More and more health-conscious consumers are scouring labels for pure and natural products. Increasingly, it’s a given for our clients to try and source fresh, pure and natural ingredients. Read on to understand what ‘pure’ really means from a food standards point of view.
We’ve written about the term ‘natural‘ before. Pure tends to be similar to the term natural in that it is food created without chemical additives and in, or close to, its natural state.
What does the FSA recommend?
Unlike natural, pure can only be used to describe single ingredient food, or to highlight the specific purity of an ingredient within a compound, such as “pure butter shortbread” to indicate the butter hasn’t been blended with other fats.
The single product must have nothing added to it and be free from contamination: “levels should be as low as practically achievable and significantly below, for example, the codes of practice tolerances for basmati rice or durum pasta, or the thresholds requiring GM labelling.”
While compound foods should not be described as pure, it’s acceptable to describe such foods as “made with pure ingredients”, provided all the components meet the above criteria, or if a ‘pure’ ingredient meets these criteria and is the only source of that ingredient.
Be careful in your marketing
You need to take care when marketing your product. The guidelines state that “pure” should not be included in any brand names or used in meaningless or potentially misleading phrase. The FSA is concerned that producers don’t imply that a food meets the criteria when it isn’t pure or made from pure ingredients.
If a food is plain and/or unflavoured, pure can only be used when the product meets all the criteria above.
With two exceptions
Pure can be used for non-sweetened fruit juice and concentrated juice reconstituted with water. While legislation allows sugar, lemon and ascorbic acid to be added to fruit juices, the term pure should not be used on those products.
Jams and marmalades
It is acceptable to use the term “pure fruit” to indicate that the fruit has not been preserved by sulphur dioxide, prior to use in the product.
The European Court of Justice ruled that the expression “naturally pure” is legitimate, and unlikely to mislead consumers when used on a strawberry jam “made with added pectin and containing low levels of lead, cadmium and two particular pesticides”.
Has it been physically processed?
A good rule of thumb that we use at Froghop is to ask whether the product has only been physically processed such as squeezed/juiced, dried, chopped and so on, versus being chemically modified in some way.