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Why do people accept chemical cocktails as food?

When did our culinary atmosphere here in the United States start accepting chemical cocktails AKA faux foods - foodstuffs -inferior food as staples of everyday life? Go into any convenience store and you can get chips. What does one expect? Some fried potatoes with salt? Oh no, they have to have at least twenty ingredients. Go to the nearest fast food "restaurant" (which are everywhere) and order some "chicken" - if it has under thirty ingredients and is at least 70 % actual chicken, we'll... give the person who found that some sort of award! The chains add what they want to whatever it seems, as long as they can decrease the time from "kitchen" to patron, increase mouth-feel or "addictiveness" - sweets/fats.

I'm bothered by the cornucopia of chemical cocktails that surround us here in America. They're found everywhere. I'm talking about the ones that are labeled as "food." We are surrounded by fast "food" restaurants. Also, supermarkets are overflowing with boxed this and that. You want something freshly made? Why not head over to the deli counter? There, they will have salads and dishes full of every possible chemical preservative and "taste enhancer" possible. Around Christmas time I was trying to find some licorice candy for my dad. A lady wouldn't buy some certain candy because it was manufactured in China. I have no bias against the country - I've even been there and eat Asian market foods imported from there too. I wondered, though, if she's aware that many of the preservatives/chemicals found throughout the grocery store/convenience store/wherever are manufactured over there? Those chemicals/derived substances are put in thousands upon thousands of products that are the "food" here in the USA. That same "food" is fed/administered to us, human beings.

What ever happened to simple, honest, whole foods? Did they even exist in wide spread society? I'm 21. I think they were supposed to have existed in my great-grandmother's days. Is this true, or just a chimera?

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    1. Because they think it tastes good and it sells:

      http://pubs.acs.org/cen/whatstuff/stu...

      "In 1910, the average American ate 5 lb of cheese per year, but that had grown to 28 lb per year by 1998. Process cheeses, around for more than 50 years, have had a great impact on this growth spurt."

      2 Replies
      1. re: mojoeater

        Convenience and lemmings to the bombardment by TV marketing. I for one do not understand it, being a foodie and all, I prefer quality and flavor over just plain sustenance...

        1. re: mojoeater

          Though, you'd have to admit that the lack of fridges might have something to do with it. Ice boxes were used through most of the 1910s and only in areas with ice delivery.

        2. i agree, and that's why i do my best to avoid it all for myself and my family. you have to think that eventually, all these chemicals will pose health problems so... survival of the fittest. ;)

          1. < "Go to the nearest fast food "restaurant" (which are everywhere) and order some "chicken" - if it has under thirty ingredients and is at least 70 % actual chicken, we'll... give the person who found that some sort of award!">

            NOT true. Anybody could get your award at most of the major chains today because they have all added healthy economical items to their menus including grilled chicken breast or lightly breaded versions. This is due to consumer pressure.
            You may be working from old prejudices or trying to be funny, but more and more people are depending on inexpensive food options and should know that they can get healthy foods at McDonald's, Subway, etc. if they are aware of what the choices are and watch portion sizes.
            Nutritional informational is easily available on websites so consumers can study up in advance. http://cep.mcdonalds.com/qualityfood/...

            21 Replies
            1. re: MakingSense

              I also don't know what he means. If you go to KFC (which I don't) and order a chicken breast, only 70% of it is chicken? Even a McDonald Chicken Nugget is almost 98% chicken. Now is it good for you--probably not. But there's no point starting a discussion with exageration.

              1. re: The Old Man

                I'm not exaggerating. Well, here's what's in the McDonald's Chicken Nugget. Also, make sure you check out what's in the KFC Sweet + Spicy Boneless Wings.

                " Chicken McNuggets®:
                White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, natural extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK"

                SOURCE: http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controll...

                KFC Sweet & Spicy Boneless Wings:

                "Chicken: Wing Shaped White Chicken Fritter Pieces Containing: Up to 31% of a Solution of Water,
                Seasoning (Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic Powder, Spice Extractives, and Onion Powder), Soy Protein
                Concentrate, Rice Starch, Sodium Phosphates. Battered with: Water, Wheat Flour, Leavening (Sodium
                Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Dextrose, and Monosodium
                Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Soy Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate and
                Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate, Nonfat Dry Milk, Dextrose, Extractives of Tumeric and
                Extractives of Annatto. Predusted With: Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Dried Egg Whites, Leavening
                (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, and Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate and Spice, Breading set in
                Vegetable Oil. Sauce: Sugar, Maltodextrin, Brown Sugar, Honey Solids, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Malic
                Acid, Sodium Acetate, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Less than 2% Calcium Silicate
                Added (as Anti-Caking Agent), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Beet Powder, Spices, Caramel Color, Vinegar
                Solids, Extractives pf Paprika, Green Pepper Juice Solids, and FD&C Red No. 40.
                Contains Egg, Milk, Wheat and Soy."

