In yet another example of how product labeling is deliberately misleading (if not outright lying), we learn that many foods - particularly fast foods such as burgers, etc. - now contain wood pulp.
The emulsion-stabilizing, cling-improving, anti-caking substance operates under multiple aliases, ranging from powdered cellulose to cellulose powder to methylcellulose to cellulose gum. The entrance of this non-absorbable fiber into fast food ingredients has been stealthy, yet widespread: The compound can now be found in buns, cheeses, sauces, cakes, shakes, rolls, fries, onion rings, smoothies, meats—basically everything.
The cost effectiveness of this filler has pushed many chains to use progressively less chicken in their “chicken” and cream in their “ice cream.” McDonald’s ranks highest on the list with cellulose integrated into 14 of their menu items including their renowned fish fillets, chicken strips and biscuits, with Burger King ranking second on the list with 13 menu items containing cellulose. Moreover, many cellulose-laden ingredients (such as honey mustard, bbq sauce, and cheese blends) can be found in multiple items throughout the menu making the filler difficult to avoid.
All of these cellulose-based ingredients are non-digestible wood pulp possessing no nutritional value.
There's more at the link.
This illustrates the deceptive nature of advertising. When a fast food chain claims that their burgers contain "100% Angus beef", they're not lying - but they're not telling you that the beef is only one ingredient in the burger. The way most people read that claim is to assume that the burger is made of 100% beef and nothing else. That's not what the claim says. We're being played for suckers.
This infuriates me. I'm sick and tired of advertisers' weasel words, making claims that are deliberately vague and ambiguous, then hiding behind legal definitions of words when called on their misleading claims. They may be factually correct, but they're morally and ethically wrong - at least according to the standards by which I was raised.
The use of 'fillers' such as wood pulp is bad enough, but there's also the problem of outright food fraud. It's extremely widespread, as this 2013 article from ABC News illustrates.
It's what we expect as shoppers—what's in the food will be displayed on the label.
But a new scientific examination by the non-profit food fraud detectives the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), discovered rising numbers of fake ingredients in products from olive oil to spices to fruit juice.
. . .
USP tells ABC News that liquids and ground foods in general are the easiest to tamper with:
Olive oil: often diluted with cheaper oils
Lemon juice: cheapened with water and sugar
Tea: diluted with fillers like lawn grass or fern leaves
Spices: like paprika or saffron adulterated with dangerous food colorings that mimic the colors
Milk, honey, coffee and syrup are also listed by the USP as being highly adulterated products.
Also high on the list: seafood. The number one fake being escolar, an oily fish that can cause stomach problems, being mislabeled as white tuna or albacore, frequently found on sushi menus.
. . .
"There's absolutely a public health risk," said John Spink, associate director for the Anti-Counterfeit and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP) at Michigan State University. "And the key is the people that are unauthorized to handle this product, they are probably not following good manufacturing practices and so there could be contaminates in it."
Again, more at the link - and highly recommended reading.
It's a sad commentary on our society when even the food we buy is suspect . . . just like the 'Nanny State' many expect to regulate such things and protect us from harm. Proof, once again, that our only real protection is in our own alertness to potential hazards - and our willingness to be proactive in dealing with them. Michael Krieger reminds us: "As the cost of food continues to rise, the cost of not paying attention to what you are eating rises exponentially."