Do you believe that food choices can affect health and well being? Are you an educated consumer who reads the nutrition facts for calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals? Do you look at the ingredient list and compare products at the grocery store? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, I suspect you are aware of the relationship between nutrition and disease prevention.
However savvy a consumer you think you are, there are ingredients that are not listed on the food label. Ammonia in meat, fondly referred to as pink slime, is not listed on the nutrition facts.
Jamie Oliver from The Food Revolution produced an insightful video on the food manufacturing process of adding ammonia to ground beef.1 Mr. Oliver believes that this ammonia could be present in as much as 70 percent of ground beef products in the USA. Since ammonia was introduced in the processing and isn't considered an ingredient, it is not required to be labeled on the package.
Meat glue is another ingredient found in meat and poultry -- separate from the pink slime controversy. Transglutaminase or TG enzyme comes from fermented bacteria.2 It holds smaller pieces of meat together to form a larger, more valuable product. TG enzyme is not exempt from food labeling requirements. To avoid eating meat glue, check the label for the word formed in the product name, as in "Formed Beef Tenderloin." TG enzyme will also be listed in the ingredient list. Here is a great video on meat glue being served in restaurants.
If switching to a vegetarian diet is starting to sound appealing, there's a side of caution there, too. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are present in our produce and many of our snack foods. One particular product that caught my attention was Sun Chips. These chips used to be my favorite treat. On the front of the label it clearly reads: made with "All Natural" ingredients.3, 4
On the back of the bag, the first ingredient listed is whole corn. After learning that 88 percent of the corn in the USA is genetically modified, I wondered if my favorite snack was made with GMO corn.5 I called the number for customer service and I was told the food manufacturer "does not require or exclude GMO ingredients."
What are your thoughts: Should the FDA allow food manufacturers to advertise their products as "All Natural" when scientists have altered the genetic profile of the ingredients?
Do you think that Americans should be able to purchase ground beef or corn on the cob without any labeling of the ammonia or GMOs?
Do you believe there's any risk in eating foods with TG enzyme, ammonia, or GMOs?
I would love to hear your feedback!
- Pink Slime. Jamie Oliver Food Revolution. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBkwUt-bqIo.
- USDA. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Fact Sheet: Food Labeling: Safety of Transglutaminase Enzyme. Available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/Safety_TG_Enzyme/index.asp#3.
- Frito Lay. Nutrition Label. SunChips Garden Salsa flavored multigrain snacks. Available at http://www.fritolay.com/our-snacks/sunchips-garden-salsa.html.
- National Law Review. Does FDA Have a Definition of "Natural" or Not? Available at http://www.natlawreview.com/article/does-fda-have-definition-natural-or-not.
- USDA. Economic Research Service. Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. Available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us.aspx.