                Source: KFC's Web Site.

                1. re: soleado123

                  Counting the number of ingredients in a list and determining a percentage content based on that is misleading. It's like working off a recipe with no measurements.

                  Chicken might be one of 30-some odd ingredients in a Chicken McNugget, but those ingredients aren't added in a 1:1 ratio. If there was as much iron, vitamin B-complex and autolyzed yeast extract as there was chicken in a McNugget, you'd end up with a leaden mass of chicken-flavored Marmite posing a risk of metabolic acidosis. Arguably an improvement on a Chicken McNugget, but either way discounting this method of determining a <70% content of meat in a given portion.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    I was thinking of the Spicy + Sweet Boneless Chicken wings from KFC. There are many more examples of chicken with solutions (injected)?. I wasn't speaking of the Chicken McNugget, which is perverted as well with unnecessary ingredients. Let us not forget factory farming, which these companies have been accused of by animal rights groups, backed up by actual footage.

                  2. re: soleado123

                    natural flavoring (botanical source)

                    i want to know what botanical source tastes like chicken! :)

                    1. re: soleado123

                      soleado,

                      The more of your posts that I read, the more I think you don't know much about medicine, nutrition, and biochemistry.

                      Which of the McNugget or KFC wing ingredients concern you? If so, why?

                      IIRC, smoke (that is used to preserve food and was lauded by you in the now purged Amish tangent to this thread) contains benzopyrene. Would that scare you if it was on a food label? Would it be part of the "chemical cocktail" that you are impugning?

                  3. re: MakingSense

                    I'm so glad you chose to mention McDonald's and Subway, as these two companies have ingredient statements. Let's say I'm the ignorant consumer and decide I want to eat "healthily" (LOL - wait, it's totally not funny) and waltz into the nearest McDonald's and order a grilled chicken sandwich. What should I expect? A bun made of wheat, yeast, salt, water... chicken - grilled, maybe with a marinade or a few spices, huh? Maybe some toppings - mayo - which should be oil, eggs, lemon juice, spices, etc... Well, it's totally not that way at McDonald's. Here's what you get, and I'm quoting this from their website for educational reasons.

                    " Honey Wheat Roll:
                    Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, whole wheat flour, dry honey blend (honey, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, corn syrup, wheat starch), sugar, yeast, contains 2% or less of the following: soybean oil, canola oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, potassium iodate, l. cysteine, monocalcium phosphate, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, DATEM, ascorbic acid, calcium peroxide, enzymes, azodicarbonamide, distilled monoglycerides, mono- and diglycerides), calcium propionate (preservative), soy lecithin. CONTAINS: WHEAT AND SOY"

                    " Chicken breast filets with rib meat, water, seasoning (salt, sugar, food starch-modified, maltodextrin, spices, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed [corn gluten, soy, wheat gluten] proteins, garlic powder, paprika, chicken fat, chicken broth, natural flavors (plant and animal source), caramel color, polysorbate 80, xanthan gum, onion powder, extractives of paprika), modified potato starch, and sodium phosphates. CONTAINS: SOY AND WHEAT. Prepared with Liquid Margarine: Liquid soybean oil, water, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, salt, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservative), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color). CONTAINS: SOY LECITHIN"

                    " Mayonnaise Dressing:
                    Water, soybean oil, maltodextrin, distilled vinegar, egg yolks, modified tapioca starch, modified egg yolks, salt, sugar, food starch-modified, xanthan gum, spice, potassium sorbate (preservative), lemon juice concentrate, polysorbate 80, calcium disodium EDTA, natural flavor (animal source), beta carotene (color). CONTAINS: EGG"

                    SOURCE: http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controll...

                    It's absurd. Oh, and Subway has interesting things in their bread. Just look up their ingredient statement as well.

