Recent moves by major food manufacturers to remove High Fructose Corn Syrup from products – despite FDA recommendations and a costly campaign by the corn lobby – are indicative of increased consumer awareness and the powerful influence of online social networking sites and tools focused on what we eat.
One new entry to the online scene, FoodEssentials.com, provides complete transparency to U.S. food data, and – for the first time ever – enables consumers to search, compare and contrast thousands of manufactured foods by specific ingredients, allergens and additives. This gives the consumer a more informed and stronger voice than ever before.
“We believe it is a basic right to know exactly what is in the food we eat. If you are the parent of a child with severe food allergies, you probably spend hours studying labels,” says Anton Xavier, CEO of FoodEssentials.com. “What we provide is transparency and knowledge – that saves time and can help broaden your diet. Consumers can’t possibly know what all the thousands of different ingredients are, or all of their different names. Our database tells you – this is a preservative, this potentially contains gluten or peanuts or colorants, etc. – even beyond the manufacturer’s claim. And it allows you to do this with 20,000 plus products.”
The FoodEssentials.com website allows you to conduct free searches on a food type and whatever it is you care to avoid – or find. What comes back is a comparison of different brands and how they rank by calories, fiber, sugar, etc. – or by all allergens and additives.
When most families can’t afford to do all their shopping at Whole Foods, this online tool helps find the healthiest products at your local supermarket. Lists of food can be saved for shopping and sharing. And every product can be closely examined by its nutritional label that is analyzed and interpreted by FoodEssentials.
Dieticians and online food influencers also get a powerful tool: all of FoodEssentials data is available for reference in YouTube style embedded widgets that can be placed in blog posts and articles. Online publishers can produce their own lists to compare and critique products by ingredients, additives, allergens or nutrients – minus the manufacturer’s marketing noise.
FoodEssentials was first started in Australia in 2005 as a family project. According to Anton Xavier, his father was prescribed with a strict medical diet, but found it nearly impossible to compare all the food labels at his local supermarket. By 2007 the company (then called EatingSafe) had recorded, classified and analyzed food labels for 90 percent of the Australian market. Much of their initial analytical work was developed under the support of cause-related organizations and health professionals. By 2008 they had assembled a U.S. team based in Chicago and headed by CIO Dheeraj Patri, and are now launching FoodEssentials.com.