Here’s a mental exercise for you. The below list shows a product that may be mismatched with the ingredient that it’s paired with. Your job is to properly match them together.
- Chef Boyardee Beefaroni – Soy Lecithin
- Dannon Creamy Fruit Blends Strawberry Banana – Sodium Hexametaphosphate
- Fig Newtons – Monosodium phosphate
- Kool Aid Unsweetened Pink Lemonade – Maltodextrin
- Kraft Barbeque Sauce – Calcium Lactate
- Mr. Pibb – Guar Gum
- Oreos – Calcium Sulfate
- Oscar Meyer Bacon – Autolyzed Yeast Extract
- Sunny Delight – Sodium Erythorbate
- Wonder bread – Tricalcium phosphate
As always, there’s a point to this, and it’s not to illustrate how silly some chemicals sounds when put in context with a food ingredient list. I think we are mature enough in our knowledge of food to acknowledge that there are many chemical compounds that are perfectly okay to eat, whether they are notated as “xanthum gum” or “seaweed paste”.
The real point here is in the results of the quiz itself. How many of the above ingredients do we know off the top of our head so that when we look at , it sets off a light bulb in our head that goes “Oh yeah, that’s used in foods for controlling discoloration and off-flavor development!” If you are one of those people, I salute you.
My guess is that most folks don’t know the difference between calcium lactate and calcium sulfate (myself included), let alone know the context in which they are used in food. We instead have put our trust in the producers of these products to ensure that there’s no problems in these ingredients. For the most part, that trust is earned. But sometimes I wonder what sort of backlash there would be if people had the resources (in time and inclination) to fully research what’s going into their processed foods.
Just a thought.
But the real point that I think this test illustrates is how much faith we consumers do put into the hands of our producers. We can go to an artisinal cheese maker and generally follow how the cheese is made, and where the ingredients for said cheese comes from, although some discussion of enzymes and rennets may need to occur. I think that processed foods are a bit trickier to explain when it comes to the origins and purposes of each ingredient.
Correct answers below the jump.