                    1. re: soleado123

                      What's your point? Is this different than if someone buys a loaf of bread and a jar of mayo at the store and makes a sandwich at home? They're going to add sauces to the chicken they cook unless they're salt and pepper people. (I am.)
                      Almost nobody is so back-to-nature that they're making they're own bread and mayo, and doing absolutely everything from complete scratch.
                      Even plain mustard and things like that that have additives to preserve quality and color.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        No, it's no different if... the bread is something like Wonder Bread/Bimbo bread - the table bread of the USA, which have lots of preservatives and dough conditioners. In France, one can go and buy a baguette with ease, right? Bread and it's ingredients are respected. With mechanization creeping in, the government even passed law saying that a place couldn't call itself a boulangerie without doing bread the right way. There's nothing wrong with sauces (one of my favorite things to try to fix) as long as they aren't filled with unnecessary taste enhancers and chemicals. There are more whole convenience foods out there. Most of what's at the typical supermarket though is adulterated. Being surrounded by it is annoying.

                        1. re: soleado123

                          No, you can't easily buy a baguette in France as you once could. Par-baking has taken over there just as it has in the US and other countries.
                          The second most popular bread in France, Pain de Campaign, is the par-baked loaf sold at all the Monoprix chain stores where enormous numbers of French shop.
                          It's only been since the government redefined the laws in 1993 that artisanal breads have started their comeback but they're twice as expensive as the par-baked versions.
                          http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            what is *your* point? maybe you didn't mean to come across as such, but your statements imply that someone at home who buys their bread or makes a sauce for their chicken is going to end up with pretty much the same crap as at McD's. you may be a s&p person, but don't think that because i have au jus on my roast beef, i may as well be eating a big mac.

                            not sure where you live, but here in lil' ol' milwaukee, even our big chain grocery stores have bakery departments baking their own breads. they may get the mixes in from the main store/warehouse/whatever, but it is NOT full of garbage - just your regular old flour, salt, water, etc. so it's pretty easy to get this stuff without having to make it on your own. no calcium sulfate, potassium iodate, l. cysteine, monocalcium phosphate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, DATEM, ascorbic acid, calcium peroxide, enzymes, azodicarbonamide, distilled monoglycerides, mono- and diglycerides), calcium propionate (preservative), and soy lecithin. and i will pay more for an artisanal bread. or make my own.

                            and i do make my own sauces for my chicken (or protein of choice) but they don't contain food starch-modified, maltodextrin, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed [corn gluten, soy, wheat gluten] proteins, caramel color, polysorbate 80, xanthan gum, modified potato starch, sodium phosphates, or Liquid Margarine.

                            also, when i do make my own mayo (not 100% of the time but certain occasions call for it), it does not contain maltodextrin, modified tapioca starch, modified egg yolks, sugar, food starch-modified, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), polysorbate 80, calcium disodium EDTA, natural flavor (animal source), or beta carotene (color).

                            and believe, me, i'm hardly "back to nature." camping for me involves a camper, showers, real toilets, and an outlet for my hair dryer. ;)

                            1. re: mrsjenpeters

                              It sounds like you cook about the same way I do. I call them "primary" foods. Not a lot of store-bought sauces, salsas, marinades, etc. but just reading CH, we may be a dying breed.

                              But even people cooking at home are making use of things like teriyaki, soy, Worcertershire and BBQ sauces, marinades, salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, relish, etc. that they buy which contain many of the same ingredients that they'd find if they ate at the standard fast food joints. Add a pickle and you get all the ingredients from the pickle jar - even if you make your own, there's some "chemicals" involved.

                              The bread from the in-store bakeries is a lot better than the packaged stuff but it's usually par-baked and, if there are labels on it, they list far more than flour/water/salt/yeast. Add olives, and the list will include all the ingredients that were in the olives, some of which will sound pretty scary. Same for the breakdown on cheeses, which the in-store bakery breaks down into minute detail. It sounds scarier than it is, but allergy sufferers are happy for the heads-up.

                              I agree that it's better to make things from scratch if you're so inclined but realistically most people don't.
                              Scaring people half to death over the harmless contents of a jar of Hellmann's makes no sense in the real world. Sooner or later, Michael Pollan begins to seem like an alarmist and an elitist.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                i see your point now, and i definitely agree. one of my main goals is to eat FOOD (and only food). i'm kinda big on my food being food. :)

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Of your list, I use soy sauce and mustard(s), as well as fish sauce and some other stuff. But not the rest.

                      2. re: MakingSense

                        The "healthy foods" you tout at chains are a joke: You get a huge piece of industrially-farmed chicken, loaded with anit-biotics and growth hormones, salads awash in highly-processed, chemically-enhanced salad dressings. Have you ever actually tasted a piece of chicken or beef at a place like Applebee's?

