"This news completely changes America's love affair with the all-beef frank." -- Stephen Colbert The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
"There is not enough accuracy testing going on, and people have a right to know that the food labels they look at are accurate.” -- Patty Lovera, Food and Water Watch The Atlantic
"The use of genetic analysis in this type of setting is actually fascinating... I think we're going to see a lot more of this type of analysis happening, seeing how well food content matches food label." -- Prof. Melinda Wilkins, Michigan State University CNN
Clear Food is the authoritative online food guide for consumers. We are evaluating food at the molecular level to surface insights about our food that go far beyond the label. We can discover hidden additives, trace allergens, and unintended ingredients. Is your veggie burger really meat-free? Are your kids’ chicken nuggets 100% chicken like the label says? Is there wheat in your gluten-free pizza crust? Our advanced genomic analysis uncovers it all.
With food recalls in the news nearly once a week and increasing questions about the quality of the packaged food you buy at the grocery store, it’s hard to know which products you can truly trust. Our goal is to give you, the consumer, more confidence in your food-purchasing decisions by surfacing trends in the food categories you care about most and highlighting the best products and brands in the industry based on our in-depth molecular analysis.
We’ve developed a unique rating system called the Clear Score to measure food quality and label accuracy with a single number. It’s the only scientific rating system that gives you an objective view into the quality of the foods and brands you buy.
To calculate the Clear Score, we compare the actual molecular contents against packaging claims – the higher the score, the more closely the label represents what you are actually getting.
We will deliver the result of our tests in the form of monthly trend reports on individual food categories to consumers everywhere via ClearFood.com. With your help, we are launching Clear Food starting with our first 10 scientific food reports, chosen by you.
Join us in bringing about the genomics revolution in food. Together we can raise the bar across the food industry and bring integrity to the grocery store aisle.
If you eat, this matters.
We need help to fund the meticulous science and research that goes into each and every one of our reports. Our testing platform is based on the same type of genomic analysis that’s used in clinical trials to sequence and analyze whole human genomes to, for instance, find new treatments for cancer. Needless to say, it’s the most sensitive, accurate molecular analysis being used in the food industry today.
While the cost of genomic sequencing and analysis has been dropping dramatically, it’s still not within reach of consumers. We want to democratize the technology, unleash it from the bounds of industry and academia, and bring the power of food genomics to everyone. We believe that next-gen genomic analysis has the ability to dramatically raise standards across the food industry for the betterment of every touchpoint in the industry – from manufacturers to retailers to you, the consumer.
We’re also bringing this project to Kickstarter because we believe you should have a say in the food categories we test. With every contribution to our funding goal, you get to vote on the food category that matters most to you. Whether it’s packaged food for kids, processed meats, gluten-free products, or tofu, our technology is in your hands. We’ll publish all of the reports at www.clearfood.com, for free for the world to consume.
Is what you see really what you get? Unfortunately, not always…The food industry is incredibly complex and there are a lot of moving parts.
According to a 2014 study by the Congressional Research Service, 10% of the American food supply is adulterated in some way. Our internal tests have seen up to a 16% rate of discrepancy. You’ve heard of the many food recalls and stories of fraud in recent years, and you’ve probably been touched by one yourself (Bluebell Ice Cream is only just back on the shelves). It’s made many of us question what we think we know about food.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of good stuff in the food industry. Safety and quality standards are, in general, pretty good and getting better.
It’s just hard, as consumers, to know what is what in a complex, constantly-evolving food system. We want these reports to serve as a guide for your grocery shopping trips. We want to point you in the right direction; you tell us what to test.
Our first report is on hot dog and sausages and it’s available for everyone now at ClearFood.com. We started with hot dogs because they are the ultimate mystery meat – we wanted to find out just how the sausage gets made. The results were nothing short of fascinating. Here’s a glimpse into what we found.
Let’s start with genomics. What the heck is it? There are a ton of great resources out there to help you understand the basics of genomics. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. Check out one of our favorite primers from Genome BC here.
Now, on to food genomics
Our food genomics technology takes the same approach used in the most cutting-edge clinical research (think: scientists seeking a cure for cancer, drug development for inherited diseases or personalized medicine) and applies it to food. It tells us quickly and accurately the genetic makeup of the ingredients that go in your food, helping you validate that what you buy is actually what you get.
With this approach, we can test for:
- Food authenticity (Is your fish really halibut?)
- Substitutions (Are there fillers or other ingredients in your food not listed on the label?
- Allergens (including gluten)
- Bacterial contamination
- GMO presence
You’d be surprised what’s actually in your food. Every time we test a new food we learn something new.
To develop the Clear Score, first we test food products for DNA using Clear Labs' proprietary next-generation genomic sequencing workflow. We assign a significant weight to DNA-based data and we screen for major, medium, minor & trace substitution and deduct points accordingly.
Then, we examine products for nutrition content accuracy such as carbs, fat, calories and protein. We compare labeled value versus observed values and create a statistical methodology for deducting points based on meaningful deviations from labeling claims. We compare molecular results of these tests against industry standards, and we deduct points based on a rigorous statistical algorithm.
Once a base score is calculated, we add a final layer of molecular screening for presence of gross violations of dietary or religious preferences and major hygienic issues.
Raw scores of individual products are compiled together and weighted against individual brands to generate brand and retail rankings. All of our calculations are run through a secondary analysis pipeline and scrubbed for statistical accuracy and error.
The result is the Clear Score, the most accurate and objective food rating system for consumers.
We’re raising $100,000 USD to fund 10 reports. That’s $10,000 per report. And while that may sound expensive, even just a few years ago this type of reporting would have cost millions. Our goal with Clear Food is to make this technology and data available to you for a fraction of the cost.
We’re donating our time and our lab, so every dollar you contribute goes to costs related to sourcing foods, genetically analyzing food ingredients, and the post-testing analysis and reporting.
Each report costs us about $10K to develop. That includes:
- Buying and sourcing hundreds of samples by hand
- Genomically analyzing each sample
- Additional non-DNA tests
- Developing and designing the report
- Distributing the report
When you back us on Kickstarter at any level, you will not only receive a “thank you” reward, but also a vote, which you’ll be able to fulfill via text message. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Back us at any level on Kickstarter!
Step 2: Receive our "Thank You" email with instructions on how to register with Poll Everywhere.
Step 3: Register and vote by texting the category choice.
Step 4: Find out who won when the Kickstarter closes!
We will be releasing a new report each month based on the results of the voting period, starting in December once the Kickstarter has closed.
Risks and challenges
Bringing next-generation genomic analysis to food consumers is a challenge in and of itself, given the cost and complexity of the technology. We’ve mitigated those risks to the greatest extent possible by bringing together a leading team of genomic experts, engineers, product marketers, and food industry leaders who between them have decades of experience in commercializing genomic technology. We really believe that we’re the right team for the job. For more about our team, see: https://www.clearlabs.com/about.
Another risk we face is that some of our test results may end up not being very compelling. We’ve seen a 10-15% rate of discrepancy in our internal tests to date and no food product we’ve tested has been perfect, so we’re fairly confident that we will find interesting data in every category. But, we could get lucky and find a food category that is generally in the clear – no gross substitution or mislabeling to be found. If that’s the case, we will still publish the report because we actually see this as a big win – we want to celebrate the producers who are doing right by you, the consumer.
We’re making it a top priority to be as honest and accurate about every step we take to get our Clear Food reports into your hands. We have an excellent board of advisors helping us every step of the way and a strong team that has brought new products and technologies to market for many years.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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