manufacturers may add these claims voluntarily, perhaps for marketing reasons.

The “labels could make people think these meats are healthier,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “But our tests show they are not.”

Consumer Reports tested 31 deli meat products including roast beef, salami, turkey and ham. The products included both name brands and store brands.

“Deli meats carrying these labels pose the same health risks as traditionally cured meats, because the nitrate and nitrite levels are essentially the same,” Vallaeys says.

Consumer Reports and the Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a petition Thursday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urging the agency to revise its labeling rules.

“These claims are absolutely misleading for consumers,” says Sarah Sorscher of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“The label says the product has no nitrite or nitrate added,” Sorscher says. But the reality is that “they’ve simply switched to a different source.”

The USDA told NPR that the agency will review the petition and make a decision based upon its analysis.

“There is little evidence that preserving meats using celery … is any healthier than other added nitrites,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

A body of evidence suggests that processed meats are linked to elevated cancer risk. Experts think part of the problem is the nitrites used to cure them. “All nitrites can be converted in the food, during cooking, or in the body to nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic,” Mozaffarian explains.

Source: npr

Tunisian-style Fricassee Sandwich


1 small Yukon Gold potato (3 ounces)
2 large eggs
4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
4 hotdog buns
harissa, to taste
2 (5-ounce) cans tuna in oil, drained and roughly flaked
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, green olives or oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved


  1. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Add the potato and boil for 17 minutes, then add the eggs and boil for an additional eight minutes. (You may need to add more water to the pot if some has evaporated.)
  2. While the potato and eggs are cooking, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
  3. Check the potato for doneness; it should be easily pierced with a knife. Drain and transfer the potato and eggs to the ice bath until cool enough to handle.
  4. Peel and quarter the eggs; they will still be a touch jammy in the centre.
  5. Quarter the potato (the peel may come off) and thinly slice each quarter crosswise.
  6. In a large non-stick pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Toast the rolls on the outside, until warmed through, about 90 seconds per side, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  7. To assemble the sandwiches, spread a liberal amount of harissa in each roll. To each roll, add 2 egg quarters and a few potato slices. Add the tuna and top with the olives. If you like, garnish with an additional drizzle of olive oil and/or dash of harissa.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

In Pictures: Home-cooked Breakfasts

Study Brings Clarity to the Meaning of Food Naturalness

Enlarge image . . . . .

For the first time ever, a systematic study conducted by the Hero Group with two European universities has come up with a better understanding of the term ‘naturalness’ in food.

Often vague and sometimes overstated in the food industry, the lack of a universally-accepted description of what is natural has often led to confusion among consumers. According to the findings of the Hero Group study, people perceive a food product as natural depending on the origin of raw materials, the ingredients used, and the level of processing.

Food naturalness is considered crucial to most consumers, and products not perceived as such risk being left on store shelves – and this trend is likely to continue for a long time, the study said.

“Our mission at the Hero Group is to delight consumers by conserving the goodness of nature, but what precisely is key to consider for our products has led to considerable internal discussions. We did not want to impose our idea of what we believe constitutes naturalness, but rather find out what consumers understand it to be,” said Luisma Sánchez-Siles, Director Innovation at the Hero Group, one of the researchers in the study.

The term ‘natural’ is often used in the food industry, which is not surprising when one considers that a recent survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center (2015) suggested that 62% of consumers buy products labeled ‘natural’. The same survey also suggest that more than half incorrectly believe the term is independently verified. The Nielsen Healthy Eating Trends Around the World 2015 report suggests that 57% of respondents were adding more natural food to their diets.

Paradoxically, despite being considered very important, the definition of naturalness varied in different countries and regions – until now

The Hero Group study, titled The importance of food naturalness for consumers: Results of a systematic review, was published in the renowned peer-review journal Trends in Food Science and Technology and includes a content review of 72 studies, shortlisted from an initial 1,000+ papers, spanning two decades and involving a staggering 85,000 consumers across 32 countries on four continents.

According to the research, the three highlighted categories are composed of 15 attributes that help better understand the concept of naturalness. While each element taken on its own is not new, the study collected all the different attributes mentioned in the more than 70 studies and brought them together under three categories. The study showed that:

  1. The origin of the food includes the use of organic raw material grown locally
  2. The elaboration of the food product has to be free from artificial ingredients, preservatives, additives, artificial colors and flavors, chemicals, hormones and pesticides, and GMOs
  3. The end result, the research showed, is healthy, eco-friendly and ‘in accordance with nature’, tasty, and fresh.

Interestingly, the study shows that customers’ perception of naturalness is focused more of the lack of negative attributes, such as additives, rather than the presence of positive attributes.

Over the years, considerable studies were conducted on naturalness, but according to the researchers, “… this is the first review that has identified, analyzed, and integrated the literature on consumers’ perceived importance of food naturalness”.