                        Do an experiment: cook a piece of meat or fish of any kind at home. Enjoy your delicious home-cooked meal. Then, spend the rest of the week eating out at chains, trying to find anything that comes close to tasting like the real thing. What you are likely to find is a tasteless, mushy piece of protein, swimming an an overly-salty sauce designed to hide the horror of what you're eating.

                        As to Subway (if you can stand the smell of the place) one look at their meats reveals that quality is not high on their list. Even for processed luncheon meat, this stuff is dreck. Just because a certain sandwich may be low in calories, doesn't means it's a healthy choice.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          It sounds like you have a great deal more experience eating at fast food chains than I do. I occasionally eat at McDonald's but so did Julia Child. I never said all the food that they serve is healthy or a steady diet of it is a good idea. I said that there are acceptable choices and that the OP was overreacting. You are too.

                          No one would argue that the food in these places is the equal of good home cooked food, although good home cooking is getting harder to find, and I'm sure there is some terrible stuff. But no chicken in the US or the EU has hormones in it because it's illegal to use them. Period. That's a common misconception among people who have blanket objections to classes of food businesses based on how they want the agricultural process and food delivery systems to be. Many people would disagree with you about chicken from Tysons or Perdue, including some food media that have done taste tests. A lot of prepared salad dressings are pretty good.

                          You have a perfect right to dislike the sandwich you ate at Subway if the quality was not up to your standards. You get what you pay for. I found something more than acceptable when I ate there a few weeks ago with some workmen who really like Subway. I'm not going to insult the taste of ordinary working Americans who can't afford a lot and can get value for their money there. The meats will never make it onto a charcuterie platter at a chichi brasserie, but who said they have to. It's just quick inexpensive lunch on the go.

                          This is all about choices for a wide range of Americans with different tastes and different opinions. It's possible to get a decent meal with some healthy enough options.
                          You don't ever have to eat at chains but there's nothing wrong with them for those who enjoy them if they make wise choices.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            "No one would argue that the food in these places is the equal of good home cooked food, although good home cooking is getting harder to find, and I'm sure there is some terrible stuff."

                            well put. on another board i am on, there is a recipe thread and someone had the gall to post "chicken dorito casserole." gag!! how the !*)#! can you call this a nutritious family dinner? the same user also posted a "bean burrito casserole" recipe. you start with 6 frozen bean and cheese burritos, to which you add 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup...

                            there is no mystery as to why america is fat.

                            1. re: mrsjenpeters

                              The appreciation for simple home-cooked meals has been lost. Somehow everything has to be exotic and exciting to be worthwhile.
                              You posted elsewhere about simple beef au jus. How many people would consider that boooorrrring? My family loves a supper like that.
                              We'll go out to eat for Indian or Chinese food but have well-cooked, fairly simple, daily fare. That's easy to do from scratch every day with fresh, mostly local ingredients. A decent salad. Fruit or easy homemade desserts.
                              It is so easy to avoid highly processed foods if you don't buy prepared or exotic stuff.
                              The KISS rule - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Not so stupid.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                The recipes you've posted in other boards have been hardly boring or bland. And as someone who grew up more on roghan josh than beef au jus, your comforting, true-blue American cookery even has a touch of the exotic.

                                As someone who cooks most of what he eats from scratch, whether it be chicken makhani, gumbo or relleno, I can tell you that fresh, seasonal and homemade need not be synonymous with boring and exotic need not be carcinogenic. Whatever comes from your own hearth is the food that's best for your own heart.

                          2. re: pikawicca

                            Just re that experiment you mention: I can make all the cheeseburgers I want at home, but if what I want is a McDonald's cheeseburger, nothing else will do. I guess all I'm saying is that it's not a crime to like both.

                            And just so we're clear: I happen to be one of those cooks who makes almost everything from scratch. Mayo, sauces, bread, chicken stock, etc. If I had the means, I'd grow my own vegetables, but I don't. And I haven't had said McD's cheeseburger in years. But the next time I do, I'll enjoy it immensely.

                        2. "What ever happened to simple, honest, whole foods? Did they even exist in wide spread society? I'm 21. I think they were supposed to have existed in my great-grandmother's days. Is this true, or just a chimera?"

                          Go to the grocery store. Buy: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, greens, lettuce, rice, dry beans and other legumes, flour, oil, vinegar, raisins, meat (beef, chicken, liver, gizzards...), milk, cheese, bread & pasta (if you don't make your own), and some herbs & spices. Go home and cook and you'll win your prize. You can make 200 different dishes with the food you bought. No chemical cocktail. Easy.

