What’s in your refrigerator? Join the Food Identity Theft Food Label Challenge

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December 6, 2011

Are you trying to clean up your kitchen? No, I don’t mean with a mop or Mr. Clean Magic sponge. I’m talking about purging your pantry of foods containing chemicals and additives you no longer want to consume. Take a good look in the fridge and cupboard, and you may be surprised. Very surprised.

We want you to tell us what you find, and join us in the 2012 Food Identity Theft Food Label Challenge.

The Challenge was inspired by an email I received from one of our Food Identity Theft Facebook friends.

“Our family decided some time ago to not purchase any foods containing HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). We thought we were doing a good job at this so I was more than surprised when we discovered item after item containing HFCS in the fridge and pantry. In fact, just about every single item I packed for my son’s lunch today contained HFCS!”

Our more-then-surprised friend went on to list the following ten items she found harboring high fructose corn syrup including some typical pantry staples:

Yoplait Yogurt
Smucker’s strawberry jelly
Mott’s Apple Sauce
Cool Whip
Kraft Salad Dressing
Grey Poupon Honey Mustard
Heinz Ketchup
Heinz Sweet Relish
Claussen Bread ‘n Butter Chips
Dickinson’s Country Pumpkin Butter

Other common items she didn’t mention in which you will also find this laboratory-created sweetener are various brands of bread, cereal, canned fruit and even frozen meals. (One of the items you won’t find HFCS in, interestingly, is Karo Corn Syrup!)

So what’s in your kitchen that you thought you were avoiding? Tell us at our Facebook page what your surprise findings are, and help us all in turning our kitchens into “No-HFCS Zones”!

Two of the most “popular” chemical additives

Two of the most talked about and unwelcome mealtime chemical additives are also the ones most commonly found in a wide and surprising variety of foods – high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate.

If you’re looking to avoid HFCS, there is no other way then to read the label (not the “nutrition facts” part, but the actual ingredient listings). Of course,  if the Corn Refiners Association got its Christmas Wish fulfilled, even that may not work (more on that in a moment).

Monosodium glutamate is another ingredient that manufacturers know consumers are trying to avoid, so they try to avoid listing it. A sneaky technique to hide this chemical flavor enhancer  is called “clean labeling,”  which works by using other food additives containing free glutamic acid that consumers may not know about or recognize. It then becomes easy enough to fool them by slapping  a “NO MSG” claim on the label!

Foods containing ingredients such as autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed vegetable protein and yeast extract (for a more complete list, go here) all contain free glutamic acid. Even organic food may be part of this deception. An example I found recently is the “squeaky clean” labeled Pacific Natural Foods Organic Free Range Chicken Broth (low sodium), which contains autolyzed yeast. This product features all the magic label words – organic, free-range, gluten free and low sodium, but still contains a dose of free glutamic acid.

So avoiding monosodium glutamate can be tricky due to the sneaky way it’s included in processed foods. But what about HFCS. That’s easy, right? All you have to do is read the label. Well if you’re a reader of this blog you should know by now that the Corn Refiners Association has another plan in mind. For over a year they’ve been spending big bucks trying to hypnotize us into thinking that HFCS is really “corn sugar.” To that end, they’ve petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to make the switch official.

So what happens should Big Corn gets its wish and HFCS starts appearing on everything from cake to mustard disguised as “corn sugar” (or maybe from there it will morph into plain “sugar”)? That’s why it’s really important to let the FDA know what you think about this rebranding scam for HFCS. Send in your opinion to the agency here. It’s hard enough to avoid chemicals in food when you know what you’re looking for, without having to look for it in a false wig and mustache!