Author Topic: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers  (Read 354 times)

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Offline norma427

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How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« on: December 17, 2014, 03:20:05 PM »
This article is from PMQ Pizza Magazine

http://www.pmq.com/December-2014/How-Pizza-Chains-Lie-on-nutrition-numbers/

and
http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/how-pizza-chains-lie
 
I don't know if Peter would agree, because I sure don't understand all those numbers, and all of the other things that go into figuring out Nutrition numbers.

Norma
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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2014, 05:05:31 PM »
Norma,

I believe that the word "lie" is not proper unless one can establish that the companies that were investigated in the article had a specific intent to deceive or mislead. I highly doubt that that is the case, and certainly not for all of the companies whose nutrition data was studied. To use the word "lie" in the heading of an article may make for good reading and catch readers' attention, but it wouldn't hold up in a court of law.

A good part of the problem with nutrition data is that most people do not understand how companies create their nutrition data. There may have been a time in the past where companies subjected their products to destructive testing or other types of analysis by test labs that specialize in that type of work, and no doubt there are times even today where some companies may submit products for testing by outside labs to come up with nutrition information for those products, but today the more common method as best I can tell is to use software. Sometimes companies commission third parties to come up with the nutritional information using their proprietary software and databases but other companies do the analysis themselves in-house using software licensed for that purpose (see, for example, http://www.xenia.com/en/product/genesis-randd-food-analysis-and-labeling-software/2132312?type=product). But, either way, the information that is used to create the nutritional information is usually based on the ingredients that suppliers provide, like flour, cheeses, tomatoes, sauces, etc., for a pizza. Also, there can be variations in the products because of variations in the way they are made, as when using different workers with different skills and experience and training, which is very common for the types of pizza establishments that were mentioned in the article. The FDA understands these types of variations full well, and, for that reason, it allows companies to be off by +/- 20% in their nutrition information. Even when they are outside of that range, the FDA is highly unlikely to take action. They don't have the resources to monitor and chase after everyone whose nutrition information is outside of the above range, and for the FDA to intervene, people would have to be keeling over or the product would have to be deemed so harmful that it must be recalled.

Some time ago, I discussed some of the above matters in the context of Papa John's nutrition information, and reported on what I learned about PJ's practice in this area at Reply 212 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6758.msg107166.html#msg107166. That post mentions using information provided by PJ's suppliers. If you look at the Domino's website toward the end of the page at https://order.dominos.com/en/pages/content/nutritional/ingredients.jsp, you will also see that Domino's also relies on suppliers when it says The ingredient listings are provided by ingredient manufacturers and The products listed on this website, when made with approved Domino’s Pizza ingredients, provide the nutritional composition as indicated. Depending on supplier and location there may be some variance in the information.... As for Pizza Hut, note the weasel wording about nutrition information for their products at the bottom of the page at http://www.pizzahut.com/assets/w/nutrition/BrandStandardNutritionalInformationFINAL111314.pdf. In Little Caesars' case, see http://www.littlecaesars.com/OurMenu/Info/Nutrition.aspx (including reference to the Genesis software).

Finally, it is important to know that not all software that creates nutrition information is perfect. I saw this recently in connection with Tony Gemignani's artisan flour that he is now selling. See, for example, the questions you and another poster raised and the answers that followed at http://www.thepizzabible.com/posts/a-few-questions-about-your-new-oo-flour. In that case, the nutrition information suggested a protein range for the flour of about 15.26-16.32%, whereas the actual protein content was 14.2-14.5%. If a test lab showed that that the 15.26-16.32% range was wrong, then, would that make Tony and/or Central Milling liars? More recently, but still in the context of the Tony G situation, I found myself unable to come up with some of the nutritional information that AB Mauri set forth for its low diastatic malt. I tested many possible combinations of the three ingredients involved, in a 100-grams sample size, and including extreme outliers to better frame the issue, and I could not come up with some of the nutrient values that AB Mauri has published for the low diastatic malt no matter what flour I looked at, and there were many, and no matter which malted barley flours I looked at, and I looked at all I could find with nutrition information. I think the AB Mauri nutrition information may be wrong, but I can't prove it.

