Every day, millions of people put a lot of trust in the food industry. More and more of us check product labels on a regular basis to make sure what we are buying meets our individual requirements – be they for low fat foods, sugarless concoctions, organically certified foods, clean label products or anything else. And when we buy a food product, we expect it to contain what it says it does on the label.
Thought for Food Blog
In 2008, melamine was added to milk and infant formula to increase its protein content. This led to the hospitalisation of around 54,000 infants, 6 deaths from kidney stones and, ultimately, a number of criminal prosecutions, resulting in 2 executions.
In 2013, horsemeat was found in burgers and ready meals sold in UK supermarkets. Although not physically harmed, consumers – who thought they were eating beef – were less than happy. The incident highlighted the vulnerability of the food supply chain and Tesco, one of the supermarkets selling the adulterated meat, underwent – €300 million drop in market value.
Contamination of foods by foreign matter other than microorganisms or chemicals is a continuing problem for the food industry. Metal, glass splinters and pieces of plastic are relatively common physical contaminants, but rubber, wood, hair, feathers, bone, whole insects or insect parts and carcasses of small animals, such as birds and mice, are also found.
Meat consumption trends
In recent years, consumers in western countries have reduced their meat intake, due largely to ethical, sustainability, health and religious issues. However, in 2014, global meat sales increased by 3%, reaching 225 million tonnes. This increase was fuelled by growing demand in developing markets. For example, meat intake in India has increased by almost 50% since 2009. Overall, poultry is the most popular meat, but consumer preference for particular types of meat varies between different countries. In China, sales of beef and veal have overtaken those of pork, whereas in Poland, consumption of pork is higher than that of beef or poultry.
Stevia is the name given to extracts from leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana used as sweeteners or sugar substitutes. The two main compounds responsible for the sweetness of stevia are stevioside and rebaudioside A, both of which are derivatives of the diterpene, steviol.
- Stevioside is 250-300 times sweeter than sugar, but possesses a bitter aftertaste.
- Rebaudioside A is 350-450 times sweeter than sugar and is less bitter than stevioside, making it a popular option for use in sweetener preparations.