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Consumer Preferences, Food Safety, and Health
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You may have missed some items regarding changes occuring in the grocery section where you shop. While they may not affect agriculture directly, they indicate changes to the items in the title. So what exactly are these changes?
* Kraft macaroni and cheese products marketed specifically to children (not the traditional type) is eliminating the petroleum-based artificial dyes that produce its traditional bright orange color. The color will remain the same through the use of natural ingredients such as paprika. The change came in response to activists concerned the artificial dyes were causing hyperactivity and other health/developmental issues in children. Some research is indicating these artificial dyes may cause the previously cited issues when consumed by children. Naturally Kraft Foods denies the change is in response to the activists but simply to improve the nutritional quality of the food. Kraft is also including more whole grains in the product.
* This past Thursday the FDA announced its intention to phase out partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from all food products. The FDA stated these oils “are not generally recognized as safe for use in food.” These Trans Fats are created by adding hydrogen atoms to specific locations in vegetable oil molecules, most often soybean oil. The result is liquid oil that can be made as solid as needed, more stable, and useable in a variety of food products without altering the flavor. This is important for modern food production since these oils can be used in foods needing a long shelf life such as crackers. Use of these oils allows products to remain the same as the day you purchased them for long periods, prevents foods from turning rancid, and makes them taste and feel less “oily.” This is hardly a new process being developed over a century ago with Crisco the classic example. Their use increased dramatically in response to health concerns regarding the consumption of animal fats such as beef tallow and butter. However, research indicates there trans fats may actually be worse for your health than animal fat and their use is already being phased out. The biggest change consumers may notice is decreased shelf life of some products.
There’s more but space limitations will stop this here. These changes indicate several things. Companies do respond to consumer concerns, even if they can’t admit they do. Consumer health, especially regarding cardiovascular disease and obesity, is a priority of the Federal Government (regardless of the party in the White House). And finally these changes have and will change the way production agriculture does business.