                          22 Replies
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            I almost always have to agree with Sam. In the summer I find myself at the local farmstand and butcher more often than the local grocery store. I guess I learned alot from my wife who is from Germany, and there they buy basically what they need for the day or the next and that is it. Most of the chemicals we add to our foods today is for preservative reasons. If we weren't in the "FAST" food mode all the time we may not have as many of these options that as someone else had mentioned as "consumer demand".

                            On a funny note to add, it would cost you $ 0.35 Euro per package of ketchup at McDonald's in Munich, Germany, now see what we take for granted !! ;-)

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              This is exactly what I try to do. However, I have friends and family I visit and I also get together with them for dinner/tete a tetes/parties/eating out. I find I constantly have to explain my reasoning for not wanting to eat something. Ninety percent of the things served are laced with silly chemist lab concoctions. Anytime I go with a friend to the grocer I have to explain to them that I'm not going to eat a certain product because it's just not genuine. The foods are just so offensive and perverted. Now, I know that Italians/Indians/the French do eat junk foods sometimes, depending upon the individual person and everything, but usually when I buy something imported from those places the ingredients are much more whole - without artificial ingredients, taste enhancers, gums/gels, and preservatives. If I'm gonna eat some bread, I want bread, not a chemical slurry. If I want to order a salad in a restaurant, I want a little dressing to go with it that isn't laced with High Fructose Corn Syrup or multiple preservatives. I live in the suburban/rural South. The nearest Trader Joes/Whole Foods is more than an hour away. The farmer's market where the ingredients are of better quality is about an hour and a half. We have mass hypermarket and smaller grocery chains, chain restaurants and little else. It's even hard to get any fresh produce. Weird huh? - With us being rural and all. There are lots of farms, but they're all mostly obese cows and chickens (enclosed). I'm trying to plant a garden this year. I think I'll start a little web site talking about whole foods and giving out cards to friends who wonder why I don't want to eat something. For some reason it seems to confuse people. We are so lucky here to have lots of the ingredients in products listed on the back of them.

                              1. re: soleado123

                                Sorry to hear that you live where shopping for you may be difficult. I can understand. I once spent a couple of weeks in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia near a fishing village. Do you know how shocked I was do find out that I couldn't get any fresh fish? And there were no supermarkets in that vicinity at all -- just very small stores where everything was full of preservatives because we were a bit isolated from the rest of Nova Scotia. It was culinary hell for me.

                                I can understand how you don't want to eat any processed foods when you're with you friends and family. But sometimes eating those things in moderation (especially if they had made it themselves) is less harmful than potentially damaging relationships. My father is a health nut and I find it torturous eating with him. I have to hear him lecture me throughout my meal. And I'm one who eats generally healthy -- my dad is just a very extreme person. And while I try to be patient with him, it does get on my nerves. And even if he's not lecturing me for eating whatever, he'll go off on how he refuses to eat this and that because it's poison, etc. It can be quite off-putting at times.

                                I think you'll be a lot happier if you moved to an area with more people who share the same philosophies as you do. I know a lot of people like you who are actually from the South. One of the reasons they moved to NYC was that they said they didn't click with the general Southern mentality and needed to be in a place where they felt more accepted. The great thing about NYC is that no matter how "different and alternative" one's views are, you'll always find a group here to keep you company.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  < "the general southern mentality">
                                  Nice slam at entire region of the United States that takes its local and regional food seriously.
                                  Happy people are happy wherever they are. The others are always unsatisfied anywhere.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    That's funny, I'm in Cape Breton right now and I work with cooks and chefs who are dedicated to serving good food made well, fresh and with good ingredients. Yes, the owner has to go to Halifax to pick some more obscure foreign ingredients but the people here are no different than those in any other part of Canada with regards to eating what is good and right. Lobster catching, squid fishing, etc. is an important part of people peoples' lives here. Lobster season's coming around in a month or so... they will eat well.

                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                      I went to Cape Breton perhaps like 10 years ago for a few years. I've noticed that year after year, it kept changing very rapidly. When I first started going, you don't know how many stares I received -- and I'm not exaggerating. It's like I was blue or something. I'm thinking it was because they rarely have seen Asian people. Then a few years later, I didn't receive those same stares -- and saw a couple of Asian people there as well. So it's probably really different now from when I was there initially. I think the proliferation of the Net may have something to do with it -- because the fashion of a lot of people who lived there changed considerably as well.

