Good Cooking..."A Mouthwatering Site on the Internet" since 1995
Antique Walnut & Pewter Fork circ. 1880 Bohemia
Aye Yai Yai---Oh gosh; this stuff might be in my food, is it all bad?
Some people are concerned about what they eat and read the
ingredient labels; some don't. Many years ago my mother banned my
brother and I from eating frozen TV dinners that we would buy
ourselves, just because that was what our friends were eating at home.
Gosh, I remember going to a friend's house once for dinner and the
mother served TV dinners as the meal. That was it, no salad, just the
frozen dinner and Wonder Bread!
I was very lucky to have a mother
and father who cooked well, who after coming home from work,
took the time to prepare a great European style meal. Yes with salad,
albeit with iceberg, cucumbers and most often carrots. No chemical
additives in our house, it was mostly farm fresh or home canned.
Then there was the book written by Rachel Carlson---"Silent Spring". That
really made one think. Were we slipping into a world of slime? Talk
about organic and/or farm to table these days and my farmer grandfather
is rolling over in his grave. Everything in the 20's, 30's and 40's was
organic and really farm to table. His farm supplied eggs; milk,
vegetables and other nutritious foods to his neighbors in West Taghkanic
NY back them and even to stores in Hudson, especially his eggs. His land
wasn't treated with pesticides; the food was pure and wholesome. What
was picked or harvested that day was what you ate at night or at least
in a day or two, it didn't sit around long enough to spoil. He did
preserve meat with salt, nitrites and smoke though. His farm was so
rural that it didn't have electricity until the mid-30's, althought
they had ice from the river for refrigeration year round. He buried it
in an ice house underground in bales of hay. He was able to butcher
beef, pork and poultry and keep it well chilled until he was able to
sell it. And be sure that no preservatives were used nor was anything
irradiated...all natural and fresh! All sold or eaten, and the cycle
started again with nothing wasted or old and spoiling.
that is part of my concern today. Food is made to last and last; on a
shelf, in cans or in the freezer. Hundreds of chemical additives are
added to our food to do this, it's just become acceptable. A little of
this and a little of that and the result is that it is shelf stable.
Sodium metabisulfite, a food preservative, is used in just about every
commercially sold food product in the grocery store today. Is it good
for you, no---but it's widely used to keep food from spoiling. And that
is why my mom banned frozen TV dinners!
There are hundreds or
more additives that are used that you might not
know about. What do they do, what are they added to and why? Read on and
become aware, if you already aren't of what the food industry is putting
in our food and then judge for yourself whether or not you want to eat
them. Something crazy about me is that I knowingly won't eat foods with
garlic or onion powder in then. I was about to buy a frozen pizza of a
very well known national brand for a quick lunch recently. I read the
ingredients and said "not for me" and put it back in the freezer case,
then went home and had a homemade salad cut and picked from real fresh
I don't want to condemn any particular brand that
produces frozen convenience foods. This is just a simple sample of very
popular items that you will find in your grocers' freezer. Also bear in
mind that most fast food outlets season their foods as well, many do so
to slow down food spoilage and to enhance taste. Did you know that
chicken nuggets are made of chopped chicken breast with the addition of
seasonings, salt and even cellulose fiber---yum! Even the cooked diced
chicken you bought to save time in making your Cobb salad has
preservative in it! You have to look high and low for shrimp to be all
natural with no sodium metabisulfate, a preservative. But so many eat such foods every day, knowing the
ingredients---but certainly not me! Consumers are partially to
blame for the proliferation of such products---if we didn't buy items
like this then they wouldn't be made and marketed. That flavored corn
chip you saw advertised on the Super Bowl would disappear off the
shelves if so many didn't rush out to try a bag, boosting sales and
adding to the perceived popularity of it. It's a billion dollar industry
with a lot of marketing money invested in packaging, yet so little
invested in food without additives!
as listed for this frozen dinner---and just look at the salt, Wow that's
more than a 1/2 day's FDA suggested intake! Plus the calories and I'd
bet even more people add butter and more salt to it at the table!
