Today FoodFacts.com received an email from a concerned visitor regarding a margarine product on our site. The visitor disagreed with the C- score for the product, saying it really should have been awarded an A. The comment was based on the idea that the Report Card for this margarine pointed out that it contains no fiber. It was pretty easy for that visitor to assume that, in fact, the reason for the C- score was the fact that the product lacks fiber. First, we want to make sure that our community understands that C- is really not a poor Health Score. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly far from being the worst.
We thought it was worth a blog post to address the visitor’s concerns, in case others have the same thoughts when viewing the Health Score and the Report Card for any product. In this particular food category, fiber doesn’t impact the Health Score at all. It’s not figured in the calculations used to arrive at the rating. What the visitor missed was the inclusion of “Artificial Flavors” in the ingredient list. There are many consumers confused by “Artificial” and “Natural Flavors” and why these are considered controversial items.
“Artificial flavors” is a label that manufacturers use for chemical formulations that they aren’t required to disclose. This means that a product could contain unknown allergens, controversial ingredients and other problematic items, because manufacturers don’t have to tell us what chemicals make up these “artificial flavors.” To demonstrate why we take “artificial flavors” seriously, here is a list of what’s contained in a typical Artificial Strawberry Flavor:
Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.
That massive list is all hidden by the phrase “artificial flavors,” and consumers are left none the wiser. “Natural Flavors” are often created with the same ingredients as “artificial flavors,” but extracted or created in a way that allows manufacturers to call them “natural” when they are really anything but.
So while that margarine product lists one controversial ingredient, “Artificial Flavors”, that one phrase is actually hiding a list of others that we’ll never be aware of. When you take that ingredient into consideration and then add it to the fact that margarine is a fat, you can better understand how the C- Health Score was achieved.
FoodFacts.com likes transparency. We like to know what we’re eating and we think our community should as well. The FoodFacts.com Health Score is designed to be a quick read for our community members on the overall nutritional quality of a product. It takes into consideration all applicable attributes for every product in our database. Again, C- isn’t a terrible Score. But when a product contains controversial ingredients (and “Artificial Flavors” is more than one ingredient, even though it doesn’t read that way), it loses points.
For more information on the FoodFacts.com Health Score, click here: http://www.foodfacts.com/the-facts/our-health-score. And feel free to email us whenever you have a question regarding the information on our site! We’ll always take the time to answer your concerns.