Sifting through the Noise (Part 1 of 3)

Article by JRW Regional Sales Manager William PattonClean label. Preservatives. Antimicrobials. Additives. Shelf life extension.

What does it all really mean?

They are words we hear all the time in the food ingredient and manufacturing space, but what do the words really mean and how do we sift through the noise to the information that is relevant to our industry?

In this three-part series, I will be exploring preservatives and antimicrobials used in shelf life extension.

So, let’s start with some terminology:

Clean Label

Currently the FDA has not promulgated a regulation or terminology on clean labels. It is a movement following perceived consumer perception. Generally speaking, most view clean labels as a reduction in the number of ingredients, especially those with hard to pronounce names, ingredients that are artificial or synthetic, and ingredients that have limited nutritional value.

Shelf Life Extension

This is a term used to extend the life of a finished product before it unsafe or undesirable to eat. Shelf life extenders can prohibit, inhibit, or retard the growth of psycohrotrophs, yeast and mold, acidity development, lueconostoc, listeria, etc.


This is a catch all term, defined by the FDA as: “any substance, the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, directly or indirectly, in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food”.

Simply put, it is pretty much any ingredient and can range from additives intended to enhance flavor, organoleptic properties, color, texture, or appearance to ingredients designed to stymie listeria growth.

Citric Acid, Salt, Maltodextrin, and Soy Protein are all examples.


These are ingredients added to food to prevent or limit the growth of dangerous microorganisms or spoilage from oxidation or light. They can be broken out into two categories, and each have both standard and clean label variants:

1.) Antioxidants

prevent oxidation and can range from products like BHT and BHA to
clean label products like Rosemary Extract, Vitamin E, and Tocopherols.

Check out my blog on antioxidants

2.) Antimicrobials

prevent or limit the growth of microorganisms.

Stay tuned for the rest of this series: Sifting Through the Noise (Part 2 of 3).

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