A check of the ingredients on the label does not list any new ingredients but the sodium or sugar content listed is considerably less than before. Have you wondered how this is possible and questioned how this is being accomplished? Especially with no new ingredient(s) listed on the label? Are there artificial flavors or additives listed on the label? Was it there before? Has it changed? What is being put into the food or product that makes it taste good with less salt and sugar or what has taken away the bitterness? The ingredients not listed are taste enhancers and blockers.
Welcome to the high tech world of taste receptor technology! Senomyx, Inc. (NASDAQ: SNMX) is the leading biotechnology company that is focused on using and developing proprietary taste receptor-based technologies. Their focus is to discover novel flavor ingredients for the food, beverage, and ingredient supply industries. Senomyx, Inc. states, “We have synthesized and discovered hundreds of unique potential flavor enhancers and taste modulators” and “have created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a test compound affects the receptor.” They have numerous patents, patents pending and patents in the process of being assigned to them regarding taste receptors and compounds. Not only U.S patents but international ones as well.
Senomyx, Inc. describes their compounds as “Novel Flavor Ingredients” that enhance flavors and taste modulators. They are “novel” which in this case means different from anything known before. Their compounds are chemically orchestrated to have little or no flavor or taste, instead, fools your taste receptors by blocking or enhancing (salt, sweet, savory, etc.) flavor components that are specifically targeted. What this means is that your taste receptors (buds) are being chemically tricked into sending signals to your brain that the food tastes good. There is no way of knowing what any of the products really tastes like because of these various compounds.
They have a short list of collaborative partners but those partners have a huge market share of pre-packaged, ready-to-eat, processed food and beverages in the market place. Some of these partners are widely known and some not so well known. A few of their collaborative partners are Kraft Foods, Nestle, Campbell Soup Company and the Coca Cola Company. Senomyx, Inc. has been working in collaboration with Solae, LLC and on 04/27/2007 there was an announcement on nutraingredients-usa.com regarding their collaboration.
“According to Solae and Senomyx, their innovation efforts could improve the nutritional value of foods by allowing manufacturers to add more protein and use less sugar, salt and fat.
"Consumers refuse to compromise taste for wellness," said Jonathan McIntyre, vice president of research and development at Solae.
"To satisfy consumers, food manufacturers are looking for new innovations to improve the taste of healthy products. As a company focused on food ingredient innovation, we're excited to work with Senomyx to deliver additional innovation in food formulation and taste."
Under the terms of the new agreement, Solae - a joint venture with agri firms DuPont and Bunge, and a leading supplier of soy protein to the food industry - will fund the discovery and development of the new flavor systems. The company will have exclusive worldwide use of the flavor ingredients in virtually all categories of foods and beverages that contain added soy protein.
Senomyx, a biotechnology firm that uses proprietary technologies to develop novel flavor ingredients, will be entitled to certain milestone and royalty payments.
The new research, development and commercialization agreement includes a collaborative period for the discovery of new soy protein flavor enhancers and taste modulators using Senomyx's proprietary taste receptor-based assays and screening technologies.”
Soybeans are widely known to contain a number natural toxins and it makes no difference whether they are organic, chemically treated, GE or GMO. The problem with modern soy products is that the fast industrial processing does not equate to traditional methods of fermenting or boiling used to remove the toxins. The methods corporations use leaves these well-known natural toxins in, which makes it bitter, to make a profit. Their solution to their bottom line is to use the new biotechnology instead removing the components (toxins) that make it bitter.
This inevitably leads to the question: “What does it really taste like if they have to use these compounds to sell it? Even if you wanted to find out more about these compounds you won’t be able to find anything on the individual ingredient listing. No one is saying exactly what they are (names) or what products they are being used in. Food manufacturers and processors can easily avoided this because the compound(s) being used have an FDA GRAS classification and do not have to be listed on the label!
A GRAS classification by the FDA requires only a minimal testing and peer review. The peer reviews are usually done by related associations that give a yea or nay to the research and testing of the product. An additive or artificial ingredient that obtains or has a GRAS classification does NOT have to be listed as an individually named ingredient, period. It is rolled up under the “artificial flavorings” listing on a label which ultimately means, there is nothing to cause even a blip on most consumers’ radar that something has changed.
