If we can learn anything from the pink slime controversy, it’s that consumers care deeply about the ingredients and additives in their food. Recently, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) answered that concern with a smartphone app called Chemical Cuisine. The app, available for Android and iPhone, taps into CSPI’s vast database of more than 120 food additives to explain precisely what’s in the food we eat and the beverages we drink.
CSPI spokesperson Jeff Cronin credits the app with cutting through the “misinformation and conspiracy” about additives like high fructose corn syrup and aspartame (just to name a few).
“We cut through all that,” said Cronin, “and present a science-based perspective.”
The app doesn’t allow users to scan bar codes, but the information it provides while users are shopping is invaluable. Part of the reason for that is because CSPI’s executive director, Michael Jacobson, literally wrote the book (Eater’s Digest) on food additives.
What the app reveals isn’t always good news for food and beverage marketers. For example, a search for Velveeta or Doritos reveals that the popular brands contain yellow dye #6, a red flag additive the app claims “causes tumors in the adrenal gland and kidney….and may cause occasional, but sometimes severe, hypersensitivity reactions.” The app also doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the frequently used artificial sweetener aspartame. The ingredient is on CSPI’s “avoid” list because it “might cause cancer or neurological problems such as dizziness or hallucinations.”
“The tens of thousands of packaged foods on supermarket shelves have a bewildering array of chemical food additives,” said Jacobson, “designed to variously enhance the taste, texture, color, or shelf life of the product.”
MARKETING LESSON: Gone are the days of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” consumerism. Consumers are getting smarter, and brands would be wise to rethink what they put in their products.