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Aye Yai Yai

I'm not going to eat that!

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Oh gosh; this stuff might be in my food, is it all bad?

Some people are concerned about what they eat and read the ingredient labels; some don't. Many years ago my mother banned my brother and I from eating frozen TV dinners that we would buy ourselves, just because that was what our friends were eating at home. Gosh, I remember going to a friend's house once for dinner and the mother served TV dinners as the meal. That was it, no salad, just the frozen dinner and Wonder Bread!

I was very lucky to have a mother and father who cooked well, who after coming home from work, took the time to prepare a great European style meal. Yes with salad, albeit with iceberg, cucumbers and most often carrots. No chemical additives in our house, it was mostly farm fresh or home canned.

Then there was the book written by Rachel Carlson---"Silent Spring". That really made one think. Were we slipping into a world of slime? Talk about organic and/or farm to table these days and my farmer grandfather is rolling over in his grave. Everything in the 20's, 30's and 40's was organic and really farm to table. His farm supplied eggs; milk, vegetables and other nutritious foods to his neighbors in West Taghkanic NY back them and even to stores in Hudson, especially his eggs. His land wasn't treated with pesticides; the food was pure and wholesome. What was picked or harvested that day was what you ate at night or at least in a day or two, it didn't sit around long enough to spoil. He did preserve meat with salt, nitrites and smoke though. His farm was so rural that it didn't have electricity until the mid-30's, althought they had ice from the river for refrigeration year round. He buried it in an ice house underground in bales of hay. He was able to butcher beef, pork and poultry and keep it well chilled until he was able to sell it. And be sure that no preservatives were used nor was anything irradiated...all natural and fresh! All sold or eaten, and the cycle started again with nothing wasted or old and spoiling.

You see that is part of my concern today. Food is made to last and last; on a shelf, in cans or in the freezer. Hundreds of chemical additives are added to our food to do this, it's just become acceptable. A little of this and a little of that and the result is that it is shelf stable. Sodium metabisulfite, a food preservative, is used in just about every commercially sold food product in the grocery store today. Is it good for you, no---but it's widely used to keep food from spoiling. And that is why my mom banned frozen TV dinners!

Swanson Fried Chicken Frozen Dinner
There are hundreds or more additives that are used that you might not know about. What do they do, what are they added to and why? Read on and become aware, if you already aren't of what the food industry is putting in our food and then judge for yourself whether or not you want to eat them. Something crazy about me is that I knowingly won't eat foods with garlic or onion powder in then. I was about to buy a frozen pizza of a very well known national brand for a quick lunch recently. I read the ingredients and said "not for me" and put it back in the freezer case, then went home and had a homemade salad cut and picked from real fresh lettuces.

I don't want to condemn any particular brand that produces frozen convenience foods. This is just a simple sample of very popular items that you will find in your grocers' freezer. Also bear in mind that most fast food outlets season their foods as well, many do so to slow down food spoilage and to enhance taste. Did you know that chicken nuggets are made of chopped chicken breast with the addition of seasonings, salt and even cellulose fiber---yum! Even the cooked diced chicken you bought to save time in making your Cobb salad has preservative in it! You have to look high and low for shrimp to be all natural with no sodium metabisulfate, a preservative. But so many eat such foods every day, knowing the ingredients---but certainly not me! Consumers are partially to blame for the proliferation of such products---if we didn't buy items like this then they wouldn't be made and marketed. That flavored corn chip you saw advertised on the Super Bowl would disappear off the shelves if so many didn't rush out to try a bag, boosting sales and adding to the perceived popularity of it. It's a billion dollar industry with a lot of marketing money invested in packaging, yet so little invested in food without additives!

Hungry-Man Fried ChickenNutrition Facts as listed for this frozen dinner---and just look at the salt, Wow that's more than a 1/2 day's FDA suggested intake! Plus the calories and I'd bet even more people add butter and more salt to it at the table!

Serving Size 1.0 package
Servings Per Container
Amount Per Serving
Calories 600 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 46%
Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Cholesterol 80mg 27%
Sodium 1240mg 52%
Total Carbohydrate 56g 19%
Dietary Fiber 20%
Sugars 15g
Protein 27g
Vitamin A 20%
Vitamin C 30%
Calcium 15%
Iron 15%

Ingredients: Seasoned Fried Chicken Patty Strips (Ground Chicken, Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid as preservatives, Bread Crumbs [Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Salt], Salt, Soy Protein Concentrate, Isolated Oat Product, Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Spice Extract), Mashed Potatoes (Water, Reconstituted Potatoes [Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Citric Acid], Heavy Cream, Butter [Cream, Salt], Salt, Margarine [Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid as preservatives, Water, Mono and Diglycerides (BHT, Citric Acid), Beta Carotene for Color (Corn Oil, Tocopherol), Vitamin A Palmitate], Potato Flavor [Potatoes, Water, Buttermilk, Butter Oil, Salt, Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Calcium Chloride, Tocopherol, Enzyme]), Mixed Vegetables (Corn, Carrots, Peas, Cut Green Beans), Apple Dessert (Water, Sugar, Rehydrated Apples, Modified Food Starch, Dehydrated Apples [Calcium Stearate], Natural and Artificial Vanilla Flavor [Water, Propylene Glycol, Ethanol, Caramel Color], Spice, Citric Acid, Salt, Dried Egg Yolks), Sauce (Water, Sugar, Margarine [Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Whey, Soy Lecithin, Mono and Diglycerides, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin A Palmitate], Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid as preservatives). Contains 2% or less of: Margarine (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid as preservatives, Water, Mono and Diglycerides [BHT, Citric Acid], Beta Carotene for Color [Corn Oil, Tocopherol], Vitamin A Palmitate).

