Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sometimes it's what they don't tell you--back to the labels

Yes, I already posted about labels this week. That was before I saw this article, in which are detailed some things that don't show up on the labels of your food, but do show up in the food itself. There is even a slide show, should you choose to click on it at the conclusion of the article, to further enhance your learning experience. I have to warn you, it's not exactly good news.

The two aspects that really stood out to me, and which might help you decide whether you want to read the entire article or not (believe me, there's more), were the following quotations taken directly from it:

--"When you dig into a strawberry Yoplait yogurt, take a moment to contemplate where the beautiful pink color comes from. Strawberries? Think again. It comes from crushed bugs. Specifically, from the female cochineal beetles and their eggs."

--"A walk down the grocery aisle for processed food is an eye opener—the bacon and ham get their red tint from sodium ascorbate, an antioxidant and color stabilizer, and the Betty Crocker icing gets its bright white color not from natural cream and egg whites but from titanium dioxide, a mineral that is also used in house paints."

It could be argued that the bugs are extra protein, but I see little benefit in the mineral used in house paints. Sometimes it is hard to know what we are eating when we eat processed food. I eat my fair share of it, but the more I learn, the more I would like to be more self-sufficient in terms of the food that I eat. If I grow/raise it I know exactly where it's been and what has or has not been added before it reaches the table. Why am I posting about this? Well, I've heard something to the effect that education is finding out what you didn't know you didn't know. Now I know a little more, and wonder what else I have no idea about. I also just figure that even if a little extra insect in your food doesn't bother you, you at least have the right to know that it's there...


Ron said...

Hey, Marie, great post as usual. I felt much the same way the more I learned about what was in processed food. It takes some work to grow one's own food, but we think it is well worth it. Of course, we still buy quite a few things at the grocery store, but whatever is practical to make at home is one less thing we have to wonder about. :)


Anonymous said...

well You have now scared the Cxxp out of me. I am sitting here shaking my head in disbelief. All the more reason to grow your own.

Thanks for your well written and most informative Blog.

Carl In Wisconsin

riverwalker said...

They are amking our food with artificial means - I think of it as "plastic food".


Marie said...

Ron--Thanks! We buy the majority of our food, but there are ways sometimes, at least, to avoid things like those mentioned if we know that it's there in the first place. I noticed that your pork and bacon looked just fine, and I don't recall any steps where you added coloring... :)

Carl--Sorry to be the linker of bad news--it's pretty scary to me too, mostly because I don't know how to find out these things, and it makes me wonder what else is in my food... I appreciate your kind words--I've learned an awful lot from the comments you've left, so thank you!

Riverwalker--Great term!! Not so great if it's true that you are what you eat, though...:) Thanks for your comment!

Well,ok. I got a comment from a reader, but he used an abbreviation that I didn't understand in his first sentence, so I didn't feel comfortable publishing it in whole. I am therefore cutting and pasting all of his comment except for the first sentence here:

Seriously, what's the point of this, scaring people for no reason by telling them that perfectly harmless and even perfectly natural chemicals are being added to their food, as approved by what amounts one of the most rigorous monitoring agencies worldwide?

Sodium ascorbate ... oh noes, the world is about to end for sure ...

... wait, it's just a salt of vitamin C you say? Can be prepared by adding baking soda to lemon juice?

What else was there ... titanium dioxide is used in PAINT!? Heavens no, that stuff must be as poisonous as lead right. ... um, no

It'll scar you lungs ... if you inhale it for long periods of time.
the MSDS states "Not expected to be a health hazard via ingestion."

Whats' next ... carrotenoïds ... as in, products derived from beta-carrotene, the pigment in carrots. Guess we better lay of those too if we want to be healthy huh?

Where's the part about sugar getting bleached with animal bones I wonder ... maybe that was a bit over the top, even for the author of that slideshow.

End. So here is my response:

MH: Thank you for sharing your point of view. I linked to the article and slideshow because I found them interesting and informative. My own thoughts are that you should at least be informed about what is in the food that you buy, and then you can make a better decision as to whether you want to purchase it or not. People may or may not agree with what an agency or even other people in their neighborhood think is a good thing to eat, so the choices are personal. Those choices may change with more information, but that would require that the information be available in the first place.

That said, your comment reminded me about how I feel about hot dogs. I don't eat many hot dogs, but I like them. I also know enough about hot dogs that I know that I don't want to know exactly what is in them. Therefore, when people say, "Don't you know what is in those things?" I tell them I don't want to hear/talk about it. That's one of the reasons I put examples from the article in the post, so that people would know what they were getting into. It's hard to know if you are upset with me, or the author of the article, but I assure you that my intention was not to offend, just to share some information that I found.
Now let's just hope that no one decides to detail the contents of hot dogs for me.... :)

Michael Hawkins said...

My being upset was directed entirely at the author of that slideshow.

Said author conjures up a bunch of (trivial) chemical names, forwarding them as something to be careful about, as in "woe is you, just look at all these chemicals in your food!"

... and the people, they eat it up ...

Those authors know all to well that 90% of their audience won't just not know which chemicals those are, but won't bother to look them up either.

So, I get a little angry when journalists do things like that, scaring people from harmless vitamins, natural pigments and minerals that do not harm you ... at all.

You *should* be prudent about the things you eat, but even more so about scaremongers like the author of that sideshow. Furthermore, in this day and age the presence of counterfeit food seriously undermines you chances of picking out healthy food based on what the label sais.

Marie said...

Michael Hawkins-- When people care enough to read such articles, or, as you say, look even beyond the articles, it will hopefully improve their knowledge and their eating habits. One thing I understand from the message of your comment is that you have to be careful about what you eat and what you read. Thanks for the clarification and for providing another view on the subject.