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Food composition database is our aim to increase consumer

12 April 2009 981 views No Comment

An Australian company that created a database analyzing foods for allergens and additives has landed in the US, offering American consumers an online tool for comparing thousands of manufactured foods.

Food and beverage companies have increasingly been removing certain ingredients from their products as a result of perceived consumer demand, including synthetic colorings or high fructose corn syrup, and others are reformulating to remove potential allergens such as gluten.

FoodEssentials.com is a searchable database which allows consumers to compare foods from different manufacturers according to which ingredients or nutrients they wish to avoid or find.

Impartiality

Chief information officer at FoodEssentials.com Dheeraj Patri told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “Our goal is not about telling people what food is good or bad but to provide transparency about what is in your food regardless of manufacturer.”

The company uses food analysts and nutritionists to record and define ingredients and nutrients, and its data processors are also given training by an in-house nutritionist and research analyst.

But Patri said that what makes the site different from other databases is that FoodEssentials.com researches ingredients rather than just nutritional information.

“If a new product is released and we don’t know what an ingredient is, we will research it and find out…Manufacturers can be a little more devious in America because they use different names for the same ingredients, so as a consumer, it’s difficult to know what’s a stabilizer, what’s an emulsifier and so on.”

Food allergies

This is particularly important for those with food allergies, as many minor food ingredients may still contain trace amounts of allergens, said Patri. “It depends on the level of sensitivity.”

Gluten is one of those ingredients that is of particular interest to consumers at the moment: A recent report from Packaged Facts said that along with increased diagnosis of celiac disease, there has also been a surge in the number of consumers choosing gluten free foods for perceived health benefits.

The company’s CEO Anton Xavier said: “Consumers can’t possibly know what all the thousands of different ingredients are, or all of their different names. Our database tells you – this is a preservative, this potentially contains gluten or peanuts or colorants, etc – even beyond the manufacturer’s claim.”

He added that apart from allowing consumers to cater to their own unique requirements, it “has the potential to change purchasing behavior as well as the way foods are labeled and formulated. We hope it becomes a mediation point between manufacturers, retailers, government groups and consumers.”

The database currently contains information on over 20,000 products.

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