IFAC Statement on “Processing” Research on Ultra-Processed Foods & Chronic Disease

Nutrition is a comparatively new type of science. For example, the first vitamin was isolated and chemically defined in 1926 – less than 100 years ago! As nutrition science continuously evolves and research linking food to health outcomes increases, it’s natural to overreact to sweeping conclusions about not one food or nutrient, but many foods commonly consumed by most people. Recently, the media has been mentioning the phrase ‘ultra-processed foods’ – prompting another buzzword to add to your nutrition and health lingo.

Defining the term

By definition, a processed food is a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it, typically to change or preserve it. This can range from grinding meat and forming it into a burger patty to manufacturing tofu from soybeans. The term ‘ultra-processed’ was developed over ten years ago by researchers at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. The researchers defined the term as part of a proposed new classification of foods known as the NOVA classification, which categorizes foods according to the extent and purpose of food processing, rather than in terms of its nutritional composition. This is why, for example, breakfast cereals are included in the ultra-processed food category, even though they may contain whole grains or low-fat ingredients that could be a healthy choice in the diet. According to the NOVA system, ultra-processed foods are “…industrial formulations typically with five or more and usually many ingredients. Such ingredients often include those also used in processed foods, such as sugar, oils, fats, salt, anti-oxidants, stabilizers, and preservatives.” Further, ultra-processed foods are described as “convenient (durable, ready to eat, or heatable), hyper-palatable (extremely tasty), highly profitable (low cost ingredients), and designed to replace all other food groups with the aid of attractive packaging and intensive marketing.” While the term ‘ultra-processed’ may be popping up more in the media these days, this doesn’t indicate a new, extreme form of processing that consumers should avoid. In fact, ultra-processed foods may provide more benefits than you think.

What does nutrition research say?

In the spring of 2019, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) added fuel to the conversation around ultra-processed foods by publishing two observational studies, one of which linked consumption of ultra-processed foods to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and another linking this food category to all-cause mortality. In the first study, researchers at the University of Paris monitored the diets of approximately 100,000 people twice a year for five years using the abovementioned NOVA classification system. The researchers then looked for associations between intake of ultra-processed food and risk of CVD, and found there was a 12% increase in the risk of CVD for every 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed food consumed. 

In the second study, researchers from the University of Navarra in Spain assessed the diets of almost 20,000 people annually over the course of 15 years (i.e. 1999 to 2014) using the NOVA system. After taking into account other confounding variables such as age, body mass index (BMI), and smoking history, the researchers concluded that there was a 62% greater risk of death for participants eating more than four servings of ultra-processed food a day compared to those eating the least amount of ultra-processed food.

What does this research mean?

While the findings from these studies are strengthened due to the large sample sizes, it’s important to remember that observational study designs do not demonstrate cause and effect. Further, linking ultra-processed foods to CVD is a complicated assumption, especially when multiple factors, including family history and other lifestyle choices, can contribute to disease development. Both unprocessed and processed red meats, for example, are associated with greater risk of developing CVD and type 2 diabetes compared to poultry, fish, or vegetable protein sources. Additionally, the definition of ‘ultra-processed foods’ was not adequately-defined in these studies and is not well-defined by the healthcare community. For example, some define ‘ultra-processed foods’ as “ready to eat, snack foods,” which could include dried fruit that can be a healthy snack.

Putting it All Together

Of course, if we review the definition of ultra-processed foods, it’s not surprising that excess consumption of such foods would likely cause such negative health outcomes. However, processed food intake alone is not a strong enough variable to link to disease development, and the definition and subsequent intake recommendations should be clearer for consumers to understand. It’s absolutely true that certain processed foods should be consumed less often and in smaller portions than others. With that said, it’s important to recognize that not all processed or ultra-processed foods provide the same benefits and nutrients, an aspect not considered by the NOVA classification system. 

The greater body of nutrition research continues to emphasize the importance of a varied and balanced diet, of which processed foods are unavoidable and even often rich in nutrients. As there is no correlation between level of processing and the nutritional value of food, incorporating a rich variety of different foods in your diet is recommended. Such eating patterns are outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which encourage intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry, and heart-healthy oil. Processed foods may include canned fruit, for example, that can be a healthy choice (when not packaged in syrup) and count toward a daily serving of fruit. Additionally, many processed foods are fortified with added fiber, vitamins, and minerals to support a healthy diet. Processed foods even include bread, which is often fortified with folic acid, a key nutrient to prevent birth defects. Fortified and processed foods not only aid in reaching the recommended daily values of key nutrients, but can also be formulated to reduce overall consumption of added sugars, fat, and sodium that, in excess, can contribute to the risk of chronic disease development.