As you know, in the past I have found other instances where I strongly believe that nutrition information provided by a few pizza operators was incorrect or outside of the +/- 20% range. I don't think they were lying. They were perhaps subject to the many variations mentioned above or maybe their software was not the best or faulty. And there is no incentive to do anything about it since the FDA will not do anything about it.

Peter

Offline norma427

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2014, 06:15:02 PM »
Peter,

I started this thread not really to call anyone a liar.  I only copied the links from PMQ Magazine. 

I know you have studied the ways nutrition data is created for pizzas, and do know the nutritional information is usually based on the ingredients that suppliers provide.  I didn't think all software that creates nutrition information would be perfect.  I recall Tony said on the Pizza Bible website that they use a program called Nutracoster to produce nutritional panels and they chose 15 in Nutracoster because Tony said that was the nearest option.  I know you had problems with finding out some of the nutritional information that AB Mauri set forth for its low diastatic malt, and couldn't come up with some of the nutrient values that AB Mari has published for the low diastatic malt. 

I know in the past you have found other instances where you strongly believe the nutrition information provided by a few pizza operators were incorrect. 

Norma
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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2014, 07:27:53 PM »
Peter,

I started this thread not really to call anyone a liar.  I only copied the links from PMQ Magazine. 

Norma,

I wasn't criticizing you but rather the people who were responsible for the articles you cited. Unfortunately, all too often these days, too many people treat any statement that does not hold true as a "lie". There is nothing to be gained by pizza chains to lie to people about their nutrition information.

Peter

Offline norma427

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2014, 05:38:19 AM »
Norma,

There is nothing to be gained by pizza chains to lie to people about their nutrition information.

Peter

Peter,

I know there is nothing to be gained by pizza chains to lie to people about their nutrition information.  I think it would be harder for you to try to clone, or reverse engineer things though if the nutrition information is formulated wrong from different softwares.

Norma
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Online TXCraig1

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2014, 09:31:49 AM »
I don't know if it's intentional or not, but how do they get the carbs so wrong? I could see a gram or two, but some of these are off by 20-30%+. Don't all of these chains use pre-portioned dough balls?

I don't think any of the chains pre-portion ingredients toppings, so variations in the fat and protein don't surprise me.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2014, 10:48:49 AM by TXCraig1 »
Pizza is not bread.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2014, 10:17:06 AM »
Peter,

I know there is nothing to be gained by pizza chains to lie to people about their nutrition information.  I think it would be harder for you to try to clone, or reverse engineer things though if the nutrition information is formulated wrong from different softwares.

Norma
Norma,

If it weren't for my efforts to reverse engineer things, I would not have been able to respond to your original post in this thread. And what has complicated matters is that at the present time (more on changes to come as noted below) the pizza chains are not legally required to post Nutrition Facts and to comply with related labeling rules and regulations as set forth by the FDA. There are some chains that do label their nutrition information as Nutrition Facts, such as Mellow Mushroom and Hungry Howie's, to name two that immediately come to mind, and presumably they must comply with the related FDA rules and regulations, but the large chains like Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Domino's and Little Caesars do not call their nutrition information Nutrition Facts. They use expressions like Nutrition(al) Information, Nutrition(al) Guide(s), or just plain Nutrition. And even in their published material, they do not always recite the nutrients in the way that they are required to be recited in Nutrition Facts. For example, Domino's lists Carbohydrates instead of Total Carbohydrates, and it isn't clear if they are the same thing and they won't tell you even if you ask (which I did and got no reply). I believe the reason the chains publish what they do, even if not perfect, is because their customers demand it. They may be vegetarians or vegans or others who may allergy concerns or otherwise have health, wellness and nutrition concerns. I believe that the big chains (and even smaller ones) also see the writing on the wall that the FDA will put pressure on them to publish more in the way of nutritional information. And there are now a lot of gadflies who are making good money attacking the food companies over their practices.