Serving Size 1.0 package Servings Per
Container Amount Per Serving Calories 600 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value* Total Fat 30g 46% Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Cholesterol 80mg 27% Sodium 1240mg 52% Total Carbohydrate 56g 19%
Dietary Fiber 20% Sugars 15g Protein 27g Vitamin A 20%
Vitamin C 30% Calcium 15% Iron 15%
Seasoned Fried Chicken Patty Strips (Ground Chicken, Enriched Flour
[Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin,
Folic Acid], Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and
Citric Acid as preservatives, Bread Crumbs [Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar,
Salt], Salt, Soy Protein Concentrate, Isolated Oat Product, Sodium
Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Spice Extract), Mashed Potatoes
(Water, Reconstituted Potatoes [Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Acid
Pyrophosphate, Citric Acid], Heavy Cream, Butter [Cream, Salt], Salt,
Margarine [Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid
as preservatives, Water, Mono and Diglycerides (BHT, Citric Acid), Beta
Carotene for Color (Corn Oil, Tocopherol), Vitamin A Palmitate], Potato
Flavor [Potatoes, Water, Buttermilk, Butter Oil, Salt, Natural Flavors,
Soy Lecithin, Calcium Chloride, Tocopherol, Enzyme]), Mixed Vegetables
(Corn, Carrots, Peas, Cut Green Beans), Apple Dessert (Water, Sugar,
Rehydrated Apples, Modified Food Starch, Dehydrated Apples [Calcium
Stearate], Natural and Artificial Vanilla Flavor [Water, Propylene
Glycol, Ethanol, Caramel Color], Spice, Citric Acid, Salt, Dried Egg
Yolks), Sauce (Water, Sugar, Margarine [Soybean Oil, Partially
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Whey, Soy Lecithin, Mono and
Diglycerides, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin A
Palmitate], Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and
Citric Acid as preservatives). Contains 2% or less of: Margarine
(Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid as
preservatives, Water, Mono and Diglycerides [BHT, Citric Acid], Beta
Carotene for Color [Corn Oil, Tocopherol], Vitamin A Palmitate).
I know that this and other frozen dinners are the mainstay of many a
dinner table, but I can tell you not on mine! So I ask you, do
you really need to eat food like this?
There is still hope for you
too---learn to cook and avoid ingredients that contain them. Eat foods
with less sodium too, eat foods in season and reduce consumption of frozen convenience foods. Yes mom!
Here is a list to look
at---It's broken in two, ones that are probably okay like guar gum,
tannin, Lecithin and Sodium Aluminum Sulfate,
and the others that might
be questionable such as---Allyl Isovalerate, FD&C Blue #2, Isoamyl
Butyrate and Rum Ether?
Addophilus---A bacterial starter culture
used to develop flavor in dry sausage, bologna, and salami. It is used
in the production of acidophilus milk.
Sulfate---A general purpose food additive that functions as a buffer and
neutralizing agent. It is used in baking powders.
Flour---A flour that is intermediate between long-patent flours (bread
flour) containing more than 10.5 percent protein and 0.40 to 0.50
percent ash and short-patent flours (cake flour) which generally contain
less than 10 percent protein and less than 0.40 percent ash. It is made
from hard or soft wheat and is used in baking and in gravies.
Allspice---A spice made from the dried, nearly ripe berries of Pimenta
officinalis, a tropical evergreen tree. It has an aroma and flavor
resembling that of a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. A spice of
Jamaican origin. It is used in fruit pies, cakes, mincemeat, plum
pudding, soups, and sauces.
Agar---A gum obtained from red
seaweeds of the genera Gelidium, Gracilaria, and Eucheuma, class
Rhodophyceae. It is soluble in boiling water forming a gel upon cooling.