Though new nutrition research and terminology is constantly the subject of media headlines, the widely-accepted and long-proven model for optimal nutrition remains the unsurprising, call it boring, truth – a balanced, varied, and colorful diet is the best way to ensure adequate intake of nutrients that support optimal health. No one is saying processed foods are not part of this equation.

IFAC Statement on the Role of Food Additives During COVID-19

The effects of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to present many global challenges. However, the International Food Additives Council wants to remind consumers that the safety and quality of the global food supply remains strong and that food additives continue to play an important role in maintaining the quality of foods in your pantry. Food additives help ensure food products remain shelf-stable, extend product shelf life, and allow consumers to stock up on food products without fear of immediate expiration. For more information on the different types of food ingredients and food additives, click here.

While there have been isolated reports of shortages of certain food products at retail, which are primarily due to transportation and restocking issues, it is important to note that COVID-19 has not made an impact on food safety. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or food packaging, including imported goods such as food and drugs for animals and pets. There have also been no cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. associated with imported goods.

During this time, when consumers want to minimize their time in the store and may wish to stock up on food, packaged foods containing food additives are an excellent option. In addition to contributing to taste, texture, freshness, and appearance of food, food additives contribute to product stability and shelf life. Below are several important food additive classifications and how they contribute to product stability.


Preservatives help extend the life of foods and prevent spoilage. Preservatives also help foods maintain their appearance, taste, and texture. Preservatives are found in a variety of foods including jellies, cereals, oils, and baked goods.

Preservatives come in many forms. For example, sugar, salt, and vinegar are often used to delay the growth of bacteria in foods. Antioxidants help reduce oxidation in foods, increasing shelf life and preventing spoilage. And phosphates are used to help preserve processed meat and poultry products.

Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, and Thickeners

Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, and Thickeners are common food additives and help maintain the appearance of foods while preserving freshness and quality.

  • Emulsifiers help to prevent oil and water mixtures from separating within a product and are found in a variety of foods, including margarine, ice cream, bread, chocolate, and some processed meats. Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids are a common example of an emulsifier that disperses fat in foods to allow it to become more water-soluble. They can also help reduce food waste by keeping foods mixed.
  • Stabilizers help ingredients stay dispersed and suspended in a product solution. Stabilizers are commonly used in beverages – such as fruit and vegetable juices – as well as liquid infant formula. Some common stabilizers include gellan gum and carrageenan.
  • Thickeners enhance the texture of foods and can give low fat or reduced calorie foods the texture of full fat/calorie options. Xanthan gum is a common thickener and can even be purchased in grocery stores.

Firming Agents

Firming agents help foods maintain their crisp quality and strength. They are also commonly used to help prolong shelf life. Firming agents are used in a variety of foods including canned meats, pickles, fruits, and vegetables. Sodium citrate, also known as citric acid, is a common firming agent derived from citrus fruit.

IFAC statement regarding potential allergen labeling for food culture preparations in the United States

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is a global association representing manufacturers and users of food ingredients, including live microbial food ingredients. IFAC strives to promote science-based regulations, standards, and specifications for food ingredients and food additives worldwide. IFAC developed the following statement to provide clarification to manufacturers and users when considering potential United States allergen labeling requirements of food and probiotic cultures preparations used in final food products.

U.S. Food Allergen Labeling Laws and Regulations

The U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 requires that eight major food allergens be labeled on product packaging. These are defined in section 403(w) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and include: milk, egg, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, or cod), crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, or shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pecans, or walnuts), wheat, peanuts, and soybeans.

Food Ingredients

Food and food ingredient manufacturers must follow FALCPA requirements if a product contains protein derived from one of the eight major food allergens, with the exception of any highly refined oil derived from one of these allergens or any ingredient derived from such highly refined oil. The food source from which a major food allergen is derived must be labeled.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidance for industry on Food Allergen Labeling Exemption Petitions and Notifications and defines ingredients as substances that are “derived (e.g., through chemical, biochemical, mechanical, fermentation or bioengineering processes) from a major food allergen and that contain proteins or peptides.” If an allergen is used when manufacturing a food culture, and if the food culture preparation in its finished state does not contain the allergen, a petition to the FDA for labeling exemption must be filed and accepted as per 21 U.S.C. 343(w)(6) and (7).

