Friday, March 5, 2010

Yet Another Reason To Cook From Scratch

According to Associated Press:
A wide range of processed foods — including soups, snack foods, dips and dressings — is being recalled after salmonella was discovered in a flavor-enhancing ingredient.
Food and Drug Administration officials said Thursday that the ingredient, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, is used in thousands of food products, though it was unclear how many of them will be recalled.
And what, you may ask, is hydrolyzed vegetable protein? Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is a food flavor-enhancer whose active component is MSG. Hydrolyzed whey protein and hydrolyzed yeast protein are similar. Click here to see the names of some other food additives that do or may contain MSG.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is added to processed foods as a way of adding MSG without having to put MSG on the ingredient list.

So what's wrong with MSG? It might cause lesions on your hypothalamus and disrupt your endocrine system. (Lots more links.) Then again, it might not.

Are you feeling lucky?

And now, apparently, some batches of hydrolyzed vegetable protein contain salmonella.

The good news is that when you eat at home, you can avoid such problems. Read food labels at the store. If the ingredient list includes anything on this long list, or anything you don't understand, then know that you might be buying MSG. I should warn you that if you do this, you may find yourself eating less processed foods. A lot less.

When you go out to eat, it's trickier.

A few restaurants make their food completely from scratch; at these places, you can ask your server what's in your food, and they should know. Chances are these places don't use MSG or any of its relatives—but if they do, they'll be able to tell you.

By far the majority of restaurants buy buckets of goo of various types from foodservice companies like Sysco. This goo may be called sauce, soup, salad dressing, etc. The servers at these restaurants may be able to tell you if a given dish contains peanuts, eggs, or shellfish, but I doubt you'll get any useful answers about whether there's hydrolyzed yeast protein in the soup that's shipped to them in 55-gallon drums from Texas.

Kinda makes you not want to go to the food court, huh. (Good.)


Marianne Elixir said...

How very disgusting, but I am not surprised in the least. Cooking at home could change the world.

Alex Lewin said...

Agreed--cooking at home is the best, and is by far the most economical...