I like condiments. Sauces, dips, drizzles and sprinkles. Having the right agent for the right dish. Mushroom risotto is just that much more superb with a sprinkling of freshly grated Aged Parmesan. Toasted sourdough bread practically begs for a luscious and moisturizing spread of mayo. Given my affection for accoutrements (one of my favorite words as long as it’s pronounced with a French accent and optional grandiose hand gesture), it shouldn’t really come as surprise that I might have tempura sauce for, you guessed it, tempura. What sucks, though, is when you look at that Kikkoman bottle that’s been in your fridge (for, dare I say…years?) and take a glance at the ingredient label:

Ingredients: naturally brewed soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt), sugar, water, salt, vinegar, bonito extract (fish), natural flavoring, monosodium glutamate, caramel color, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, succinic acid, sodium benzoate. 

I’m not even going to start a dialogue about the possible issues of soy at this juncture, but rather stick with the other goodness that blesses this dipping agent.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – This oldie but goodie just won’t go away. If you are wondering why your asthma is suddenly flaring up or what the deal is with your headache and heart palpitations, this flavor enhancer could be to blame.

Caramel Color – The type of caramel color generally used for soy sauce type products is prepared with heat and ammonium compounds (Caramel III). In February 2011 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to bar the use of caramel colorings produced with ammonia  due to the formation of two known carcinogens (2-Methylimidazole & 4-Methylimidazole). Great, now my “sauce” is going to give me cancer. At a minimum,  caramel coloring produced with ammonia needs to be labeled differently so consumers will know which type of caramel coloring was used.

Sodium Benzoate – This extremely popular preservative may also exacerbate asthma and in animal studies there are reports of liver and kidney issues. It has also been linked to hyperactivity.

Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate – On their own, these two additives are somewhat benign. They are not doing you any favors, but probably not going to kill you. However, I bring them up because they are virtually exclusively used in conjunction with MSG. If you see these two culprits, put the object back on the shelf and walk away.

Clearly this tempura dipping sauce is not something any self-respecting, co-founder of a food additive database website should have anywhere near her fridge. Yet, it was. I consider myself on notice. Check your refrigerators, especially those condiment containers that seem to last forever) and pantries for gems like these. Then, take great pride in chucking them. This is 2012 my friends and it is time to make the commitment to ditching the pseudo food.