Use of Substances Added to Food Cultures Preparations

Food cultures, including probiotics, are used as ingredients in the production of final foods including use in dietary supplements. Food cultures are produced by fermentation. After fermentation, food cultures are processed further. The final food culture preparation that is placed on the market may contain additives or other ingredients. These are added after fermentation and are necessary for survival, storage, and to facilitate the application of the food culture preparation in the food production process.


In addition to food and dietary supplement labeling laws, the U.S. has food processing regulations as another measure of safety and prevention of cross-contact with food allergens during production. Pursuant to the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA),1 manufacturers are required to sanitize equipment and surfaces to prevent food allergen cross-contact (21 CFR 117.35(d)). Additional requirements manufacturers must follow include but are not limited to: document hazards, including allergens (21 CFR 117.130(a)(2)); develop a preventive control plan (21 CFR 117.135(b)), and develop a written recall program (21 CFR 117.139(a)).

IFAC Position

If the food culture or probiotic product contains one of the 8 major allergens, then it must be labeled as per FALCPA. This applies to all raw materials introduced during the production that could result in allergenic properties. In order to be exempt from allergen labeling, a notification or petition to the FDA must be filed and accepted as per 21 U.S.C. 343(w)(6) and (7).

It is the responsibility of the manufacturer of the final food to ensure that these products are labeled and in compliance with U.S. food labeling laws and regulations mentioned above. In addition, it is the responsibility of food business operators (food culture or probiotic manufactures) that supply to manufacturers of final foods to ensure that those manufacturers are provided with sufficient information to enable them to meet their food allergen labeling obligations.

1 The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted in January 2011, fundamentally shifts the focus of food safety in the United States from responding to food safety incidents after they occur to preventing them from happening. FSMA applies to the safe production of all foods sold in the U.S., including agricultural products, raw materials, processed foods, food additives and Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) substances, and includes requirements for appropriate Quality Systems, Preventive Controls and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) during product manufacture, transport and storage. These requirements appear in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at Title 21, Section 117 (21 CFR 117).

The European Food & Feed Cultures Association (EFFCA) also released a statement on the provision of information relating to allergenic substances which are present in food culture preparations. Click the button below to read more.

Read more from EFFCA here.

IFAC Statement on Coronavirus and Potential Implications on the Global Trade of Food Ingredients/Additives

On December 31, 2019, the first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported in Wuhan, China. Since this time, COVID-19 has become of international concern, spreading to more than 25 countries, although the majority of cases remain in China.

Due to the widespread outbreak of the virus in China, there is a possibility the region’s food additives industry will be impacted. Food manufacturers may find that the supply of some ingredients, such as amino acids and certain vitamins, may be affected as a result. However, suppliers located outside of China report a ready supply to ensure minimal disruption to end users during this time.

Currently, COVID-19 has not made an impact on food safety in the U.S. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence as to the association of COVID-19 transmission to food or food packaging, including imported goods such as food and drugs for animals and pets. There have also been no cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. associated with imported goods. As a result, FDA states there is no reason for concern.

Moving forward, the International Food Additives Council recommends food and food additive manufacturers keep up to date on COVID-19 and individually analyze its potential impact on ingredient supplies, seeking out alternative solutions where COVID-19 poses a potential risk. Following are additional resources from global health, scientific, and regulatory authorities.

IFAC Statement on Brexit

On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU), a decision commonly referred to as “Brexit.” The UK was set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019; however, the withdrawal agreement received a series of rejections by the UK Parliament and Brexit has been delayed. The debate has been over whether to implement a “soft” Brexit, representing a close trading relationship and regulatory and legal alignment between the UK and the EU, or a “hard” Brexit, which would include no agreement over the future trade relationship and allow the UK to create independent trade deals with other countries.

The food industry is global, and most food and beverage companies import and export products to and from the EU. The same is true for food additive and food ingredient companies. While the general consensus within the food industry is that the UK will have to follow EU regulations regarding food additives, there is concern that the UK will not be able to inform the regulations the same way they did pre-Brexit. The UK would have the option to develop its own new regulations, which would help support the UK government’s autonomy; however, this could produce additional barriers for innovation and market entry. In the case of food additive manufacturers wanting to produce new additives or develop new uses for existing additives, they would likely need to apply for authorization both in the EU and the UK.

