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What Is In A Raspberry?


The SC Johnson Company spent upwards of $100,000 for a full-page advertisement in the May 3rd edition of The Wall Street Journal. The diagram noted 68 organic structures found in a raspberry. The compounds include lipids, minerals, flavanones, vitamins, sugars, and other nutrients all by definition “chemicals”.

In recent years, exponents of “clean labels” have railed against additives including those approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These compounds most of which have natural analogues are included in formulations to enhance keeping qualities, shelf-life, flavor and to protect against pathogens.

A leading adversary of additives has been the self-styled Food Babe who earned a degree in computer science and has no formal training in either biochemistry or medicine. She has initiated campaigns directed against QSRs and food processors through dissemination of false information and innuendo. The criterion which she applies to the acceptability of additives is whether or not she can pronounce the name. Given this crude and simplistic approach, she would obviously be opposed to docosahexaenoic acid and beta cryptoxanthin. These compounds are respectively the essential fatty acid DHA and a pigment related to Vitamin A. The former is required for cell membrane structure and function especially relating to the development of the brain. The latter metabolite is involved in various metabolic pathways at the cellular level. The Food Babe would probably reject phylloquinone also known as Vitamin K and epigallocatechin 3-gallate a flavan.

Unfortunately the web has given a large megaphone to well-meaning but ill-informed commentators promoting fad diets and distorted science which appeal to the affluent “worried well” The web has also provided a platform for the unscrupulous purveyors of misinformation who generate a following to sell books, CDs and “ systems” based on fear and uncertainty.

The SC Johnson Company is commended for introducing realism into the appreciation of chemicals since no one can have any complaint with the composition of a raspberry. Unfortunately the advertisement in The Wall Street Journal will not reach the demographic where it will do the most good. As with the agribiotech-industry which imperfectly promoted GM technology two decades ago, food manufacturers have been stampeded into the so called “clean label” movement. Hopefully there will be a reversal of the trend with an improved understanding of biochemistry and nutrition.