                                      Oh, and every time I was there (around end of August/beginning of September), it would be the end of fishing season. So unfortunately there was no fish or lobster for me, even at the shops. Later, I learned to stock up at Truro before heading out to the island.

                                  2. re: soleado123

                                    I can't testify to Italian and French products, but what Indians actually purchase and consume is not the same as what is marketed as "authentic" to the Whole Foods crowd excited for a taste of exotic rusticity. My upbringing was rich in homemade curries and fresh vegetables, but the larder also held Bird's custard (potassium phosphate and Tartrazine), acchar (preservatives and enough salt to dry up a lake), Vimto (HFS), citric acid and bottled chutney (preservatives). As more Indians move into the middle class, the demand for high-preservative convenience foods also increases.

                                  3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Sam, almost every one of the "plain" foods you list has some "additive" in it that the OP objects to.
                                    Fresh fruits and veggies in stores have been washed in the fields with mild chlorine solutions, rice and legumes have often had anti-fungal agents used on them, flours are enriched with minerals, oils have been clarified, vinegars have been filtered, raisins are treated to prevent mold, milk has vitamins added, cheese is made with rennet (not always vegetarian,) breads and pasta are usually enriched and bread can have long lists of additives including non-vegan ingredients and allergens (few are kosher, little bread is simple water/flour/yeast/salt,) and most commercial herbs and spices contain anti-caking agents.
                                    Even when the ingredients aren't listed, it's because they're allowed under FDA rules and not required to be listed and/or in small enough quantities that they can be omitted or called "other ingredients.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      Thanks, MS, I take your point that the OP may have a point.

                                      In my case, however, I soak my veggies for pesticide residues. They're not washed in clorinated water in Colombia. Much of my fruit comes from friends' farms. Rice and legumes in Colombia are untreated. The sulfur used on raisins is long gone. One would have to stop eating if they didn't want modern vinegars, cheeses, milk, and flour. I make my own bread and pasta--which the OP surly must be doing as well (?!). My herbs are fresh, my spices from India, Kenya, Ethiopia and elsewhere. I catch my own fish. I know my butcher, who provides me with cuts of our all range/grasss fed beef. I make yogurt and bring back good cheeses from around the globe.

                                      soleado123, you're just going to have to invest a bit more time, bother, and money to obtain relatively unadulterated foods and cook for yourself and friends.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        I think sometimes when you post, Sam, people new to CH may not realize you aren't shopping in the US.
                                        For the vast majority of us in the US and most cities even in Europe, food in stores has had something done to it to kill something bad that might hitch a ride from the farm, processing plants, or warehouses.
                                        If the stores don't use mold/fungus inhibitors, they get complaints about mold and fungus on the peanuts and raisins. The dried spices cake without the anti-caking agents. Making skin milk removes vitamins so we put them back in.
                                        Many of the scary-sounding chemicals that the OP is complaining about are necessary if we're going to make food available to urban populations. Not to say that stuff has to have HFCS or a lot of unnecessary crap, but everything with a chemical name isn't bad.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          MS, I agree fully. I started out majoring in bio-chemistry way back when. The only thing I'm relatively careful about are pesticide residues because the vegetables I've consumed in the developing world over these past many years are more likely to have residues of pesticides more toxic than you would now ever get in North America or Europe.

                                          So, in a way, I agree that the OP has a point. Perhaps even basic foodstuffs can be considered chemically polluted in the US. But I agree with you completely--for the most part the use of "chemicals" in basic foods in the US is benign.

                                          As to Colombia, food production and distribution systems are quite good. Consumption is such that you do not see that much obesity. Our medical system is among the best in the world. People tend to sit down and eat meals made from scratch, talk with one another, have a bit of wine. Peope don't eat while walking or driving. There is a McDonalds or two in the city, but I've never been there (I have my BigMac in the Bogota airport). Cheap food in the markets and small nameless lunch places is healthy--usually with beans, rice, bit of meat or a nice stew or soup.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Perhaps the problem stems from too much broad-brushing of "chemicals," "preservatives," etc. and not enough science being taught.
                                            As you say, there are "benign" chemicals and the USDA, FDA, EPA and other gov't agencies are pretty strict about what can and can't be used in foods. Much of the alarm may be due to misunderstanding of what things are and their purpose.
                                            Sodium chloride sounds much more frightening than salt. Citric acid can be lemon juice. Maltodextrin is hydrolyzed starch from rice, corn, potato or wheat which might be a problem for celiacs but not for others. Yet so many people think that these things amount to a horror list of "chemical" additives.