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is closely monitoring Brexit developments, the outcome of which may have widespread impacts on its member companies that operate and/or conduct trade in the UK and the EU. As a global association representing manufacturers and end-users of food additives, IFAC is particularly concerned about the potential implications of the various scenarios (e.g., deal, no deal, delayed exit) on the food industry. IFAC encourages that all parties align on the clear need for – and shared benefits of – limited trade disruptions between the EU and UK, and rules that support the continued growth and success of their respective markets. In addition, as IFAC strongly supports global harmonization of food additive standards and specifications to help cultivate a more responsible food environment and promote global trade, IFAC is hopeful that food regulations in the UK will not deviate far from the EU.

Below are several resources for companies concerned about Brexit’s impact on the food and beverage industry:

  • The UK government has developed an online tool for preparing your business or organization for the UK leaving the EU.
  • The European Commission has also issued a list of guidance notes and links which address issues of concern to the food industry, including trade, health and food safety, chemicals regulations, competition, and trademarks.
  • For advice from the UK government on food label changes in a no deal Brexit, click here.
  • The EU has published Guidance on labeling requirements titled “Notice to Stakeholders – Withdrawal of the United Kingdome and EU Food Law and EU Rules on Quality Schemes”
  • For information on trading and labeling organic food in a no deal Brexit, click here.
  • For rules around Bioengineered (BE) organisms (or “GMOs”) in a no deal Brexit, click here.
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of the UK has published guidance for data protection if there is no Brexit deal. The ICO has also provided a checklist highlighting six steps to take to prepare for data protection compliance if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Dietary Exposures to Common Emulsifiers and Their Impact on the Gut Microbiota: Is There a Cause for Concern?

Scientific Review Supports Safety of Emulsifiers in Relation to the Human Microbiome

In 2007, the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project dramatically increased interest in the human gut microbiota, also called the microbiome. Consumers, health professionals and scientists want to know more about the relationship between the microbiome and our health, including how foods and beverages may have an influence on the function and makeup of the microbiome. A review, “Dietary Exposures to Common Emulsifiers and Their Impact on the Gut Microbiota: Is There a Cause for Concern?,”1 published in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, provided an update on the science related to how select food ingredients known as emulsifiers, affect the microbiome. The study’s authors found that this category of food ingredients does not pose any negative effect on the microbiome. 

What is the microbiome?

The microbiome is the collection of trillions of microorganisms, mainly found in the gastrointestinal tract. Developedat birth, the microbiome rapidly develops over the first three years and continues to change and adapt throughout our lives, changing in response to various factors including diet. While over 1000 species of microorganismshave been identified in the microbiome, there are about 160 within the gut of any one individual. The microbiome plays a key role in human digestion and metabolism by contributing enzymes not produced by the body to help break down polysaccharides and polyphenols, and synthesize vitamins. 

Diet and the Microbiome

Research shows that the gut microbiome changes in response to diet, both in the short- and long-term.  But what do these changes mean? Overall, studies indicate that the composition and function of the microbiome is modified by diet. However, everyone responds differently to various dietary components and that includes our microbiomes. Therefore, in order to properly assess the effects of individual ingredients or components of a diet on the microbiome, it is critical that the diets of subjects participating in such studies are carefully controlled, and subjects’ usual, or baseline, diets are well documented and understood.  

What are emulsifiers?

Given the recent questions around diet and the microbiome, specifically around emulsifiers, Vo et al.1conducted a literature search to review the existing scientific evidence on how emulsifiers impact the microbiome.  The ingredients in this review include:

  • Carboxymethyl cellulose
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Gum Arabic
  • Carrageenan
  • Arabinogalactan

These emulsifiers are often used in foods for the purposes of achieving preferred flavors or to improve texture, stability and shelf life. Without emulsifiers, packaged foods such as salad dressings, chocolate bars and ice cream would not exist. The ubiquity of these ingredients in the food supply has drawn increased questioning related to health-outcomes that are often associated with dietary patterns, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease and irritable bowel disease (IBD). Changes in the microbiome, regarding structure and function have been observed in populations with metabolic syndrome, which includes disease states such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

So what does the science tell us?

