a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Still More of What is Real in Food Claims and Labels

In the children's classic book The Velveteen Rabbit, the rabbit  asks this simple question, What is Real?

In regards to the processed food we eat, it is getting harder and harder to answer that question.

Very little of the food we eat is "Natural" or "Real."  

Do you realize that 90 percent of the money that Americans spend on food is used to buy processed food? While the first purchase of a food item may be because of  its attractive packaging or appearance, subsequent purchases are determined mainly by taste.

Do you know that the canning, freezing, and dehydrating techniques used to process food destroys most of its flavor?

Do you prefer to purchase/eat foods that contain natural flavor rather than artificial flavor?

Most commercial mass food production began after World War II. At that time a highly secretive flavor industry arose in the United States to make these new processed food palatable. Dozens of highly secured flavor manufacturers --- actually refineries and chemical plants --- are located in an industrial section along the New Jersey Turnpike.  The largest is International Flavors and Fragrances which is the world's largest flavor company.

Eric Schlosser, investigative journalist and author of Fast Food Nation, visiting IFF as part of his research, was required to sign a nondisclosure form, promising not to reveal the brand names of products that contain IFF flavors.

The book is a fascinating, enlightening (and sometimes disturbing) read. Here is a section on the "natural flavors" that consumers prefer, believing they are healthier. Terry Acree, a professor of food science technology at Cornell University writes that the distinction between artificial and natural flavors can be somewhat arbitrary and absurd. He states that "a natural flavor is a flavor that's been derived with an out-of-date technology." Natural flavors and artificial flavors sometimes contain exactly the same chemicals, produced through different methods. Acree uses banana flavor as an example:

  • Amyl acetate provides the dominant note of banana flavor. When you distill it from bananas with a solvent, amyl acetate is a natural flavor. When you produce it by mixing vinegar with amyl alcohol, adding sulfuric acid as a catalyst, amyl acetate is an artificial flavor --- either way it smells and tastes the same. 
During his tour, Schlosser was invited to sample some of IFF's flavors. He said it was an unusual taste test because there wasn't any food to taste. The test consisted of a dozen unmarked small glass bottles from the lab, and long white strips of paper.  With his eyes closed, Schlosser  sniffed each strip of paper, inhaling deeply. His report: 
  • "One food after another was conjured from the glass bottles. I smelled fresh cherries, black olives, sauteed onions, and shrimp and...a grilled hamburger. . . the aroma was uncanny, almost miraculous. It smelled like someone in the room was flipping burgers on a hot grill."  

Speaking of burgers, Schlosser has a large section on the beefy subject of fast food hamburgers and their rise from a tainted and unsafe to eat food for the poor, sold at lunch carts parked near factories, circuses, carnivals and state fairs in the early 1900s to our "national dish."  A 1996 United States Department of Agriculture study found 78.6 percent of the ground beef tested contained microbes that are spread primarily by fecal material.  And that, folks, is why we are told to never eat rare meat. Note: The subtitle of Fast Food Nation is "The Dark Side of the All-American Meal."

Fast Food Condiment Packets

The following eye-opening information comes from Michael DeGroote, a reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah, following his scrutiny (and the scrutiny of others) of the small print on these squeezy plastic packets.

Kentucky Fried Chicken -- Honey Packets, when reading the fine print you will discover that the honey packets are actually honey sauce packets  The blog "Playing in the Dirt" analyzed the ingredients of KFC's honey sauce: "If we look closely at the printing on the back of each packet, we find that the honey sauce contains the following ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, sugar, corn syrup, honey (only 7 percent), caramel color. Notice that honey is the fourth ingredient, after HFCS, sugar, and corn syrup. HFCS, of course, is unnatural; sugar is fine. Corn syrup — I'm not too sure about how it differs from HFCS, although I have read it is not as bad for you. Caramel color — why would you need caramel color for honey? Isn't it already that color?
                  The customer was offered honey or butter with her order.
                  She said "both" and this is what she was given. Later,
                  after looking up KFC's nutrition list, neither were listed.

To determine what ingredients honey contains, I took a look at one of the jars of honey I purchased at (the) market. 

Here's the ingredients list: honey."

"Food Safety News … food scientists say that over three quarters of the honey sold in American supermarkets and drug stores may not be what the bees created, but a watered down, reconstituted hodge-podge of the real deal mixed with other cheaper, less savory, and often less safe, ingredients."

Real honey contains pollen — which, in addition to being good for health, also makes it easy to track where it was made. So companies strain out the pollen so consumers can't tell that it came from, most likely, China.

"It is for this reason that U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules state that any product that contains no pollen cannot be called honey," Schiffman said.

So Food Safety News sent 60 store-bought containers of honey in for testing. Seventy-six percent of the honey had zero pollen in it, and so it wasn't really honey.

A similar test was made of honey bought at farmers markets, health food stores and the like. They all had pollen.

Subway -- Olive Oil Packets - The Consumer Reports' Consumerist website looked at how Subway's "olive oil" packet used different-sized fonts to deceive customers: Everything...is right on the packet. "But it helps to occasionally point out the ways companies play with design to trick your eyes into seeing what the company wants you to,"

The real master stroke is in the text that fills the appropriately olive-green background, located above the image of olives and to the right of the drawing of the corked container that presumably contains olive oil. In tightly spaced  italics, it reads “A Master Chef Blend of Canola Oil and 10%” before bursting into larger, all caps, “EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL.”
 "The most prominent words on the packet being 'OLIVE OIL' in large type in the center of the arced ribbon. Below these words, in significantly smaller but still noticeable type, is 'BLEND,' which may cause some to wonder what the rest of the stuff is. But it's in the tiny type squeezed above 'OLIVE OIL' that you get the truth with 'CANOLA & 10% EXTRA VIRGIN.'"

The iconic Twinkie was originally a very popular sponge cake with a creamy filling and ... a shelf life of two to three days. That was the problem.  Modern food technology (aka the chemical industry) was Twinkies' salvation. Today the Twinkie is made up of 39 ingredients, most of them not even food (or even food-like substances). I guess it is suppose to comfort us to learn that the FDA classifies over 700 hundred items of food additives as GRAS (generally regarded as safe)! And many of them are in Twinkies -- increasing their shelf life to ----- forever!
And Then There's  Dessert!

Check out Steve Ettlinger's interesting and easy read of his "journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (Yes, mined), and manipulated into what America eats" in his book Twinkie, Deconstructed.

 --- “a fascinating exploration into the curious world of packaged foods. . . takes us from phosphate mines in Idaho to cornfields in Iowa, from gypsum mines in Oklahoma to oil fields in China, to demystify some of American’s most common processed food ingredients—where they came from, how they are made, how they are used—and why. Beginning at the source (hint: the ingredients are often more closely linked to rocks and petroleum than any of the four food groups), Ettlinger reveals how each Twinkie ingredient goes through the process of being crushed, baked, fermented, refined, and /or reacted into a totally unrecognizable goo or powder with a strange name—all for the sake of creating a simple snack cake.”

If this makes you want to boycott commercial Twinkies but still crave them, go to your search engine and type in “twinkie recipe.”  There are several. The filling I use is from my recipe for Ho Ho cake — a copy cat of another multi- (mostly unnecessary) ingredient snack cake.     

Ho-Ho Filling
1 cup milk
3 T cornstarch
1 cup sugar
½ cup margarine (1 cube)
½ cup shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Combine milk and cornstarch and cook until creamy, stirring constantly. In separate bowl, beat sugar, margarine, shortening, salt and vanilla until creamy. Combine the two mixtures, beating  until fluffy.

'til we eat again,
            I am Simply, Gail

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