Agar mainly functions in gel formation because of its range between
melting and setting temperatures, being used in piping gels, glazes,
icings, dental impression material and ice cream.
obtained from breaks or wounds in the bark of Acacia trees. The
solubility in water increases with temperature. It is used in
confectionary glazes to retard or prevent sugar crystallization and acts
as an emulsifier to prevent fat from forming an oxidizable, greasy film.
Beet Extract---A natural red colorant obtained from beets that
is of very good water solubility and has fair pH stability, poor heat
stability, and good light stability. It is available in concentrate and
powder form and is used in yogurt, beverages, candies, and desserts.
Benzoic Acid---A preservative that occurs naturally in some foods
such as cranberries, prunes, and cinnamon. It is used in acid foods such
as carbonated beverages and fruit juice.
Bleached Flour---A flour
that has been whitened by the removal of the yellow pigment. The
bleaching can be obtained during the natural aging of the flour or can
be accelerated by chemicals that are usually oxidizing agents which
oxidize the carotenoid pigments to a nearly colorless product.
Buttermilk---The liquid that remains when fat is removed from milk or
cream in the process of churning into butter. Cultured buttermilk is
prepared by souring buttermilk, or more commonly skim milk, with a
suitable culture that produces a desirable taste and aroma.
Yolk---The yellow portion of the egg, representing approximately 35
percent of the edible egg. It is composed of approximately 49 percent
water, 16 percent protein, 32 percent fat, and trace carbohydrate. It is
used as an emulsifier in mayonnaise, salad dressing, and cream puffs. It
is also used as a source of color.
Guar---A gum that is a
galactomannan obtained from the seed kernel of the guar plant Cyamopsis
tetragonoloba. It reacts synergistically with xanthan gum to provide
increased viscosity. It is a versatile thickener and stabilizer used in
ice cream, baked goods, sauces, and beverages.
seasoning that is a mix of garlic powder and salt. It is used in sauces
Gelatin---A protein that functions as a gelling
agent. It is obtained from collagen derived from beef bones and calf
skin or pork skin. It is used in desserts, in yogurt, in canned ham and
in confectionery products. Ana in aspic a meat flavored gelthat is often
served with pate.
Homogenized Milk---Milk that has been
mechanically treated to reduce the size of the fat globules such that
after 48 hours of quiescent storage at about 7°C no visible cream
separation occurs. Homogenization makes the milk more homogeneous but
also decreases the heat stability of the milk proteins. Practically all
whole milk sold in the United States is homogenized.
Vegetable Protein (HVP)---A flavor enhancer obtained from vegetable
proteins such as wheat gluten, corn gluten, defatted soy flour, and
defatted cottonseed. There are two basic types: pale HVP, which
functions as a flavor enhancer with delicate spray flavors used in
cream-type soups and sauces, and poultry; and dark HVP, which functions
as a flavor donor with strong meaty flavors used in stews and broths. It
is used to improve flavors in soups, dressings, meats, snack foods, and
Instantized Flour---A flour made by a milling or
agglomerating which makes it readily pourable, providing convenience.
Invert Sugar---A sweetener that is a mixture of equal weights of
dextrose (glucose) and levulose (fructose). It is more soluble than
sucrose and has higher moisture-retaining properties because of the
fructose content. It resists crystallization. It is used in candy and
icings because it is sweeter, more soluble, and crystallizes less
readily than sucrose.
Lecithin---An emulsifier that is a mixture
of phosphatides which are typically surface-active. It is obtained from
soybeans; previously it was obtained from egg yolk. It is used in
margarine as an emulsifier and antispatter agent; in chocolate
manufacture it controls flow properties by reducing viscosity and
reducing the cocoa butter content from 3 to 5 percent; it is used as a
wetting agent in cocoa powder, fillings, and beverage powders; an
antisticking agent in griddling fat; and in baked goods to assist the
shortening mix with other dough ingredients and to stabilize air cells.