Since Senomyx's flavor compounds will (are to) be used in small proportions (less than one part per million), the company is able to bypass the lengthy FDA approval process required to get food additives on the market. Getting the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association status of generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, took Senomyx less than 18 months, including a 3-month safety study using rats. This was for their most advance product at the time which was for their MSG replacement compound in March 2005.
I have listed, from the FDA website, summarized information regarding their categories, regulations and processes. All of the following information can be found on their web site.
Regulatory Categories for Substances Added to Foods
Other than pesticides and animal drugs, substances added to foods fall into four legal categories.
Food additives--substances that have no proven track record of safety and must be approved by the FDA before they can be used.
Generally recognized as safe (GRAS)--substances for which use in food has a proven track record of safety based either on a history of use before 1958 or on published scientific evidence and that need not be approved by the FDA prior to being used.
Prior-sanctioned--substances that were assumed to be safe by either the FDA or the U.S. Department of Agriculture before 1958, to be used in a specific food. (For example, while the preservative nitrate can be used in meat because it was sanctioned before 1958, it cannot be used on vegetables because they were not covered by the prior sanction.)
Color additives--dyes that are used in foods, drugs, cosmetics and medical devices and must be approved by the FDA before they can be used.
GRAS is one of four legal categories set up by Congress under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). At the time, knowledge about food science and the potential long-term harmful effects of food chemicals on health were beginning to surface. Congress decided it was not necessary for the food industry to prove the safety of substances such as salt, sugar, and spices intentionally added to foods if they were already generally regarded as safe by qualified scientists.
A GRAS substance, therefore, is one that has a long, safe history of common use in foods, or that is determined to be safe based on proven science. If, however, new evidence suggests that a GRAS substance may no longer be safe, the FDA can prohibit its use or require further studies to determine its safety.
GRAS Determination vs. Food Additive Safety Determination. Irrespective of whether a substance is deemed to be GRAS or if its safety is established through a premarket approval process, the safety determination is always limited to the substance's intended conditions of use. The difference between a GRAS determination and a premarket approval relates to who has access to the scientific data and information and who has reviewed the scientific data and information.
For a substance to be GRAS, the scientific data and information about the use of a substance must be widely known and there must be a consensus among qualified experts that those data and information establish that the substance is safe under the conditions of its intended use. GRAS determinations made in this manner are said to be made through scientific procedures. For a food additive, privately held data and information about the use of a substance are sent by the sponsor to FDA, which evaluates those data and information to determine whether they establish that the substance is safe under the conditions of its intended use (21 CFR 171.1). Thus, for a food additive, FDA determines the safety of the ingredient; whereas a determination that an ingredient is GRAS can be made by qualified experts outside of government.
From the FDA GRAS guide FAQ:
8. Must the FDA approve GRAS Substances?
No. If the use of a food substance is GRAS, it is not subject to the premarket review and approval requirement by FDA.
17. Can the uses of a substance be GRAS even if it is not listed by the FDA?
Yes. Because the use of a GRAS substance is not subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, it is impracticable to list all substances that are used in food on the basis of the GRAS provision (21 CFR 182.1). The use of a substance is GRAS because of widespread knowledge among the community of qualified experts, not because of a listing or other administrative activity.
The total number of ingredients in the “artificial flavor” group of a product can be numerous and are not required to be individually listed. Consumer’s have no way of really knowing what is in the products they are buying and ingesting. So, what then is really being put in the food you purchase? This leaves a number of questions that have no answer for now.
The best way to protect yourself and your family is to avoid the “crapshoot” of processed food. This is more important now then ever before. It will take a bit of adjustment and allotting your time differently but, it is well worth it. The healthiest and safest food there is, is provided by nature herself. Organic fruits and vegetables, free range beef (preferably pasture fed), dairy and poultry. It is well worth the time and energy to invest in your wellbeing.