I know that this and other frozen dinners are the mainstay of many a dinner table, but I can tell you not on mine! So I ask you, do you really need to eat food like this?

There is still hope for you too---learn to cook and avoid ingredients that contain them. Eat foods with less sodium too, eat foods in season and reduce consumption of frozen convenience foods. Yes mom!

Here is a list to look at---It's broken in two, ones that are probably okay like guar gum, tannin, Lecithin and Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, and the others that might be questionable such as---Allyl Isovalerate, FD&C Blue #2, Isoamyl Butyrate and Rum Ether?

Addophilus---A bacterial starter culture used to develop flavor in dry sausage, bologna, and salami. It is used in the production of acidophilus milk.

Aluminum Ammonium Sulfate---A general purpose food additive that functions as a buffer and neutralizing agent. It is used in baking powders.

All-Purpose Flour---A flour that is intermediate between long-patent flours (bread flour) containing more than 10.5 percent protein and 0.40 to 0.50 percent ash and short-patent flours (cake flour) which generally contain less than 10 percent protein and less than 0.40 percent ash. It is made from hard or soft wheat and is used in baking and in gravies.

Allspice---A spice made from the dried, nearly ripe berries of Pimenta officinalis, a tropical evergreen tree. It has an aroma and flavor resembling that of a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. A spice of Jamaican origin. It is used in fruit pies, cakes, mincemeat, plum pudding, soups, and sauces.

Agar---A gum obtained from red seaweeds of the genera Gelidium, Gracilaria, and Eucheuma, class Rhodophyceae. It is soluble in boiling water forming a gel upon cooling. Agar mainly functions in gel formation because of its range between melting and setting temperatures, being used in piping gels, glazes, icings, dental impression material and ice cream.

Arabic---A gum obtained from breaks or wounds in the bark of Acacia trees. The solubility in water increases with temperature. It is used in confectionary glazes to retard or prevent sugar crystallization and acts as an emulsifier to prevent fat from forming an oxidizable, greasy film.

Beet Extract---A natural red colorant obtained from beets that is of very good water solubility and has fair pH stability, poor heat stability, and good light stability. It is available in concentrate and powder form and is used in yogurt, beverages, candies, and desserts.

Benzoic Acid---A preservative that occurs naturally in some foods such as cranberries, prunes, and cinnamon. It is used in acid foods such as carbonated beverages and fruit juice.

Bleached Flour---A flour that has been whitened by the removal of the yellow pigment. The bleaching can be obtained during the natural aging of the flour or can be accelerated by chemicals that are usually oxidizing agents which oxidize the carotenoid pigments to a nearly colorless product.

Buttermilk---The liquid that remains when fat is removed from milk or cream in the process of churning into butter. Cultured buttermilk is prepared by souring buttermilk, or more commonly skim milk, with a suitable culture that produces a desirable taste and aroma.

Egg Yolk---The yellow portion of the egg, representing approximately 35 percent of the edible egg. It is composed of approximately 49 percent water, 16 percent protein, 32 percent fat, and trace carbohydrate. It is used as an emulsifier in mayonnaise, salad dressing, and cream puffs. It is also used as a source of color.

Guar---A gum that is a galactomannan obtained from the seed kernel of the guar plant Cyamopsis tetragonoloba. It reacts synergistically with xanthan gum to provide increased viscosity. It is a versatile thickener and stabilizer used in ice cream, baked goods, sauces, and beverages.

Garlic Salt---A seasoning that is a mix of garlic powder and salt. It is used in sauces and breads.

Gelatin---A protein that functions as a gelling agent. It is obtained from collagen derived from beef bones and calf skin or pork skin. It is used in desserts, in yogurt, in canned ham and in confectionery products. Ana in aspic a meat flavored gelthat is often served with pate.

Homogenized Milk---Milk that has been mechanically treated to reduce the size of the fat globules such that after 48 hours of quiescent storage at about 7°C no visible cream separation occurs. Homogenization makes the milk more homogeneous but also decreases the heat stability of the milk proteins. Practically all whole milk sold in the United States is homogenized.

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)---A flavor enhancer obtained from vegetable proteins such as wheat gluten, corn gluten, defatted soy flour, and defatted cottonseed. There are two basic types: pale HVP, which functions as a flavor enhancer with delicate spray flavors used in cream-type soups and sauces, and poultry; and dark HVP, which functions as a flavor donor with strong meaty flavors used in stews and broths. It is used to improve flavors in soups, dressings, meats, snack foods, and crackers.

