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Friday, November 05, 2004

A Must Buy!

Okay, don't laugh now but this book virtually jumped into my basket! If it's true that we are what we eat, one thing is clear -- you'd better either stop eating or avoid this book at all costs. Since this is the sixth edition of this work (first published in 1978), I don't know how it's possible that I don't already have an earlier edition of this book but I can tell you that I will definitely get my money's worth (a mere $16.95) out of this one.

A Consumer Dictionary of Food Additives (Three Rivers Press, 2004) by Ruth Winter is the kind of book I just love -- it's good for you and if you're at all interested in the subject matter, you'll definitely find yourself constantly referring to it. So, all right, let's take it out for a little test drive. Every morning I start the day with one of life's great foods -- Cheerios! Hey, they've gotta be better than Jimmy Dean's Pork Sausages, right? Either these General Mills people have got to be really bold or they've got the real thing here. The box of Cheerios has a bowl on it shaped like a heart which of course is a healthy red with a ribbon wrapped around it that proclaims: As Part of a Heart-Healthy Diet, the Soluble Fiber in Cheerios Can Reduce Your Cholesterol! Yes, they do have an exclamation point there and believe me that's not lost on me.

Okay, what's in Cheerios and what does Ruth has to say about it? Well, first of all, it's whole grain oats (nothing bad there), then modified corn starch, followed by corn starch (shouldn't that order be reversed?), then sugar, salt, calcium carbonate, oat fiber, tripotassium phosphate, wheat starch, and vitamin E bringing up the rear (to promote freshness).

Well, right away I like those General Mills folks because I just know that Vitamin E (to promote freshness) is definitely better than BHT, right? Oops, I see they're using that in Total to preserve freshness. And hey, what about all the cereals that aren't using anything to preserve freshness?

Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the bad additive here must be tripotassium phosphate (sounds kinda ominous, doesn't it?). Well, I can't find it in the book, but I can find potassium phosphate and tripotassium phosphate's probably three times as good (or bad!). Anyway, here's what it says: "used as a yeast food in the brewing industry and in the production of champagne and other sparkling wines. Used in frozen eggs as a color preservative. Has been used medicinally as a urine acidifier." I gotta tell you, that last one freaks me out a little.

I also check out corn starch (shown as cornstarch in the book). It says: "may cause allergic reactions, including skin rashes and asthma." I also learn that chemicals used to modify starch are propylene oxide, succinic anhydride, 1-octenyl succinic anhydride, aluminum sulfate, and sodium hydroxide (see all). I think for now I'll pass on checking those modifiers. Breakfast may never be the same again.

On the bright side though, I don't have to worry about having to buy Ruth's other book, A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients (Fifth Edition). Sorry ladies.

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