Ever wondered what ‘nasties’ they put into the processed foods that you and your kids are eating? What do all those chemical names mean? Check out what these mystery ingredients really are and if you ought to be eating them in the first place.
Since I’ve been on a mission to search for good family food that works out cheaper, I’ve come across so many ‘nasties’ that go into processed foods, and I thought it’s about time I put them all together as a kind-of ready reference guide. Keep popping back to this post, as I’ll be adding to it as I continue my real food journey.
Take a look at the ingredients on the next thing you eat and check them out here – you might just change your mind and search out some real food instead!
Lady Choppington’s A-Z of Food ‘Nasties’…
- Acetic acid
Mostly present in vinegar, but did you know it’s also used to make cellulose acetate for the (now seemingly old fashioned) film you use in photography! I found this ingredient in mince pies!
- Allura Red AC, E129
A synthetic orange-red dye. Also known as FD&C Red 40, this dye has been connected with cancer in mice! And yet, it’s freely used as a food colouring in food aimed at children – read more here….
- Ammonium phosphatides
Known as E442, this is used as a stabiliser so that they can get water and and oil to mix together – because you can make a heck of a lot of profit from selling water in your product! I first found this in Easter eggs.
Known as E160b, this is a vegetable dye made from the seed coat of the tropical Annatto tree. It’s used in cereals, yogurts, ice-creams, cheeses, and snack foods. It is the only natural colour that has so far been found to cause many adverse intolerance reactions in people – and that includes IBS. It just proves that ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’.
- Ascorbic Acid
This is vitamin C. They use it to get more air into bread, but all the vitamin C is lost during cooking, even though they sneakily keep it on the ingredients label to make processed bread look a wee bit healthier.
- Beef collagen
I found that this is used for the outer casings on cheap sausages – it’s made from the various connective tissues in animals. Just when you thought sausages were made from pork…
- Beetroot red
E162. A food colouring that makes kids go hyper!
- Bottled water types…
Spring water, Purified drinking water, Naturally sparkling water, Sparkling Water, Mineral water – what a confusing array of water ‘varieties’! Find out what they all mean in my ‘bottled water or tap water‘ post.
A dairy product created by removing the moisture from nonfat milk solids in butter. It’s used because it’s a really economical way of transporting and storing butterfat. Basically, it’s cheaper than using real butter.
E160a. Like all other food colourings – it makes kids go hyper!
- Citric acid
A preservative (yes – they do actually use preservatives in ‘preserves’!). It gives jam a more acidic and sour taste to out-way the excessive sweetness from adding far too much sugar.
- Carmoisine, E122
Also known as Azorubine. A synthetic red dye that can cause allergy and intolerance. Read more about food colour intolerance here…
- Disodium diphosphate
Also known as disodium dihydrogen diphosphate, disodium dihydrogen pryrophosphate and disodium phyrophsophate – phew! Try saying that with a mouthful of mince pie! This chemical is used as a preservative and it bonds well to other chemicals. It’s used to either colour foods or used to prevent discolouration.
- Fish bladder extract, clay, charcoal, oak chippings.
Ok, so you’ll never find these on any ingredients list – but you can be pretty sure they’ve been added to your wine! Read my findings on cheap red wine here…
- Glucose-fructose syrup
You have to be careful with this because in the UK this wording can be used to disguise “high fructose corn syrup” (see below). When it’s not in disguise, this stuff is sugar that’s been broken down into glucose and fructose – making it much sweeter than sugar itself.
- High fructose corn syrup
It’s used because it’s so much cheaper than sugar, and it’s crept into so many of our foods – particularly budget varieties (like baked beans) and it’s something to avoid. (Dr. Stephen W. Ponder , MD, FAAP, CDE gives a great lecture on it on Youtube, and it’s recommended watching.)
- Hydrolysed vegetable protein
– used in pizzas. It’s made by boiling foods such as soy, corn, or wheat in hydrochloric acid and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. The acid breaks down the protein in vegetables into their component amino acids. One of the amino acids in the dark-coloured liquid that’s left is glutamic acid. Consumers are more familiar with glutamic acid in the form of its sodium salt — monosodium glutamate, or MSG – a well known giver of high heart rates and headaches.
- Inverted sugar syrup
I found this in processed teacakes. This is a mixture of glucose and fructose. Inverted sugar is sweeter and its products tend to retain moisture and are less prone to crystallization – yep, the more water that can be retained within a product, the more profit can be made.