Locust Bean Gum---A gum that is from the locust bean tree. Its
properties include swelling partially in cold water but requiring
heating to approximately 82°C for complete solubility. Its uses include
processed cheese, ice cream, bakery products, soups, and pies. Typical
usage level is 0.1 to 1.0 percent. It is also called carob gum, Saint
John's bread, and is scientifically called carubin.
Add---An acidulant that is the predominant acid in apples. It exists as
white crystalline powder or granules. It is used in soft drinks, dry-mix
beverages, puddings, jellies, and fruit filling. It is used in hard
candies because it has a lower melting point (129°C) than citric acid
which improves the ease of incorporation.
naturally obtained from the cinchona tree. It is used as a bitter
flavoring in beverages such as quinine water, tonic water, and bitter
Phosphoric Acid---It is a strong acid which is soluble in
water. The acid salts are termed phosphates. It is used as a flavoring
acid in cola and root beer beverages to provide desirable acidity and
sourness. It also functions as an acidulant in cheese.
Flour---Flour made from the separation of 40 to 90 percent of that
portion of the grain that can be milled from a wheat blend. There are
long patent, medium patent, short patent, first patent, and fancy patent
Sodium Aluminum Sulfate---A leavening agent that releases
the majority of the gas during baking, and is not used alone but in
combination with a faster-acting leavening agent such as monocalcium
phosphate. This results in a double-acting baking powder. It is used in
Tannic Acid---A sequestrant that refers to a mixture
of hydrolyzable tannins of a more complex structure than gallic acid.
Textured Vegetable Protein---A vegetable protein that is
processed and extruded to form beeflike strips and meatlike nuggets. Soy
protein is the most popular protein source, but other vegetable proteins
include peanut and wheat.
Tartaric Acid---An acidulant that
occurs naturally in grapes. It is used in grape and lime-flavored
beverages and grape-flavored jellies. It is used as an acidulant in
baking powder and as a synergist with antioxidants to prevent rancidity.
Waxy Sorghum---A type of sorghum characterized by having paste
clarity, high water-binding capacity, and resistance to gel formation
and retrogradation. It is used in dressings with other starches.
Whole Milk Solids---The product resulting from the drying or desiccation
of milk. It is used in dry mixes such as puddings. It is also termed
dried milk and milk powder.
Whole Wheat Flour---The flour
obtained by grinding cleaned wheat, other than durum wheat or red durum
wheat, with the proportions of the natural constituents, other than
moisture, remaining unaltered.
Vanilla Extract--A flavorant made
from vanilla bean extract. It is used in desserts, baked goods, and
Vital Wheat Gluten---A powder of high protein content
obtained by drying freshly washed gluten under controlled-temperature
conditions. It absorbs approximately twice its weight of water and
readily forms a cohesive, elastic dough. It is used in bread, rolls, and
buns to give chew.
Xanthan Gum---A gum obtained by microbial
fermentation from the Xanthomonas campestris organism. It reacts
synergistically with guar gum to provide an increase in viscosity and
with carob gum to provide an increase in viscosity or gel formation. It
is used in salad dressings, sauces, desserts, baked goods, and
Xylitol---A sweetener that is a natural sugar
substitute commercially made from the polysaccharide xylan obtained from
birch trees. It is as sweet as sucrose. It has a lower viscosity than
sugar. It is used in chewing gum, throat lozenges, and chocolate.
Yeast Extract---A flavor contributor and flavor enhancer consisting
of a combination of nucleic acids, peptides, polypeptides, amino acids,
and other constituents. It is obtained from the yeast cells of
Saccharo-myces cerevisiae, formed in the brewing of beer. It is used in
soups, gravies, spreads, dressings, and meat products.
Food/Enhancer---A complete food used in doughs. It contains dough
conditioner ingredients such as calcium salts, sulfates, and phosphates
which strengthen the gluten. It also contains ammonium salts and
phosphates which function as yeast nutrients. It is used in bread dough
and in the fermentation of alcoholic beverages.