Guest: Laura Ali, RD
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Laura is a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the StarKist Co. She has more than 25 years of nutrition experience ranging from clinical and outpatient nutrition counseling, retail and most recently with the consumer packaged goods industry.
In her current role at StarKist Co. she serves as the company nutrition advisor, recipe developer and driver of their health and wellness initiatives. She also oversees the regulatory and nutrition labeling initiatives for the company.
Segment overview: In this segment, Laura Ali, a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the StarKist Co., discusses regulatory and nutrition labeling initiatives.
Transcription – Nutrition Labelling Products
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Thank you for joining us today. I’m your host Neal Howard and I’m going to be talking to Laura Ali. She’s a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the Starkist Company and she’s joining us today as a returning guest to discuss regulatory and nutrition labeling initiative. Thank you for returning with us Laura.
Laura Ali: Thanks for having me.
N: You are Registered Dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the Starkist CO. How long have you been with Starkist?
A: I’ve been with Starkist for about 8 years.
N: As a registered dietitian do you have a staff of folks under you that are doing research and maybe testing things of that nature as the manager of that department?
A: Yes, I do have a small staff that helps out with our regulatory group and some of our recipe development. Just for the Starkist team in general, is always helpful in coming up with new ideas.
N: When you’re coming up with these new ideas, as someone not involved, I envision this brainstorming session with people talking about this spice, that ingredient or the other. There’s labeling involved when these products hit the stores. Is that a consideration before the recipes and before some of the wellness and health initiatives going into play?
A: We start the labeling as the product is developed. We take a look at the ingredients in the nutritional profile of the products. And make sure that it aligns with our company goals. Our company is a healthy food company. So we want to make sure that the products that we’re putting out there fit that vision. It does start kind of early on, and making sure that what we’re putting out there really fits the healthy food products.
N: When you’re developing recipes and what not, do you ever find a conflict of ingredients when it comes to labeling and nutrition regulatory standards and you have to go back to the drawing board simply because of the labeling issue?
A: We may tweak something because it’s not does it quite exactly mean what we have in mind. For the most part we’re pretty good and we know what we are looking for.
N: Obviously you fall under the umbrella of the FDA and other regulatory agencies here in the United States and more than likely worldwide. Do your standards as a company traditionally rise above the standards that are set by these government regulatory agencies, is that something that happens as part of the course going above and beyond?
A: We always want to make sure that we’re going to meet and exceed what the regulations require of us.
N: What inspires you as someone who’s got all of this responsibility that’s above and beyond just to great tasting dish?
A: I get inspired in many different ways from just looking at magazines or going out to restaurants, trying new food. There are a lot of different things that may kind of get of my juices go in on what types of recipes that might want to put out for our consumers to try with the food.
N: How often do you listen to what the public is saying when you’re out and about maybe speaking at conferences or whatever it is going about the daily day of someone in your position? How much does your thumb on the pulse of the populous when it comes to coming up with some of these recipes?
A: We work closely with the number of different organizations and I’m looking in the grocery store, looking at the circulars to see what types of foods are trending, talking to consumers. Our company does different focus groups periodically with different groups of consumers to understand what it is that they are looking for. I think we’re pretty in tune to what consumers are asking for, and what kind of trending and what’s coming up for the future.
N: Do you, yourself focus on the readability on some of these labels when we’re talking about chemicals and different ingredients? How user friendly do you try to make your labels when they’re coming out of Starkist as opposed to maybe some other companies that just go ahead and put exactly like they were 54 letter chemical?
A: Well, we are regulated by FDA. FDA has very specific guidelines of how we would need to label something. We look at what ingredients we label our products have. Label according to FDA guidelines but with that said we like to make sure that the products we have, have ingredients that are understandable for consumers, try to make it so that they’re real ingredients that the consumer would understand, make sense to them that it would be in there.
N: Do you have initiatives that kind of introduced people to seafood who may not have been seafood lovers in the past trying to get the word out about the goodness and the nutritional value that seafood holds?
A: We did some different programs with different groups. We worked with the American Heart Association. We worked with some local sports teams. To provide information to their clients and their consumers about the foods and the health benefits of seafood. We work with different retailers to help them explain to their customers as they’re going through the store, what our products provide and then but more importantly not just what they provide but how to use them and how to incorporate them into daily meals and snack and just different ways to encourage consumers to get more seafood into their diet. I would say probably the majority of our efforts are spent working with retailers to help them teach their customers how to use shelf-stable seafood.
N: Do you have maybe one delicious heart healthy snack that you could recommend to us based on Starkist products?
A: I love to do and a lot of us do this in the office as we take a pouch of one of our flavored tunas. We’ll either put it over a little salad, or put it on a piece of lettuce and wrap it up for a quick and easy snack that’s health, get some carrot sticks and dip it or some feta cheese.
N: Taking down on some of those risk factors of heart disease go down quite substantially when we introduced seafood in the right diet, yes?
N: Where can our listeners go and get about some information about Starkist and some of this healthy initiatives?
A: You can go to our website www.starkist.com.
N: I’m hoping you’ll come back and speak with us again in the future.
A: I’d love to. Thank you.
N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Laura Ali. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm. You can subscribe to this program on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud.