The world of food manufacturing is fascinating. Considering most people are intimidated by preparing Thanksgiving dinner for their own family, how does the food industry produce “food” on a mass scale with such consistency in color, texture, smell, and flavor?
The fact is, the industry has many secrets that make all of this possible… and they would rather you never knew! There are tricks that range from weird to disgusting, and ingredients used that are never listed on the labels thanks to some “creative” rule making.
Everywhere you look you are being marketed to with buzzwords and your taste buds tricked with industrial magic. We, the purchasing public, are one big marketing project. How, you ask? Let’s jump right in with #1.
1. You’re Orange Juice Is Closer To Sterile Dishwater Than Freshly Squeezed Juice
Remember when you were a kid? You’d catch a cold and mom would bring you a tall glass of orange juice. Moms always know just what we need. Delicious, freshly squeezed, 100% natural (not from concentrate) orange juice full of Vitamin C and no added sugar. Or was it?
But what if we told you that “freshly squeezed” juice of yours can very well be a year old?
Ever wonder why every carton of natural, healthy, 100 percent, not-from-concentrate orange juice manages to taste exactly the same, yet ever so slightly different depending on the brand, despite containing no additives or preservatives whatsoever?
The process indeed starts with the oranges being squeezed, but that’s the first and last normal step in the process. The juice is then immediately sealed in giant holding tanks and all the oxygen is removed. That allows the liquid to keep without spoiling for up to a year. That’s why they can distribute it year-round, even when oranges aren’t in season.
Unfortunately there is a downside to the process (from the manufacturers’ point of view) — stripping the oxygen also strips all the flavor from the liquid. So, now they’re stuck with vats of extremely vintage watery fruit muck that tastes nothing like oranges. What’s a poor giant soda company to do?
Why, they re-flavor that generic liquid with a carefully constructed mix of chemicals called a flavor pack, which are manufactured by the same fragrance companies that formulate CK One and other perfumes. For real. Then they bottle the orange scented water and sell it to you, sometimes at premium prices.
And, thanks to a loophole in regulations, they often don’t even bother mentioning the flavor pack chemicals in the list of ingredients. Hear that scream coming from the kitchen? That’s the orange juice you bought yesterday. It knows you know.
What To Do About This? The fact is, drinking sugary juices makes you sick and fat. It jacks up your blood sugar and provides none of the benefits of fiber that’s been removed. If you just have to have something orange-like, eat an orange. An. Actual. Orange. (We forgive you mom!)
2. You’ve Been Eating Trees…Like, A Lot
Yep. Wood pulp, aka powdered cellulose. It turns out that cellulose can be used as a filler (so it appears you’re getting more), as a binder, or to provide texture to processed foods, so food companies have taken to happily using it as a replacement for such unnecessary and inconveniently expensive ingredients as flour and oil.
Powdered cellulose is made by cooking raw plant fiber—usually wood—in various chemicals to separate the cellulose, and then purified. Modified versions go through extra processing, such as exposing them to acid to further break down the fiber. Sounds logical, right?
As the 30 percent cheaper cellulose is edible and non-poisonous, the FDA has no interest for restricting its use — or, for that matter, the maximum amount of it that food companies can use in a product. It is pretty much everywhere, and even organic foods are no salvation — after all, cellulose used to be wood and can therefore be called natural, at least to an extent.
What foods could possibly contain trees you ask? Tons of them! Cake mixes, muffins, pancake mix, syrup, ice cream, multiple McDonald’s menu items, biscuits, high fiber cereals, Jimmy Dean products, Sara Lee products, Fiber One bars, shredded cheeses, corn tortillas, dressings, cheese sticks, multiple Jack In The Box menu items, Kraft Mac-n-Cheese, Dole fruit parfaits (?), Sonic, KFC and Wendy’s menu items, Nestle products, etc., etc. This is hardly an exhaustive list and we could go on… but you probably get the point.
Because of its water-absorbing properties, cellulose can act like a fat (according to the food science wizards), so it’s often used in low-fat foods. Since it is, in fact, plant fiber, it’s also used in high fiber foods. But most of all it’s used to make big companies more money.
What To Do About This? Make stuff from scratch. In your own kitchen. With real food.
3. Fake Blueberries – Everywhere
Imagine a steaming hot, moist blueberry muffin.
Even with your freshly gained knowledge that there may or may not be some cellulose in the muffin mix, it’s pretty impossible not to start salivating at the thought. Those giant, moist blueberries, full of nutrition. Everything is better with blueberries, that’s why they’re added to so many things! Or are they?