The one area where most of the pizza chains, both large and small, have been able to avoid real scrutiny is in their ingredients lists. Such lists are considered proprietary and so long as they do not publish their ingredients, they are not required to comply with FDA rules and regulations directed to the ordering of ingredients in such lists. Domino's does publish their ingredients lists, and Pizza Hut used to do it, but Pizza Hut no longer does and Papa John's and Little Caesars have never done it or only on a limited basis. However, even this situation is changing. People are increasingly demanding more information on ingredients and the government is behind them. As a result, companies like the big chains will sometimes provide ingredients lists and related information upon request. Even then, they will tell the requesters that the information provided is confidential and not to be disseminated.

A lot of the above is about to change. The FDA is about to set new rules and regulations regarding how restaurants and other food establishments publicize nutrition information. For those who want to get a glimpse into what these changes are, see the FDA overview at http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm248732.htm.

Peter


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2014, 11:26:15 AM »
I don't know if it's intentional or not, but how do they get the carbs so wrong? I could see a gram or two, but some of these are off by 20-30%+. Don't all of these chains use pre-portioned dough balls?

I don't think any of the chains pre-portion ingredients, so variations in the fat and protein don't surprise me.
Craig,

Carbohydrates can be quite tricky. There are times where I have come within a gram of stated carbohydrates in my reverse engineering exercises but in other cases I have been off by quite a bit. For pizza, carbohydrates are usually most predominant in flours. This is also true of Dietary Fiber. Total Carbs include the Dietary Fiber, and Sugars as well, but the Sugars levels in flours is very small, maybe 1-1.3 grams per 100-gram sample. I have heard of cases where some companies do not report carbohydrates as required by the FDA and, as a result, the Total Carbs numbers they report are different than what is normally reported. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how the numbers were rearranged.

Total Carbs are also tricky because of the way that the FDA requires that they be reported. More specifically, the method is called the "difference" method and is described by the FDA as follows:

Total carbohydrate content shall be calculated by subtraction of the sum of the crude protein, total fat, moisture, and ash from the total weight of the food. This calculation method is described in A. L. Merrill and B. K. Watt, "Energy Value of Foods--Basis and Derivation," USDA Handbook 74 (slightly revised 1973) pp. 2 and 3, which is incorporated by reference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51 (the availability of this incorporation by reference is given in paragraph (c)(1)(i)(A) of this section). (Source: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.9)

Total Carbs can also come into play under the FDA rules and regulations that are often referred to as the 20% rule. By way of background, there are certain nutrients that the FDA requires not be in excess of the 20% rule, such as calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. These are the condemned group because of their perceived negative effects on health, wellness and nutrition. The rounding factors for these nutrients are also very strict and very tight. If those nutrients are outside of the 20% rule, the nutrition facts are held to be in noncompliance (even it they go undetected by the FDA or the FDA doesn't do anything about it). Carbohydrates fall into a second group (called Class II nutrients) that includes vitamins, minerals, protein, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, other carbohydrate, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, or potassium that occur naturally in a food product. These are considered to be the good guys because they are perceived to be good for one's health and wellness. And the rounding factors for these nutrients are less strict and less tight than for the nutrients in the first group mentioned above. To be in compliance with FDA rules and regulations, these nutrients must be present at 80% or more of the specified value in the nutrition statements (usually it is the labeled Nutrition Facts). I have read reports that companies will often strive to report higher numbers for these nutrients to be sure that they are in compliance but they may on occasion be a bit overzealous in how they report the numbers. I have read that the same thing is done but in the opposite direction for the first group mentioned above. Supposedly, they try to keep those numbers as low as possible yet be in compliance.

More on the above matter can be read at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm063113.htm.

