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Strange chemical on some restaurant/store food

susieQ49 May 31, 2009 12:53 PM

I have had this experience several times in my life. As I recall, it was usually on fish or fresh fruits and vegetables. My mom always told me that some restaurants and retail stores use a chemical preservative that they spray on food to extend it's shelf life. It is a really distinctive and disgusting taste. When I have had this happen in a restaurant, I complain and of course reject the dish. I am unable to eat anything else because I am so turned off. Does anyone in the food/restaurant business know what I am talking about? Does such a thing really happen? I have wondered about this for some time.

  1. s
    small h May 31, 2009 02:13 PM

    You might be tasting the industrial equivalent of this:


    3 Replies
    1. re: small h
      susieQ49 May 31, 2009 04:54 PM

      Thanks small h, I feel like although your suggestion is a possibility, and perhaps the answer to my question, someone out there knows the truth. What's the deal on the part of the restaurants/stores adding some chemical to the food? Thanks for responding. I can't help but believe that someone out there knows more than they are telling. I guess you could call me a foodie comspiracy theroist. Have you ever tasted it???? It's terrible.

      1. re: susieQ49
        marti May 31, 2009 05:17 PM

        I have experienced exacly the same. As a former restaurance mgr. I know we added an ingredient to the wash water when cleaning produce and rinsing off fish, meats, etc. that had come in packaged. I no longer purchase any bagged produce, because of this. Also, I have noticed a verystrong odor when near the dairy area of big markets (Ralphs, Vons, etc.) Almost like they have sprayed a disinfectant in the area. The plastic bags in most chain markets have this same odor. I know I am super sensitive but can't imagine what they are thinking!! I even stopped using my dishwasher until I found a fragerence free detergent at Target.

        1. re: susieQ49
          small h May 31, 2009 05:38 PM

          Decades ago, when I was a teen working at Roy Rogers, we rinsed lettuce in a water & fruit-fresh solution, to prevent browning. I have no idea whether or where this is still common practice, but the stuff definitely had a taste that was discernible if the fruit-fresh hadn't fully dissolved.

      2. monku May 31, 2009 05:34 PM

        Hate to disappoint you, but there is no conspiracy or chemical used to preserve food in the restaurant kitchen. Sometimes I notice the smell and sometimes faint taste of disinfectant or bleach that have been used in cleaning that haven't been well rinsed. Sometimes I suspect that's the case when I get something as simple as a drink from a machine or dispenser that hasn't been well rinsed.

        Oxidation is one of the things that can cause fruits or vegetables to turn brown within minutes after cutting. When I worked in restaurants putting freshly cut fruits or vegetables in chilled water or coating them with lemon juice or even spreading mayonaise over the top of guacamole would slow down the oxidation.

        Product like the poster brought to your attention may slow the oxidation process (sounds its derived from a natural acidic fruit), but it isn't preservative.

        As far as meats or fish there's nothing they're treated with in-house that are going to extend their shelf life except for handling them properly with refrigeration and roatation of product.

        3 Replies
        1. re: monku
          small h May 31, 2009 06:39 PM

          According to the Wegman's website (the Fruit-Fresh site has no ingredient list that I can find), Fruit-Fresh is: Dextrose, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, and Silicon Dioxide. Nothing scary, but it could certainly impart an unpleasant taste.

          1. re: small h
            monku May 31, 2009 06:45 PM

            As I suspected, acidic ingredients and it says it isn't supposed to alter the taste.

            1. re: monku
              small h May 31, 2009 07:06 PM

              I won't pretend to have eaten the stuff straight in the recent past, but I remember it made the lettuce taste "off." So whatever the claims (and really, would the product's literature own up to its tasting nasty?), I think the possibility exists that a consumer could tell Fruit-Fresh was present on food.

        2. e
          embee May 31, 2009 07:48 PM

          Fruit Fresh is mainly vitamin C. It's hardly harmful - quite the opposite - but ascorbic acid does taste really awful if any residue remains on food, as does citric acid. Many food establishments also use various chlorine based sprays and surfactants to clean, disinfect and/or slow oxidation.

          Sodium tripolyphosphate is used as a preservative in many seafood products (notably in scallops) and in poultry.

          There is, indeed, one chemical spray that effectively masks spoilage. It is based on sulfites, which occur naturally in some foods and are added to most wines. It is illegal to use this on fresh foods in most - if not all - of the US and Canada. As I understand it, this stuff isn't actually harmful, but causes severe allergic reactions in some people. More to the point, it is so effective that it can make spoiled (if not putrid) meat and produce look and smell okay.

          1. s
            salsailsa May 31, 2009 07:59 PM

            I thought it was a sulphite preservative. My mom has a severe reaction to sulphites and must be careful about eating packaged salads and fish.

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