Studies of products that supposedly contain blueberries indicate that many of them didn’t come from nature. All those chewy and juicy bits of berry are completely artificial, made with different combinations of corn syrup and a little chemist’s set worth of food colorings and other chemicals with a whole bunch of numbers and letters in their names. This is actually pretty common, and those scientists are good, making it difficult to tell the difference.
There are a number of major differences between the real thing and the Abomination Blueberry: The fake blueberries have the advantages of a longer shelf life and, of course, are much cheaper to produce. But they have absolutely none of the health benefits and nutrients of the real thing. This, of course, doesn’t stop the manufacturers from riding the Blueberry Health Train all the way to the bank, sticking pictures of fresh berries all over the product packaging giving you visions of nature at it’s best.
At least the law requires them to list the artificial ingredients, but they still get around this by adding those fresh blueberry pictures to the boxes suggesting that’s what you’re getting without having to claim it. (Kellogg’s is guilty of this.) Betty Crocker products often add some blueberries so they can boast natural flavors while substituting most of them for artificial ones.
Then there’s those that just out and out lie, like General Mills’ Total Blueberry Pomegranate cereal. The whole selling point of the product is that it contains a bucket load of blueberries and pomegranates, and the package is covered with all the buzzwords the marketing department has been able to dream up. In reality, not only are those blueberries fakes… but the pomegranates are fake as well!
What To Do About This? Again, make your treats at home, and buy blueberries. Organic, fresh & delicious blueberries.
4. Sugar Purified By… Bone Char?
Really, you read that right. Bone char. From Cows.
You see, sugar isn’t naturally white. Because the brownish color is less desirable, the sugar companies use a filtering process to strip it of its color. In some cases, the process is a typically boring one, using ions and such. But sugar derived from sugar cane (about a quarter of the sugar in the United States) goes through a … different process.
Domino, the largest sugar producer in America, uses bone char to filter impurities from its sugar. Bone char is delightfully produced using the bones of cows from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan that have died from “natural causes,” like when cows forget to strap on their seat belt while driving their trucks.
They bleach the bones in the sun and then sell them to marketers who then sell them to the US sugar industry after they’ve been used by the gelatin industry. What the gelatin industry does with the bones, we don’t want to know. The bones are then heated to the point that they become a perfect means of filtering sugar.
We aren’t sure by what alchemy this method purifies the sugar, we’re certainly no scientists. But when you tell us that your purification method involves the ground-up bones of a sacrificed animal, well, we’re just going to assume Satan is involved.
What To Do About This? Stop eating refined sugar. For good.
5. There’s A Hair In Your Soup. No really.
Let’s face it, most of us go out of our way to avoid hair in our food, right? But what if you were eat it, and had no clue?
Manufacturers of bread products as well as manufacturers of flavorings have a sweet little secret that they’d rather you not know about, the use of L-cysteine, aka E920. This non-essential amino acid is added to many baked goods as a dough conditioner in order to speed industrial processing. It’s usually not added directly to flour intended for home use, but you’ll find it throughout commercial breads such as pizza dough, bread rolls and pastries. It’s also used in the process of making flavor enhancers, which narrows it’s use down to, well, almost anything.
An amino acid sounds pretty innocuous, I wonder where they get it? (If you have a weak stomach, stop reading now.)
Well, that depends. If the company purchasing this material for their production is in the mode of saving money, it’s almost guaranteed it is sourced from either human hair (except in the EU, which has now banned this process), hog hair, or feathers — all typically from China.
Yep. Hair. Some sources say a large majority is from hog hair. However, they admit that there is much larger yield when using human hair (insert nausea here) and it’s cheaper to process, therefore a larger profit. Many people in China support their family via the collection of human hair from barber shops. After sorting through it to remove trash and tangles, and separating the longer and shorter strands, it is picked up by the factory for processing.
If the company purchasing this ingredient prefers to spend a little more on their materials (because they’re in the business to ease your concerns, and the money doesn’t matter to them), they’ll buy synthetic. The synthetic route involves fermentation using a mutant of E. coli. Unfortunately, only 10% of L-cysteine used is sourced synthetically.
Because food manufacturing is such a secretive industry (you can probably guess why) you will likely never know the source of the L-cysteine in your food. Maybe you want to continue taking the chance that you are only eating fermented mutant E. coli goop instead of hair off the floor of a barber shop (or wiry hairs from a hog), but I believe I’ll just… not.
What Can You Do About It? Either continue to gamble and stick your head in the sand, or stop eating industrial made food. Eat homemade, from-scratch foods made with whole, real ingredients.
P.S. To learn more about eating wheat-free (for obvious reasons mentioned above) and how to make delicious & healthy substitutes, sign up for our newsletter!
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