The study – conducted by Luisma Sánchez-Siles (Hero Group), Sergio Román (University of Murcia), and Michael Siegrist (ETH Zürich) – covers a vast number of people in developed countries from different age groups and sociodemographics who participated in various research programs over a 20-year period. While all the different research touched upon selected areas of naturalness, this study brings all the information together.

This review on naturalness comes at a time when consumers around the world are demanding more natural products. However, given the lack of a clear definition or regulation, naturalness is open to various interpretations, leading to confusion among consumers.

“It is ironic, but no single definition exists on what constitutes naturalness. Take the origins of food as an example – if you have an organically-grown raw material, say an apple, it can be considered natural as a food product. However, what happens if you include heavy processing and add preservatives and chemicals? Can it still be called natural?” the researchers asked.

The study, which included close collaboration between the Hero Group and academia, also shows that naturalness is very important and it is strongly associated with health for the vast majority of people living in developed countries. This trend was observed across different countries over different periods of time.

Other points highlighted in the study include:

  • Production processes, ingredients, packaging, and marketing need to be combined in a way that consumers perceive the products as natural foods, similar to traditional food
  • Consumer perception about food naturalness of new food products or innovative food technologies should be taken into account at an early stage of product development
  • Replacing some of the synthetic food additives may impact the price of the product and shelf life, leading to potential consumer trade-offs – this may be a challenge for industry
  • Food naturalness importance is higher for women and older people
  • Consumers’ food intake is significantly influenced by food naturalness importance
  • Neglecting the aspect of naturalness in the food industry may prove very costly

Key highlights

  1. First ever systematic study about naturalness perception in food, published in one of the top five peer-review global nutrition magazines
  2. A systematic review of the literature of more than 1,000 published studies has been conducted. In the end, 72 studies involving more than 85,000 consumers from 32 countries and four continents were included in the review
  3. Natural food is defined in three separate yet related categories: (1) How the food is grown (2) the way food is produced (ingredients and technology used), and (3) the properties of the final product
  4. Consumers’ food intake is significantly influenced by food naturalness importance
  5. Consumer perceptions and innovative food technologies should be taken into account at an early stage of product or technology development. Neglecting the aspect of naturalness in the food industry may prove costly
  6. The study was conducted by three researchers, from academia (Sergio Román, University of Murcia and Michael Siegrist, ETH Zürich) and industry (Luisma Sánchez-Siles, Hero Group), with different backgrounds (marketing, nutrition and food science and psychology)

Source: Hero

Lower Risk for Heart Failure with New Type 2 Diabetes Drug

The new type of drugs for type 2 diabetes, the so-called SGLT2 inhibitors, are associated with a reduced risk of heart failure and death as well as of major cardiovascular events, a major Scandinavian registry study led from Karolinska Institutet reports in The BMJ.

Cardiovascular disease is a serious complication of type 2 diabetes. The new SGLT2 inhibitors, which are now a commonly used drug group, reduce blood glucose. Clinical studies have also shown that SGLT2 inhibitors can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease or high cardiovascular risk.

However, it is unclear whether these findings also mean that there are positive cardiovascular effects from SGLT2 inhibitors in a broader patient group. This has now been investigated in a study published in The BMJ.

Over 40,000 patients

The study was a collaboration between researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, the NTNU in Norway and the Swedish National Diabetes Register. The researchers used several national registries containing data on drug use, diseases, cause of death and other data from close to 21,000 patients with type 2 diabetes who began treatment with SGLT2 inhibitors between April 2013 and December 2016.

This information was then compared with an equally sized matched population who began treatment with a different diabetes drug, a DPP4 inhibitor. The primary outcomes in the study were major cardiovascular events (defined as myocardial infarction, stroke or cardiovascular death) and hospital admission for heart failure. An important secondary outcome was any-cause death.

Reduced risk of heart failure

In the primary analysis, the patients were monitored throughout the follow-up period, regardless of whether they had completed their treatment. The researchers found that the use of SGLT2 inhibitors was associated with a reduced risk of heart failure but not with major cardiovascular events. The risk of heart failure was 34 per cent lower in the SGLT2-inhibitor group than in the DPP4-inhibitor group. The use of SGLT2 inhibitors was also linked to a 20 per cent lower risk of death.

In an additional analysis the researchers studied the risks only when the patients took the drug and found a reduced risk of both heart failure and major cardiovascular events.

“Our study suggests that there is cardiovascular benefit from SGLT2 inhibitors for a broader patient group in routine clinical care,” says principal investigator Björn Pasternak, associate professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine in Solna. “This is an important result that we believe may be of interest to patients as well as drug authorities and doctors.”

The results are applicable primarily to dapaglifozin, which was the predominant SGLT2 inhibitor used in Scandinavia during the study period.

The study is an observational study, which means that causality cannot be established.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

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