A carbohydrate which I found in processed pizzas. Excessive maltodextrin consumption is linked to the suppression of “good bacteria” in the digestive system. This can put people at risk of bacterial infections such as salmonella or E.coli. Maltodextrin will affect your blood sugar levels too.
- Mono- and Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters
An emulsifier primarily used in bread baking to create a strong gluten network in the dough – because processed dough just ain’t good enough without it!
- Mono- and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids
I found this ingredient when I was discovering what was best, butter or margarine. It turns out that it’s a synthetic fat produced from glycerol and natural fatty acids, and can be from either plant or animal origin. It’s no. is E471 and it’s generally a mixture of several products, with a composition similar to partially digested natural fat. – Eww.
- Polyglycerol polyricinoleate
Also known as E476, this is used as an emulsifier to reduce the viscosity of chocolate – mmm.
- Night soil
You won’t find this listed as an ingredient, but it is pretty gross and deserves a mention – it’s treated human sewage used to intensively farm salad.
- Palm Oil
Not a bad oil in itself, but for ethical reasons I’d seriously recommend avoiding it. How do you think they get to the palms? Deforestation. And on top of that, any wild primates they find in their way are shot on the spot, mothers, babies – they don’t care.
This is used as a gelling agent to give jam a firm texture and works a bit like an emulsifier – I suppose it’s to save time cooking it.
- Ponceau 4R, E124
A red synthetic food dye with causes allergies and intolerances in people with aspirin intolerance and those with asthma. Yet, you can find it in food marketed at children! Read more here…
- Potassium sorbate
Basically, a type of salt that’s very soluble in water. It’s used as a food preservative.
- Propane-1, 2-Diol Esters of Fatty Acids
E477 – An emulsifier that can get oil and water to mix together. It aggravates food intolerances and is genetically engineered from soybeans. I first found it in Angel Delight – a food aimed at kids!
- Quinoline yellow, E104
Also known as FD&C Yellow No.10. The disodium salt of disulphonic acid. A synthetic coal tar dye which can cause dermatitis and isn’t recommended for children. Read more here…
- Silicon dioxide
An anti-caking agent. It’s used to prevent clumping and to prevent powdered ingredients from sticking together.
- Sodium caseinate
…or casein, a protein found in milk. Some people are allergic to sodium caseinate, and it has been linked to autism and gastrointestinal problems.
- Sodium citrate
This is used as an acidity regulator, and is a chemical food additive known as sour salt or E331. They use it in jam to stop it tasting far too sweet – because reducing the sugar content would be far too simple, eh?
- Sodium metabisulfite
Also known as sodium pryrosulfite or disodium is a 100% chemical product. It’s a preservative, but did you know that it’s also used as a disinfectant? I found this in mince pies too!
- Soy lecithin
I found this in processed chocolate. It’s also known as E322, and it’s extracted from soybeans either mechanically or chemically using hexane. It’s actually a byproduct of the soybean oil production – where there’s a possible chance the beans could have been genetically modified.
Sugar that’s been dissolved in water before it’s used.
- Sulphur dioxide
A preservative, usually found in dried fruits. It’s a type of sulphite, which is generally OK for most people but, if you have asthma, sulphite sensitivity or sulphite allergy, it’s one to avoid.
- Sunset yellow, E110
Also known as Sunset Yellow, FCF Orange Yellow S, FD&C Yellow 6. A synthetic coal tar dye which has some horrible side effects including hives and runny nose, but it’s also been proven to make kids go hyper. Read more here…
- Sunflower Lecithin
A fatty substance obtained by dehydrating a sunflower seed and separating it into three parts: the oil, gum, and other solids. It’s an emulsifier that endows foods with a creamy, moist, smooth texture. It’s often used in chocolates, faux butters and baked goods.
- Tartrazine, E102
Also known as FD&C yellow No.5. Causes allergic reactions and intolerances to people with an aspirin intolerance and asthmatics. And yet, they put it into kids foods! Read more here…
- Tetrasodium pyrophosphate
Also called sodium pyrophosphate, tetrasodium phosphate or TSPP – it’s a colorless transparent crystalline chemical compound. It’s toxicity is approximately twice that of table salt when ingested orally and it makes kids go bonkers! Keep them well away from it.
- Yoghurt types
Live, Bio, Greek, Set, Whole milk, Low-fat and Long-life – not to mention all of those ‘thick coloured, flavoured milks‘ that pretend to be yogurt – contained in yoghurt-style pots and appearing on the yoghurt aisles! Find out what they all mean in my post on ‘which yoghurt is best?‘ here…
So there you have it. These are the mystery ingredients I’ve found so far on my real food mission. Keep popping back as I keep this list updated…