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Local vitamin producer takes pride in concise product labeling

Union Leader Correspondent

August 19. 2013 11:52PM
U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter learned the science of making all-natural nutritional supplements during a tour of FoodState Inc. in Londonderry Monday. From left are process developer Richard LaFond, Shea-Porter and CEO Robert Craven. (APRIL GUILMET)

LONDONDERRY — Workers at FoodState Inc., the Londonderry-based manufacturing plant for Mega Food nutritional supplements, are already emphasizing the importance of concise ingredient labeling in their day-to-day practice.

Founded in New Hampshire in 1973, the company produces 130 different Mega Food vitamin products from scratch, using locally sourced fruits, vegetables and other natural ingredients.

In 2009, FoodState instituted a company-wide policy requiring documentation and labeling of all its ingredients and avoiding using genetically modified ingredients, according to Chief Executive Officer Robert Craven.

"One of our biggest challenges is educating consumers," Craven said. "We're huge proponents of the organic movement."

During a tour of the Delta Drive manufacturing facility Monday morning, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said such practices are currently the exception, not the rule — something she's hoping will eventually change.

The New Hampshire congresswoman recently cosponsored the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act, which would require companies to label all food, drug and cosmetic products containing genetically modified ingredients.

The bill was assigned to a congressional committee in late April and has yet to appear before the House or Senate.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but we're still glad that people seem to be interested in this bill," Shea-Porter said on Monday. "My position is that consumers should be aware (if GMOs are present in products) so they can decide for themselves."

At FoodState, ingredients arrive in their natural state — like the fresh load of carrots being processed on site Monday morning. The carrots, which are used to provide a plant-based source of Vitamin A, were rendered on stainless steel conveyor belts, where they were stripped of all moisture, producing a flaky and fragrant powder used as the main ingredient.

Other ingredients, such as cabbage, broccoli, oranges, cranberries and organic brown rice are processed in similar fashion.

This production process, known as Slo-Food, was developed through partnered research at the University of New Hampshire, Craven noted.

Once the nutrients are derived, each of them is tested in an on-site laboratory to ensure product safety and consistency.

The company currently has approximately 165 employees, many of whom have been employed there a decade or longer.

"It's a very unique concept in the sense that we take food straight from the farm to factory," Craven said.

In an effort to achieve complete transparency, FoodState officials have taken things a step further by sending 30 or so company representatives out into the field to show the ingredients in their original habitat.

"We're taking photos on our iPads and putting them directly on our website," process developer Richard LaFond said. "That's the part I love, because we're big believers in transparency."

Stacy Gillespie, director of product marketing, said each completed tablet is treated to prevent oxidation and then checked by hand.

"They tend to be larger than your average vitamin because they contain whole food ingredients," she said, adding that the products are packaged in special glass bottles to protect them from light and oxygen, which can deplete the nutritional benefits.

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