In short, there is limited evidence indicating adverse effects of emulsifiers on the microbiome. This is due to a number of issues including: 

  • There are inconsistencies in the methodologies used to analyze the microbiome between studies. The differing techniques used from study to study affect the bacteria that are identified and at what abundance.  Thus, there are inconsistent findings and interpretations that follow. 
  • Anatomical and physiological differences in the gastrointestinal tract of rodents and humans makes it difficult to extrapolate findings in rodents to humans. 
  • Test diets provided to laboratory animals can be controlled in animal studies while the human diet cannot be adequately controlled.
  • There is no alignment on what type of changes in the microbiome qualify as being adverse. 

The researchers of this review suggest that an established and agreed upon range of different microorganisms within the microbiome would help to provide a reference for future studies in the interpretation and clinical relevance of changes observed in response to various dietary components and ingredients.  Given this, the researchers state that they have found that consumption of foods with emulsifiers do not pose any safety concerns and that their history of safe use is not brought into question by the existing scientific literature. 

International Food Additives Council Releases New Guide for Industry Compliance with FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is pleased to release the anticipated revision of the IFAC Quality Systems, Food Safety and Good Manufacturing Practices Guide for Food Additives and GRAS Substances. The IFAC “GMP Guide” represents voluntary guidance, developed by IFAC members, and is intended to help suppliers and users of food additives and GRAS substances comply with the U.S. FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), specifically Title 21, Part 117 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

The original IFAC GMP Guide was developed to address FSMA, which was enacted in 2011 under the Obama Administration and shifted the focus of food safety practices in the United States from reacting to food safety incidents after they occurred to proactively preventing them from happening. FSMA applies to all foods sold in the U.S., including processed and ready-to-eat foods, produce, food additives and GRAS substances, and animal food/feed. While FSMA signaled a paradigm shift in food safety management practices, its requirements for appropriate Quality Systems, Preventive Controls and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) remain consistent with Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) requirements followed by industry that existed prior to FSMA under 21 CFR Part 110.  As a result of FSMA, FDA updated 21 CFR Part 110 and promulgated 21 CFR Part 117. To incorporate these new and updated regulations, IFAC revised its GMP Guide to incorporate both FSMA and 21 CFR Part 117 CGMP principles.

Recognizing that not all food manufacturing processes and facilities are alike or possess the same risk profiles, IFAC developed the GMP Guide to assist its industry partners in understanding and applying the Quality Systems, food safety principles, GMPs, and Quality Assurance Principles in accordance with FSMA, as well as preceding CGMP requirements. IFAC believes that this Guide fills a critical gap, providing a resource focused on the manufacture and use of food additives while taking into consideration the types of processes and facilities that are often very different than those used in the production of finished foods. The comprehensive 44-page guide, complete with a glossary of definitions explained by industry, has been aligned with 21 CFR Part 117, and thereby presents a mechanism for companies to apply current federal food safety requirements. The Guide translates these requirements to address areas that may be unique to food additives, and is meant to be easily applied and customized based on the manufacturing facility’s distinct attributes.

In addition, IFAC has updated its GMP Audit Guide, which reflects the IFAC GMP Guide and related FSMA principles. The Audit Guide may be used alone or in tandem with the GMP Guide to help firms prepare for FSMA inspections and facility audits. For companies seeking to gain additional safety certifications, the Audit Guide may also be used as an appropriate alternative to third party food safety standards which are often difficult to apply to food additive processes and facilities.

IFAC does not assert its Guides to be Federal Guidance Documents, nor does it claim that they bear legal or enforcement authority. Rather, the Guides represent what IFAC members* believe are best practices to comply with federal law and maximize safety. Therefore, in some cases IFAC provides recommendations which go beyond what is legally required by FSMA. IFAC’s recommendations are indicated by use of the word “should” throughout the Guide, whereas practices or activities required by U.S. law are indicated by “shall” or “must”. IFAC worked with its member companies and other industry stakeholders, representing a diverse range of expertise in the manufacture of food additives and GRAS substances, to ensure the Guide does not include false or misleading statements. The Guide can be found here.  

As a regulatory agency, FDA is responsible for regulating and enforcing the highest level of safety within the food supply. However, it is up to industry to comply with government requirements and meet consumer expectations for the highest level of safety and quality of the foods, beverages, and ingredients used and consumed every day. IFAC is proud to provide its GMP and Audit Guides and help industry fulfill its commitment to consumer expectations, thus reinforcing America’s trust in the food supply and assisting the broader food industry in consistently executing best practices.