Instantized Flour---A flour made by a milling or agglomerating which makes it readily pourable, providing convenience.

Invert Sugar---A sweetener that is a mixture of equal weights of dextrose (glucose) and levulose (fructose). It is more soluble than sucrose and has higher moisture-retaining properties because of the fructose content. It resists crystallization. It is used in candy and icings because it is sweeter, more soluble, and crystallizes less readily than sucrose.

Lecithin---An emulsifier that is a mixture of phosphatides which are typically surface-active. It is obtained from soybeans; previously it was obtained from egg yolk. It is used in margarine as an emulsifier and antispatter agent; in chocolate manufacture it controls flow properties by reducing viscosity and reducing the cocoa butter content from 3 to 5 percent; it is used as a wetting agent in cocoa powder, fillings, and beverage powders; an antisticking agent in griddling fat; and in baked goods to assist the shortening mix with other dough ingredients and to stabilize air cells.

Locust Bean Gum---A gum that is from the locust bean tree. Its properties include swelling partially in cold water but requiring heating to approximately 82°C for complete solubility. Its uses include processed cheese, ice cream, bakery products, soups, and pies. Typical usage level is 0.1 to 1.0 percent. It is also called carob gum, Saint John's bread, and is scientifically called carubin.

Malic Add---An acidulant that is the predominant acid in apples. It exists as white crystalline powder or granules. It is used in soft drinks, dry-mix beverages, puddings, jellies, and fruit filling. It is used in hard candies because it has a lower melting point (129°C) than citric acid which improves the ease of incorporation.

Quinine---A flavorant naturally obtained from the cinchona tree. It is used as a bitter flavoring in beverages such as quinine water, tonic water, and bitter lemon.

Phosphoric Acid---It is a strong acid which is soluble in water. The acid salts are termed phosphates. It is used as a flavoring acid in cola and root beer beverages to provide desirable acidity and sourness. It also functions as an acidulant in cheese.

Patent Flour---Flour made from the separation of 40 to 90 percent of that portion of the grain that can be milled from a wheat blend. There are long patent, medium patent, short patent, first patent, and fancy patent flours.

Sodium Aluminum Sulfate---A leavening agent that releases the majority of the gas during baking, and is not used alone but in combination with a faster-acting leavening agent such as monocalcium phosphate. This results in a double-acting baking powder. It is used in baked goods.

Tannic Acid---A sequestrant that refers to a mixture of hydrolyzable tannins of a more complex structure than gallic acid.

Textured Vegetable Protein---A vegetable protein that is processed and extruded to form beeflike strips and meatlike nuggets. Soy protein is the most popular protein source, but other vegetable proteins include peanut and wheat.

Tartaric Acid---An acidulant that occurs naturally in grapes. It is used in grape and lime-flavored beverages and grape-flavored jellies. It is used as an acidulant in baking powder and as a synergist with antioxidants to prevent rancidity.

Waxy Sorghum---A type of sorghum characterized by having paste clarity, high water-binding capacity, and resistance to gel formation and retrogradation. It is used in dressings with other starches.

Whole Milk Solids---The product resulting from the drying or desiccation of milk. It is used in dry mixes such as puddings. It is also termed dried milk and milk powder.

Whole Wheat Flour---The flour obtained by grinding cleaned wheat, other than durum wheat or red durum wheat, with the proportions of the natural constituents, other than moisture, remaining unaltered.

Vanilla Extract--A flavorant made from vanilla bean extract. It is used in desserts, baked goods, and beverages.

Vital Wheat Gluten---A powder of high protein content obtained by drying freshly washed gluten under controlled-temperature conditions. It absorbs approximately twice its weight of water and readily forms a cohesive, elastic dough. It is used in bread, rolls, and buns to give chew.

Xanthan Gum---A gum obtained by microbial fermentation from the Xanthomonas campestris organism. It reacts synergistically with guar gum to provide an increase in viscosity and with carob gum to provide an increase in viscosity or gel formation. It is used in salad dressings, sauces, desserts, baked goods, and beverages.

Xylitol---A sweetener that is a natural sugar substitute commercially made from the polysaccharide xylan obtained from birch trees. It is as sweet as sucrose. It has a lower viscosity than sugar. It is used in chewing gum, throat lozenges, and chocolate.

Yeast Extract---A flavor contributor and flavor enhancer consisting of a combination of nucleic acids, peptides, polypeptides, amino acids, and other constituents. It is obtained from the yeast cells of Saccharo-myces cerevisiae, formed in the brewing of beer. It is used in soups, gravies, spreads, dressings, and meat products.

Yeast Food/Enhancer---A complete food used in doughs. It contains dough conditioner ingredients such as calcium salts, sulfates, and phosphates which strengthen the gluten. It also contains ammonium salts and phosphates which function as yeast nutrients. It is used in bread dough and in the fermentation of alcoholic beverages.