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Sunday, March 07, 2010

there is no defence for this food

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So, I've been a really, really crappy blogger lately. And I apologize for that.

However, I certainly haven't been idle in terms of food and eating....and especially in terms of reading. It seems to becoming de rigueur these days to read up on food and condemn factory farming practices and supply chain conglomeration and all those things.

So being the diligent little foodie that I am, I've been doing these things. I've read books (The End of Overeating by Dr. David. A. Kessler, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer). I've watched movies (King Corn, Food Inc.). I've read articles (from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, from various other news outlets).

I've been horrified, grossed out, temporarily name it.

But it's honestly hard to grasp just how ridiculous and fragile the North American food supply is. I mean, yes, we've all heard about recalls of ground beef, spinach, lunch meats and all that stuff. But that seems pretty straightforward.

But then you look at the current recall on hydrolyzed vegetable protein. And your first reaction is hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and have I eaten it?

To answer the first, HVP (which sounds like a disease, if you ask me) is made by boiling cereals or legumes [like soy, corn or wheat] in hydrochloric [wha?????] acid, and then neutralizing it with sodium hydroxide.

To answer the second, yes, you've probably eaten it.

So.....we are boiling stuff we don't need in a highly corrosive solution and then making it palatable with a caustic metal base.

This totally sounds like something I'd want to eat. You?

Anyway, the resulting HVP is used as a flavour enhancer in processed food. So it's used in things like soup, sauces, chili, stew, hot dogs, gravy, snacks, dips and dressings. And sometimes it's blended with spices to make seasonings. A quick investigation into my own pantry found me four products containing HVP - a salad topping mix, a soup, a burger seasoning mix and a peppercorn sauce. These items are full of sodium and other chemicals and probably had no business entering my house in the first place.

So I've tossed them.

Anyway, what I find interesting about this particular food recall is that it really shows how incredibly fragile the processed food supply is. So you have this one company in Nevada that makes this nasty stuff.

And then they sell it to all kinds of food manufacturers (lots of brands and varieties) that make even more nasty stuff.

And those manufacturers sell to grocery stores all across the continent.

And we buy this crap, mix it with another ingredient or two, and feel like we're actually cooking something.

And so basically anyone in the ENTIRE CONTINENT who has purchased processed food since September 2009 needs to have a good go-through of their cupboard and fridge contents.

All because of one small company in Nevada.

And how many other small companies might there be out there helping to pump our foods with chemicals and "enhancers" that we simply don't need?

I'm just looking at the label of my instant leek soup....on the ingredient list, I see corn starch (okay), wheat flour (okay), modified milk ingredients (hmmm), onion powder (okay...), dried vegetables [potatoes and leeks], corn syrup solids [wtf did they do to it to make it solid?], salt, monosodium glutamate [blech], canola oil, hydrolyzed corn protein [HVP!!!!!], guar gum (huh?), natural flavour (awesome....what is it?), spice, natural colour and sulphites.

Ummm....that doesn't sound like potato leek soup to me. To me, potato leek soup is leeks, potatoes, broth and maybe some cream. And it's not very hard to make.

What this potato leek soup is, is actually a conglomeration of chemicals from a conglomeration of companies that food scientists have discovered tastes a lot like potato leek soup. And it tastes a lot like the potato leek soup that most people want to eat.

And this totally reminds me of a recent experience at work. A while back, we had a chili cook-off. There were ten entries (including mine) and they ran the gamut - there were spicy entries, mild ones, wildly varying ingredients. But when voting time came, there was one particular entry that won by a landslide (it had 10 votes, and the next closest had 3).

And it wasn't my chili, hehe.

It was actually canned chili. I'm happy to say that *I* didn't vote for it....I found it lacking in texture, with a bit of a dog food smell.

But most people DID vote for it (over half!). It was processed, hyper-palatable food that a team of food scientists has spent months perfecting and testing. I.e., it was a representation of what most people felt an ideal chili should taste like.

You can't win against that.

And anyway...I guess this big long entry goes to's time that we cut the chemicals out of our food and start eating tasty, healthy home-made food that isn't going from the chem lab to our tables.

More on this later....thanks for being patient, and now that I'm well and thoroughly riled, hopefully you'll see some more entries from me....

I'd love to hear your comments and insights....

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