*IFAC is a global association representing manufacturers of food ingredients, including food additives and GRAS substances. IFAC members include experienced personnel from food safety and quality teams of small, medium, and large companies that produce and use ingredients in foods, beverages, and dietary supplements.  Drawing on the expertise of its membership, IFAC strives for global harmonization of food ingredient standards and specifications.

IFAC Statement on U.S. Interagency Strategy to Reduce Food Waste

On April 9, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new interagency strategy for reducing food waste, titled the Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy. This modernized approach to addressing food waste prioritizes six key action areas, from improving consumer education and food labeling, to the agencies working both collaboratively and independently to help reduce food loss and waste in the United States. The new interagency strategy comes after the three federal agencies signed a formal agreement in 2018, titled the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. One year later, the April 2019 announcement signifies a key step towards the U.S. government’s overall goal of reducing food waste and loss by 50 percent by 2030. The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) endorses the U.S. government’s interagency approach to reducing food waste and is committed to contributing in this endeavor.

The United States discards 30-40 percent of all available food and food comprises the largest type of waste in daily American trash. According to the EPA’s sustainable management guide, 2015 saw more than 39 million tons of food waste created and estimates food waste comprised 22 percent of all discarded municipal solid waste that same year. These numbers reflect the pressing need for streamlined regulations, simpler solutions and consistent communications to reduce food waste, enhance consumer understanding of food labels and food safety, and empower all stakeholders to take an active role in addressing this problem. 

IFAC acknowledges that the responsibility to minimize food waste does not rest solely with the one group – be it the food industry, regulators, policy makers or consumers. We all eat, and it is critical that we all work together as global citizens to reduce food waste and ensure an adequate food supply for the predicted worldwide population of 10 billion people in 2050. Therefore, IFAC is especially supportive of the Federal Interagency Strategy’s fifth priority area: “Collaborate with Private Industry to Reduce Food Loss and Waste Across the Supply Chain.” While the U.S. strategy is domestic in nature, the issue of food waste is not, and IFAC looks forward to leveraging its international membership and global reach to support this key initiative. In addition, as IFAC members range from producers to end-users of food ingredients, IFAC supports food waste reduction efforts at all levels of the supply chain.

There are many ways the food industry can help prevent food waste. In addition to implementing changes to product packaging and labeling, companies can also consider product formulations and how individual ingredients may be used to protect products from spoiling. Many food additives not only help enhance the visual and textural appeal of products, but may also help extend the shelf life of foods and beverages ranging from fresh produce to more finished products such as soups and salad dressings. Safely preserving food and extending shelf life is a critical factor in reducing the likelihood that foods will be discarded.

IFAC strongly supports The Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy and looks forward to engaging with industry, government and consumers to help solve the total issue of food waste.

IFAC Statement Regarding the Study “High-Phosphate Diet Induces Exercise Intolerance and Impairs Fatty Acid Metabolism in Mice”

In January 2019, an article titled High-Phosphate Diet Induces Exercise Intolerance and Impairs Fatty Acid Metabolism in Mice” was published in the journal Circulation. The authors suggest dietary phosphorus is over consumed and found a link between higher phosphate consumption to exercise intolerance and less time spent exercising on a treadmill using mice models. As these findings were based on observational studies in mice and the researchers’ opinion of what “excess” means, they should be interpreted cautiously. Studies linking mice models to human health outcomes have many limitations, and multiple factors contribute to a person’s desire and ability to exercise, many of which should not be attributed to a slightly higher phosphate intake and the duration spent exercising.

The study was conducted to determine the association between inorganic phosphate, a food additive, with physical activity in humans. The authors suggest phosphate is “used in excess” as a preservative and flavor enhancer in foods, citing between 40 and 70 percent of common selling grocery items as containing phosphate additives. The researchers go on to report up to 25 percent of American adults have three or four times higher intakes of the recommended daily allowance of phosphorus.