                                            It would be great if everybody could buy primary foods from fresh markets and cook from scratch. That's unlikely to happen in the US. Convenience foods are here to stay for most people.
                                            I think the solution is for people to learn what the scary sounding things really are. The vast, vast majority are perfectly safe.

                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                              This is exactly what I find frustrating about the hysteria surrounding the "science" around needlessly controversial subjects like food additives. I remember summarizing a journal article for a science course (radiology or clinical psych, don't remember) and having our professor present the completely alternative conclusions media or other people otherwise unfamiliar with academic writing would get by just scanning the abstract and misinterpreting the results to get a good storyline. There is no distinction between correlation and causation, no understanding of statistics and before you know it, the misinformation is fed down the chain until it becomes a cause célèbre on Fox 5 at 10.

                                              The OP starts out by attacking the meat content in chicken mcnuggets; then no, it's actually the injectable solution in KFC that is the problem: a "chemical" solution of water and seasonings; so no, it's actually chemicals in general, the chemo-pharmaco-industrial complex and did you see that factory farming video on YouTube? As to what these corporate-produced chemicals actually are and their alleged effects on health, we're still waiting to hear.

                                              I have long felt that American eating habits would benefit greatly from a return to natural, homemade products and a greater appreciation of food and its origins. It's a tragedy how divorced Americans have become from traditional, more naturalistic foodways. But that tragedy really is drowned out by the glaring crisis in science education.

                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                Even those with good understanding of science are poorly served by the media because they do a generally poor job of reporting food, science and medical news.
                                                The media will latch onto one study - often simply because it gets publicity from a special interest group - that points to a "possible" link to an "increased" cause of a disease in a lab rat by a certain product. You never hear that the study was funded by a special interest group trying to discredit the product, that the sample was too small for an accurate result, that rats might react differently than humans, that humans would have to consume a ridiculous amount of the product to have a similar effect, or that the increased risk is statistically insignificant in that case. There is a public outcry and people stop buying a perfectly safe product. The Today Show and Oprah are doing TV segments on it and it's in all the consumer magazines. Yikes!!!
                                                Even if it's discredited, the scare story now lives forever on the internet.

                                                I work with PR companies and media and am constantly amazed at the stories I see. The differences among the end results from the identical studies are sometimes not even related.
                                                Polling companies "poll to the results" or statisticians can rework the same set of numbers to show a completely different pictures.
                                                Anybody with or without a B.S. degree (apt name) from any college can call himself an environmentalist or nutritionist. Set up a 501(c)3 with a good name and call yourself a non-profit. Get a slick website. You are instantly credible.
                                                As soon as politics gets thrown into the mix, it's over.

                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                  My being annoyed by the current status of what's considered edible or should be administered to human beings in this country is no result of any media saturation. Media generally serves the interest of some group wanting profit; at least the media where I live. Their goal should be informing, but 90% of what an American reads or hears from the TV/Radio/Newspaper is an advertisement. The situation seems as if our entire purpose in life is to be brain fogged overworked mindless consumers of chemicals, gasoline and poor quality movies (note I'm not calling it films or cinema - those are too nice of words). Back to the chemicals and inferior food poseurs... there are thousands of unnecessary chemicals in everything. I'm not sure of where you live, but here, seeking more whole foods is the exception rather than the rule.

                                                  The cuisine of the South was mentioned... Here's what I have: how do you like BBQ sauce with high fructose corn syrup, MSG, autolyzed/hydrolyzed extracts, artificial flavors, etc? Do you accept that? Another option is a fish fry... usually frozen fish from Asia grown in ponds with antibiotics, with preservatives, a coating - with preservatives... sauces for dipping - msg, preservatives and HFCS. Shrimp from America here? LOL! It might exist somewhere for richer folks, but what's more widely available is the imported. Even Coke is HFCS and other things. A popular snack cake - preservatives and tons of other conditioners and things. Trust me, I copied 'em down into a text file. That's what folks eat. It's so sad. Chains have taken over, and they serve out chemical slurries. There are many many more chains than non-chain restaurants. Luckily you still see some old timers who aren't in the fast food restaurants - they have their pinto beans, homemade biscuits, pies, etc. They rock.

                                                  1. re: soleado123

                                                    see my point exactly MSG sounds like some awful test tube chemical. its a fermentation of sugars and starch. its a fairly "natural" product.

                                                    1. re: soleado123

                                                      Are you reduced to consuming these things that you find so abhorrent? Or is this your assumption of what other people must be eating? How are you getting this information?

