We all know what it’s like staring at an ingredient list – the words on the packaging can sometimes look like a foreign language. Try these on for size: Tricalcium phosphate, annatto extract, natural tocopherols; sometimes even the most seasoned label reader can get tongue-tied on these.
“FoodEssentials.com is a searchable database which allows consumers to compare foods from different manufacturers according to which ingredients or nutrients they wish to avoid or find.”
In an interview with Food Navigator, CIO at FoodEssentials.com Dheeraj Patri explained what this site aims to do.
“Our goal is not about telling people what food is good or bad but to provide transparency about what is in your food regardless of manufacturer.” — Dheeraj Patri, FoodEssentials.com CIO
Putting it to the gluten-free test
I tested this website to find out what consumers will find. The home page recommends when you conduct your search, you type in the type of product you are searching and what specifically you’re looking for. So I searched “hot dogs and gluten free”.
Here’s what I found: a selection of product listings on one side and on the other side it answers whether it has the additive you’re asking about – in this case gluten. Items free of the additive appear to be listed first. As I scrolled down I found an item that the website considered in question:
As you can see it highlighted two ingredients: Hydrolyzed Beef Stock and Autolyzed Yeast.
This site considered those to be “hot button” words which could mean the product contains gluten. When I clicked into that product, it listed gluten as an additive, along with the names of the ingredients.
In this case, as a good consumer you absolutely should contact the manufacturer with any questions. This site just did a nice job of pointing out those red-flag words.
If you compare it with a safe product (below) you can see gluten is not listed as an additive.
The other thing I liked was that it appears to unlock the mystery on the flavorings. If you look closely on both images, you can see it says sesame seeds under “Allergens” and the description is that it is used for the “flavoring” which is how it is listed in the ingredients.
I could see using this a lot on the fly at the grocery store or when you get home from shopping.
If you have a SmartPhone, you should be able to look these items up right inside the store.
The one thing this site doesn’t appear to include is store brands. Those “generics” always tend to be trouble for we celiacs. And without this tool it may be difficult to find out if the flavoring’s source is from sesame seeds, or that the colors are actually “extractives [separated or extracted] from paprika”.
I hope this tool helps you in your search for knowledge about what’s actually in the foods that we eat.
*Note: You may want to compare your ingredient listing on the product with the one on this list to ensure you have the current listing. If you ever question any ingredient, always err on the safe side and call the manufacturer.