In order to determine the “direct effects” of dietary phosphate on exercise capacity and other biochemical markers, a treadmill exercise test was conducted on mice fed either a normal phosphate diet (n=15-18; 0.6% of diet) or a high phosphate diet (n=4-7; 2.0% of diet) for 12 weeks. The researchers found that a high phosphate diet appeared to decrease time spent on a treadmill as compared to the normal phosphate diet. However, there was no effect on body weight and there were no significant differences in the biochemical markers of mice fed either diet. The researchers also studied phosphate levels in human blood/serum, and found higher phosphate levels appeared to “decrease physical activity independently of renal [kidney] function and body mass index.” As it relates to oxidation in skeletal muscle during exercise, the researchers made a determination on muscle strength in the human study after only one single bout of muscle contraction; daily physical activity ability was not determined. The researchers conclude the high phosphate diet in mice induces disruption in skeletal muscle metabolism and the study results may have a broader public health implication to the general population.

IFAC has numerous concerns with this study. First, it should be noted that many authoritative scientific and regulatory bodies have not provided tolerable upper intake levels for dietary phosphorus due to inadequate scientific evidence. The outcome of a 2017 research review indicated “available data were not sufficient to establish a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for phosphorus.” Therefore, in this study, the authors’ perception of “excess” intake should not be used to draw conclusions about excessive intake. IFAC believes another fault in the study includes a small sample size of mice which was only 4-7 mice in the high phosphate diet group and 15-18 mice in the normal phosphate diet group. The researchers attempt to correlate a higher phosphorus diet in only 4-7 mice with decreased time spent doing physical activity is not supported by strong evidence and, in this case, might simply be a matter of desire or interest of the mice participants. Regarding physical activity in humans, IFAC and the researchers can agree with findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 80% of American adults do not meet the recommended “physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle strengthening.” However, IFAC believes multiple factors contribute to muscle strength, endurance, and overall exercise ability and no single dietary mineral can be attributed to physical stamina—especially if most people are not normally physically active and in the study “daily physical activity ability was not determined.”

IFAC Statement on UN State of Food Security and Nutrition Report

In September 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its second annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. The report serves to monitor progress made towards achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition, within the context of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainability Development Goals.

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) endorses the multisectoral approach suggested by FAO, which states that, “Actions need to be accelerated and scaled up to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems, people’s livelihoods, and nutrition…” IFAC acknowledges that the food industry alone cannot deliver solutions that address the main drivers of hunger and malnutrition; however, there is a critically important role industry can play to help alleviate this global crisis.

In 2017, a staggering 821 million people were reported to be suffering from hunger. This corresponds to nearly 11 percent of the world’s population. Discouragingly, between 2014 and 2017, rather than seeing a decrease in the total number of people suffering from hunger, the numbers increased by 37.3 million people. While most hungry people live in lower-to-middle-income countries, hunger and lack of reliable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food are complex global problems. The UN report stresses that climate change and political conflicts are the key drivers behind the 2014 reversal in the progress made during the second half of the twentieth century towards reducing hunger and malnutrition.

A lack of access to adequate food and nutrition is caused by an array of factors, some of which can be addressed through food industry efforts. As an association representing companies who produce and use food ingredients, one of IFAC’s main objectives is to unite and cultivate a responsible and sustainable global food environment. IFAC members utilize both traditional and innovative technologies, as well as modern food science, to help support sustainable food strategies and minimize food waste.

For example, one IFAC member has developed a plant-derived invisible, edible coating that slows the rate by which fresh produce typically degrades, thereby increasing the shelf life and protecting the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. This product has shown tremendous potential to provide populations in isolated geographies and developing countries with access to fresh produce without reliance on cost-prohibitive or infrastructure-intensive food preservation technologies such as refrigeration. Another IFAC member utilizes microbial food cultures found commonly in cheese and other foods for “bioprotection,” in which the cultures are used to keep products such as yogurt fresh longer. Using microbial cultures in this way not only helps prevent waste, but also helps protect and increase yields in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, several other members produce stabilizing ingredients that help formulate foods that are shelf-stable under ambient conditions and extend the shelf-life of products traditionally in need of refrigeration. This not only helps ensure nutritious products can be transported to remote areas more easily, but also enables equity in the food system by providing equal access to the same health benefits afforded by nutritious yet perishable products.

The FAO report determines that, “The signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning of the urgent need for considerable additional work to ensure we ‘leave no one behind’ on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and nutrition.” IFAC supports FAO’s efforts to monitor and communicate progress towards eradicating world hunger and stands by its member companies whose products are contributing to this goal.