Composite by Jane Bruce
Have you ever looked at your favorite snack and wondered just what some of those mystery ingredients are? Everyone has been curious at some point as to what keeps a Twinkie fresh through nuclear fallout, why eating MSG might give you a headache, or what exactly is Yellow #5? With food allergies and sensitivities on the rise, awareness about what is added to food is more important than ever.
Additives can manipulate foods in so many different ways — thickening, thinning, preventing clumps, enhancing flavor, adding sweetness, bitterness, or tartness… the list goes on. Not all additives are synthetic, either; in fact, many are derived from natural sources, including fungi, bacteria, animal by-products, and mold. Delicious! Obviously that information makes consumers want to run out and analyze all of their food labels, just to see what they’ve truly been enjoying.
Many additives are also found in snacks commonly regarded as healthy, such as trail mix, granola bars, yogurt, and low-fat crackers. These are mostly preservatives, flavor enhancers, or products to change textures, but it just goes to show that reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists are musts if you want to know what you are really eating.
Sometimes it’s not even possible to tell what you’re eating by reading the label. Turns out castoreum, a by-product of beavers (yes, the animal), is generally listed under the umbrella of “natural flavors,” and is supposedly used as a sweetener in some raspberry flavored candies. Which begs the question: What is wrong with raspberries, exactly? Maybe that’s a different article entirely.