We have seen it all: lists of ingredients longer than the Wall of China and often with the pronunciation similar to a foreign language. It's almost impossible to know what's behind every word and number on the ingredient list. Instead of dealing with this intensively or consulting an app for clarity, there is an easier solution: Clean Label. In this article, we are taking a closer look at what Clean Label is, what's hiding behind long ingredient lists, and how the Clean Label Blue Farm is challenging conventional oat drinks.
List of ingredients: ingredients of foodstuffs
The ingredient list reveals which ingredients are contained in our food. To be able to read ingredient lists quickly, it is important to know a few basics: First of all, ingredient lists show the ingredient that is proportionally most represented in a product first. Then, the rest of the ingredients follow in descending order. The ingredients in bold are labelled as allergens in Germany. These include, for example, eggs, milk and nuts. Some ingredients also show the percentage with which they are contained in a product. This must be marked if the ingredient is also shown on the packaging. However, only those substances that can be technologically detected in the finished product must be listed.
Ingredient lists usually become hard to understand when many food additives are included. These are substances that are used to regulate the taste, smell, shelf life or colour of a product. As they are usually present in relatively small quantities, they often appear at the end of the list of ingredients and usually receive little attention. Yet they have a very special influence on our products and sometimes even on our health.
What are E numbers
Every additive approved in the EU bears an E number so that the additives are easier to identify. The approximately 300 approved additives are grouped according to their function, such as colorants or preservatives. In the list of ingredients, the function (e.g. stabilizer) is listed first, followed by the E-number (e.g. E 418) or the name of the substance (e.g. gellan). The following additives, for example, are often found in conventional plant-based milk alternatives:
- Stabilizers maintain the colour, structure and consistency of a food during storage. For example, to prevent the oat extract in oat drinks from settling to the bottom, gellan (E 418) is used.
- Acidity regulators stabilize the PH value of a product so that it does not change during storage. In cocoa-flavored oat drinks or other plant-based drinks, for example, potassium phosphate (E 340) is added.
- Thickeners are used for a creamy consistency, for example, pectin (E 440i) is found in some baristeditions of vegetable drinks.
Risks of additives
The EU checks additives for their health risks before approving them. Some additives can be used without limits, while others are subject to maximum quantity and warning labels because they can have consequences to our health. For example, some food colourings cause attention deficit disorders in children, while nausea, headaches or diarrhoea can be attributed to some preservatives. Sweeteners can have an impact on the function of our blood cells and some flavor enhancers create an artificial feeling of hunger. Not all additives are harmful, however, they are never used to directly benefit our health. Instead, they always have another main function. Everyone reacts differently to additives, and since they are often consumed unconsciously, it is difficult to detect intolerances and dangers to our health at an early stage.
Clean Label for natural foods
If you don't want to take the risk and want to avoid many additives and processed foods, you can reach for so-called clean labels. Clean label products contain as few ingredients as possible, which are also as unprocessed and natural as possible. They do not contain any additives at all, which means that the ingredient lists of these products are automatically shorter and easier to understand. They also reduce the risk of health side effects and allergies. Simple methods are often used to make the products cleaner and therefore healthier:
Instead of using artificial colourings, Clean Label products use colouring plant extracts such as beetroot.
Artificial flavour enhancers such as glutamates can easily be replaced by yeast extract
In order to avoid preservatives, Clean Label products are sometimes replaced by other technical processes that make artificial preservatives superfluous.
Blue Farm is an example which showcases how clean labelling works for oat drinks: In conventional oat drinks, acidity regulators and stabilizers are often found but Blue Farm's Oat Base does completely without any additives. Through the special enzymatic process and the fresh production directly at home, we manage to have only oats and salt as ingredients of our Oat Base, which is in turn a clean label product. This allows us to do without any additives and the oat drink from Blue Farm offers all the benefits that oat drinks contain.
Throwing around additives and E-numbers not only creates confusion, but also many questions. We at Blue Farm are convinced that less is more - also when it comes to ingredient lists. We are proud that our Oat Base has such a short and understandable ingredient list. And if you now want to try the clean oat drink right away, you can find it right here in our farm shop..