                                                      I think you are making a great number of invalid assumptions that are not born out by facts. There are not chemicals in everything, including the food I bought today. There are many "chemicals" that are necessary, as well as preservatives and enhancers that are naturally occurring that have been used for centuries.
                                                      I've lived in several regions of the US, both in urban areas and fairly rural ones, and have never encountered the difficulties you cite. Good, fresh food has always been available and, if anything, I can get more and better variety now than in the past.

                                                      Sure, there's junk and there are people who buy it. There always has been, here and in every country I've ever visited or lived in. That's not going to change and there's no reason for you to buy it. But why bother complaining about something that will never change. Live YOUR life not other people's. Does it matter to you if someone else eats a Twinkie?

                                                      It's easy to bash chains but also easy to forget the crummy local restaurants that used to dot the landscape. There have always been bad eating establishments that served crappy, unhealthy food.
                                                      A chain is a monolith that's easy for groups to bash but you can easily find out about them on the internet and download the ingredients of their food. That's an improvement. We never knew what was in the Mystery Special at the Greasy Spoon. It was probably worse. Now you know not to go there if you don't want to eat what they're offering.

                                                      The point is that food is a personal choice. Your attitude is a personal choice too. If you see the entire food world as nothing but crap, you'll find crap everywhere you look.
                                                      I see a marketplace full of great fresh food. I filled my shopping bag with it today just as I have for decades - here in downtown Washington, DC, and when I lived in a couple of places in the South, which is really an amazing place to find fresh food - and seafood.

                                                      Seek and ye shall find - either great food or plenty to bitch about.
                                                      Your choice.

                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                        "A chain is a monolith that's easy for groups to bash but you can easily find out about them on the internet and download the ingredients of their food. That's an improvement." -MakingSense.

                                                        This is if the company has an ingredient statement they publish,. Most don't. Also, in these statements, they twist important details and perceptions around, so that the average consumer thinks things are less harmless or removed from a necessary whole ingredient (less unnecessary) than they are in reality. This practice isn't something I've made up do to some paranoid suspicion, but really exists and is totally observable - practically everywhere.

                                                        When chemicals are in all the restaurants, at all the parties, in all my friends homes, how will I ever socialize over food?

                                                        A real chef, a real lover of food, etc. will use more whole ingredients. - From real butter to fresh veggies. That's how cooking and eating are supposed to be, and it's not that way in America for the majority. Slow food is the exception, not the rule. There are people out there who think you can only get a cake in a box or bakery (most here already have things prepared in a factory somewhere) I don't call products like that cakes - rather garbage - and there's no snobbishness to that - those boxed/products of alchemy can just be so removed from what a basic cake is - usually flour, sugar, oil, eggs, you know... not very expensive to make).

                                                        1. re: soleado123

                                                          Sounds like you won't "ever be able to socialize over food" if even your friends are serving you food that isn't up to your exacting standards and you believe that everyone is trying to deceive you.
                                                          That's a pretty bleak outlook.

                                                          Yes, the ingredient lists do seem confusing. They follow standardized rules for presentation that make them sometimes incomprehensible in an effort to allow consumers to compare apples to apples. It took me years to figure them out but mostly they don't mean much since I buy so little packaged food. My rule is that if it has a label, I probably shouldn't buy it.

                                                          If you are indeed making everything you eat and serve completely from scratch, I congratulate you. Most Americans don't have that luxury of time. But it is elitist to dismiss their choices as "garbage" when there are alternatives that most people find perfectly acceptable if they shop wisely. Although I cook almost completely from scratch, I don’t think that makes me better than the majority of my countrymen who chose to use some products that I might not personally buy.

                                                  2. re: JungMann

                                                    "The OP starts out by attacking the meat content in chicken mcnuggets; then no, it's actually the injectable solution in KFC that is the problem:" - The subject of the 70% chicken chicken has and always has been the Sweet & Spicy Wings from KFC, not the McNuggets. Both products are adulterated beyond comprehension. The ingredients in them are perversions of what's considered edible - they are chemical cocktails and not necessary, tasteful or moral.

                                                  3. re: MakingSense

                                                    MakingSense, making sense, as usual. Here in the UK, there's a new craze against "chemicals." There was recently a whole TV series dedicated to counting the number of chemicals we live with, and everyone's gone hysterical over "chemicals." If I hear the word one more time I'm gonna lose it. Now we've got loads of people misdirecting their energy being stressed out for no reason, when really what they should do is get informed.