As for the Protein numbers, I rarely get them right. Maybe Protein quantity is exaggerated along the lines mentioned above. However, the FDA rules and regulations for reporting Protein are as follows:

Protein content may be calculated on the basis of the factor of 6.25 times the nitrogen content of the food as determined by the appropriate method of analysis as given in the "Official Methods of Analysis of the AOAC International" (formerly the Association of Official Analytical Chemists), 15th Ed. (1990), which is incorporated by reference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51, except when the official procedure for a specific food requires another factor. Copies may be obtained from AOAC INTERNATIONAL, 481 North Frederick Ave., suite 500, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, or may be inspected at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to: http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/code_of_federal_regulations/ibr_locations.html. (Source: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.9).

I have also read that the N x 6.5 method is not the best or most accurate method but it seems to be what flour millers use to determine the protein content of their flours. Whether that distorts the Protein numbers I have no idea.

Peter

Offline norma427

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Re: How Pizza Chains Lie on nutrition numbers
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2014, 09:30:19 PM »
Norma,

If it weren't for my efforts to reverse engineer things, I would not have been able to respond to your original post in this thread. And what has complicated matters is that at the present time (more on changes to come as noted below) the pizza chains are not legally required to post Nutrition Facts and to comply with related labeling rules and regulations as set forth by the FDA. There are some chains that do label their nutrition information as Nutrition Facts, such as Mellow Mushroom and Hungry Howie's, to name two that immediately come to mind, and presumably they must comply with the related FDA rules and regulations, but the large chains like Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Domino's and Little Caesars do not call their nutrition information Nutrition Facts. They use expressions like Nutrition(al) Information, Nutrition(al) Guide(s), or just plain Nutrition. And even in their published material, they do not always recite the nutrients in the way that they are required to be recited in Nutrition Facts. For example, Domino's lists Carbohydrates instead of Total Carbohydrates, and it isn't clear if they are the same thing and they won't tell you even if you ask (which I did and got no reply). I believe the reason the chains publish what they do, even if not perfect, is because their customers demand it. They may be vegetarians or vegans or others who may allergy concerns or otherwise have health, wellness and nutrition concerns. I believe that the big chains (and even smaller ones) also see the writing on the wall that the FDA will put pressure on them to publish more in the way of nutritional information. And there are now a lot of gadflies who are making good money attacking the food companies over their practices.

The one area where most of the pizza chains, both large and small, have been able to avoid real scrutiny is in their ingredients lists. Such lists are considered proprietary and so long as they do not publish their ingredients, they are not required to comply with FDA rules and regulations directed to the ordering of ingredients in such lists. Domino's does publish their ingredients lists, and Pizza Hut used to do it, but Pizza Hut no longer does and Papa John's and Little Caesars have never done it or only on a limited basis. However, even this situation is changing. People are increasingly demanding more information on ingredients and the government is behind them. As a result, companies like the big chains will sometimes provide ingredients lists and related information upon request. Even then, they will tell the requesters that the information provided is confidential and not to be disseminated.

A lot of the above is about to change. The FDA is about to set new rules and regulations regarding how restaurants and other food establishments publicize nutrition information. For those who want to get a glimpse into what these changes are, see the FDA overview at http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm248732.htm.

Peter

Peter,

I know if it wasn't for your efforts to reverse engineer things, you would not be able to respond to my original post on this thread.  I didn't know how complicated it was in that there are some chains that do label their nutrition information as Nutrition Facts, but some do not call their nutrition information Nutrition Facts.  I guess I never saw the expressions like Nutrition Information, Nutrition Guide, or just plain Nutrition.  I also guess I never paid enough attention to their published material that do not always recite the nutrients in the way that they are required to be recited in Nutrition Facts.  I really don't understand all the differences, but know you do.  I never paid attention to Domino's listing Carbohydrates instead of Total Carbohydrates. 

I can understand the one area that most pizza chains have been able to avoid scrutiny is their ingredients lists.  I understand they are proprietary. 

Thanks for telling us all of the things you posted are about to change since the FDA is about to set new rules and regulations regarding how restaurants and other food establishments publicize nutrition information. 

Norma
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