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Archive for February, 2011

Image: theimpulsivebuy via flickr

McDonald’s is making headlines again, this time for their Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. In Mark Bittman’s New York Times Opinionator article, How to Make Oatmeal…Wrong, he lambastes McDonald’s  for turning their oatmeal into “expensive junk food.”

So why is McDonald’s oatmeal so unhealthy? It starts with the fact that their new “bowl full of wholesome” contains 21 ingredients or as Bittman says,

“A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

So what is actually in the oatmeal? McDonald’s first ingredient list shows: Oatmeal, Diced Apples, Cranberry Raisin Blend, Light Cream. Wow, only 5 easy-to-understand and simple ingredients; sounds good, right? But then as you look down the page a bit you realize that each of those ingredients have sub-ingredients:
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Ingredient Spotlight: Xylitol

This Ingredient Spotlight is a regular feature from Be Food Smart. Check back regularly to see new ingredients.

Xylitol

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via Flickr: jkivinenUses:

Sweetener, Humectant

Description:

A naturally occurring sweetener found in fruit such as berries and corn husks. Can be extracted from corn fibers, but typically made from birch wood or waste products from the pulp industry.

Additional Information:

Commonly used in food products that stay in mouth for an extended period such as mints and gum. It does not ferment in the mouth and has been reported to reduce tooth decay. May also be effective in preventing ear infections. Toxic in small amounts to dogs.

Found In:

chewing gum, mints, candy, cough drops, jams, jellies, low-calorie food, food specifically marketed towards diabetics

Possible Health Effects:

In high amounts can cause diarrhea, …read more on Xylitol

Related Ingredients: Gum Arabic, Guaiac Gum

Copyright August 8, 2010 Be Food Smart

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Be Food Smart was created to educate and inform the public about what’s really in the foods we eat every day. The site has a huge database of food additives, chemicals, food colorings, sweeteners, and preservatives and allows one to search for over 400 ingredient names. Our unique ingredient reports contain simple and easy to understand descriptions, alternate names, possible health effects, and allergy information. The site is completely free and is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, health care professionals, dietitians, and concerned consumers.

Image: jkivinen

Image: Vinni/Flickr

Yesterday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) formally petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to change legislation on a very popular additive, caramel coloring. Specifically, CSPI requested that the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for caramel coloring produced with ammonia be revoked:

“…request the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to revoke sections 21 CFR 73.85 and 21 CFR 182.1235 (generally recognized as safe or ‘GRAS’ regulation),… which authorize the use in foods of caramel colorings that are produced by means of an ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process and contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, both of which are carcinogenic in animal studies.”

This includes Caramel Coloring III (used in soy sauce, gravy, beer) and Caramel Coloring IV (used in beverages and colas), both of which are produced with ammonia. In the petition, CSPI indicates that reactions occur when carbohydrates and ammonia are used to produce caramel coloring and form by-products including 2- and 4-methylimidazole (“2-MI” and “4-MI” or “4-MEI”).  This chemical pair have been shown carcinogenic in animal studies. One interesting point that CSPI makes is that caramel coloring in soft drinks are typically used to make the soda its customary brown color. This is purely cosmetic and could be substituted with something else or omitted from drinks such as Coke and Pepsi without sacrificing much taste.

The CSPI petition also requested that the FDA change the names which are permitted for these types of caramel coloring and not allow caramel coloring in products which are labeled “natural,” due to the highly processed and chemical nature of these additives.

“… the FDA immediately should change the name ‘caramel coloring’ to ‘chemically modified caramel coloring’ or ‘ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring’ …and should not allow products to be labeled ‘natural’ if they contained any type of caramel coloring.”

To read the full petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest which includes references, click here.

This information is very relevant to today’s shopper since caramel coloring is found in thousands of foods INCLUDING so called health food.  Start paying attention to this additive as you study your ingredient labels. To read a full report on the different types of caramel coloring, other possible health effects and allergy information, click here.

Sources:
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Image: Vinni via Flickr

Truck Farm Movie Trailer

Filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis (of King Corn fame) are working on this new documentary, TRUCK FARM. This teaser was shown at the recent TEDx Manhattan conference on sustainable food. Check out this 2 minute trailer, with music, to see how they get started. What a fun and innovative concept!

The film will use the story of their mobile farm as they kick off to a much larger story about urban agriculture, determined young farmers, and the challenge of growing food when you ain’t got any land.

- Wicked Delicate Films, description of Truck Farm

Music by: The Fisherman Three
Film by: Wicked Delicate

Help support Be Food Smart by purchasing any of these Amazon products.

Would you give a year of your life to serve the greater good? No, we’re not talking about the Peace Corps, this is the FoodCorps. Modeled after the Peace Corps, this program is looking for new recruits to “plant school gardens, teach kids about healthy food, and change what’s for lunch.” FoodCorps members are asked to commit to a year of service and will receive a yearly stipend (I’m not sure how much), help with student loans, health insurance, and career mentoring. In return, “you get to grow healthy food, grow your career and grow your community.” It sounds like an amazing opportunity for our young people to engage in, especially considering the tough economy right now. Please share with anyone who you think may be interested.

This video is a commercial for FoodCorps. It was shown at the 2011 Edible Institute food conference in Santa Barbara where I had the pleasure of attending. The very passionate and talented Debra Eschmeyer was a panelist at the event and is the co-founder Food Corps. The program is launching in selected cities initially and will go nationwide by the end of 2011.

About 5 years ago, my hubby and I got serious about religiously shopping with our canvas bags. We’d get home, unpack the groceries and still be left with 5-7 plastic bags. Why you ask? Two words: fresh produce.

Virtually everywhere you can shop, be it the grocery store, mega-store, CSA, or farmer’s market, provides plastic produce bags or houses their fresh fare in plastic containers, plastic baskets, or plastic mesh. The plastic bags serve several purposes: (1) provides a vestibule for you to place your lettuce in (2) prevents oranges from rolling around your shopping cart or basket (3) allows the cashier to visually identify your apples and differentiate between the Pink Lady and the Gala (4) contains your peppers in a “weightless” material so they are easily and accurately weighed or counted.

A standard trip to our farmer’s market reveals an interesting irony. Almost everyone carries reusable shopping bags, handmade African baskets, or is pushing some sort of cart, but they all contain a mass of plastic bags with their individual purchases. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
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DAY TWO

I can’t believe I’ve written this much and I haven’t even covered the second day of the conference. I’m thinking I may need a professional editor to reel me in! If you’re already lost, don’t fret. This is the third installment of my experience at the Edible Institute food conference in Santa Barbara. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

New Booze and Other Stuff

After a quick shower and dolly playtime with my 3-year old, I was ready for Sunday, aka, Day 2. I arrived at the hotel in time for a colorful array of sliced fruit, a mug of Tazo Earl Grey tea, and conversation with Edible Ohio’s trio-sister publishing team. The first panel represented High-Quality, Artisanal Products and Their Role in the Local Food World featuring the very young (I’m guessing mid-thirties?) Master Distiller of St-Germain, Robert Cooper.  If you’ve been following my journey, you may remember me savoring a special cocktail at lunch. Cooper and his wife were handshaking St-Germain cocktails for all the attendees and even let me keep the awesome silver monogrammed, straw/stirrer/swizzle stick (okay, I might have taken 3 because they were so chic). Pretty sweet that the owner of this exceptionally unique liquor was not too cool to stand behind the bar and get dirty. 
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