Do you ever stop to think about how much the food we buy today is not the food we think we are buying? You read that right. The more labels and fine print I read, the more I realize that I have damned little control over my diet without super human vigilance and true obsessive compulsive label reading!
No. I’m not talking about the “chemical” ingredients we read in the contents label on “ready made” food, though that in itself can be confusing, if not downright frightening. How come I can make ice cream without cellulose gel, cellulose gum, carrageen or maltodextrine but the big companies that make it ready-to-eat can’t? Yeah, yeah. I know about cooking large, but wouldn’t ya think there would be somebody who wants to make “ice cream” ice cream? But that sort of thing has been with us for a long time.
What I’m reacting to at this point is that there is sooooooo much manipulation, obfuscation and subterfuge going on with our food today, it’s difficult to shop in a reasonable length of time if you have any sort of dietary restrictions that demand you get what you want without substitutions or at least without dilution and pollution.
Fruit juices seem to be among the leading offenders these days, at least on my radar. Try finding a bottle of cranberry juice that only has cranberry juice in it! VERY difficult! And with huge proclamations of “100% JUICE” plastered all over the label, how many stop to question what KIND of juice before they toss it in their shopping carts? Damned few, I suspect. The label on my Tropicana Apple Juice tells me that it MAY contain concentrates from Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Brazil, China and the United States! “Nothing wrong with that,” you may say. But isn’t there? Thankfully, I am not yet “the norm,” but I have a lot of food allergies. Because of the nature of allergies, it is possible that someone may not be allergic to apple juice in general, but very allergic to apple juice from Hungary or Brazil. Soil components, and all that jazz. So they buy apple juice one time and everything is hunky dory, and then they buy it again and it brings them down! And just how are they supposed to figure out what’s going on?
Last week, I bought some acai berry juice. I’ve been reading a lot of good things about it and thought I’d give it a try. “Genesis Today Acai Berry 100% Fruit Juice,” it says on the label. And this one is my fault. I do a lot of “Click and Pull” shopping from Sam’s Club. Just go through the lists of what you want, add it to your electronic shopping cart and they go up and down aisles gathering it all for you. All you have to do is go in, pay, put it in the car and you’re done! A GREAT convenience. But it’s hard to read labels that way. This stuff contains acai, grape, apple, pineapple, pear, blueberry, pomegranate, cranberry & cherry reconstituted juices with added nutrients. And that’s just the fine print on the front label. When you check out the ingredients, it gets even more complicated. It doesn’t just contain “grape juice,” for example, but contains concord, white grape and red grape juice, plus all of the others. I’m VERY allergic to concord grape juice. So now I have about 60 ounces of the original 64 ounces left to figure out what to do with because I can’t drink it.
But it goes beyond the (hopefully) few of us who have allergies and have to be selective about what we buy. Think about what the skyrocketing fuel prices are going to do to my cute little individual servings of apple juice made from concentrates from Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Brazil, China and the United States. How do you put a price control lid on that?
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like someone sitting out on a limb while the guy next to me is sawing through it and I can’t get past him to climb down safely! I’m looking around frantically for a ladder, but then, if I find one will I be able to reach it? Does anyone else find this scary?
Cranberry juice is super sour by itself. You can buy 100% juice, which usually adds apple and grape for the sugar. Or you can buy cranberry with sugar added, but then it's not 100% juice anymore.
I pretty much just buy produce, meat, and pasta/rice. The prepared things I buy are mostly bread, and that's it. I don't even have a problem with additives, I just don't happen to buy prepared food, or even fruit juice
Cranberry juice isn't very tasty by itself. Manufacturers don't add stuff because they feel like it, but because it's what consumers want in terms of taste and value. I shudder to think how much time and $ was spent in trying to find out what color people want their cranberry juice to be.
As much as people talk about wanting a "pure" product, that market segment is small, because it's ridiculously expensive. Not good for those with allergies, but that's a minority. It also reminds me of the old chemists' joke about how the only "pure" items you'll find in the markets are aluminum (foil) and carbon (graphite).
I'm more concerned about flavor, since that is a more immediate perception than a food's effect on my health. (My organs are probably trashed from decades of BPA and phthalate consumption, anyway.) I don't buy a lot of processed foods because I just don't like the way they taste. Even "natural ____ flavor" scares me because some of those "natural" flavors taste so magnified they are practically fake to me. Natural butter flavor, in particular, is quite disgusting.. I no longer eat Pepperidge Farm cookies, even the simple ones, because of their reliance on this nasty butter flavoring.
Car: I'm with you all the way.
My suggestions: Farmers' Markets, and try becoming more of a "locavore". Do you have any FMs close to Plano? A true food cooperative is also an idea.
I haven't been there yet, but there's a new restaurant in Seattle, called Local 360, that claims 90% of its food is sustainably produced within 360 miles. http://www.local360.org/manifesto I'm sure there are others like it around the country.
Caroline, I belive that the "mass produced" "tounge twister ingrediants" products are slowly gaining some competition. My local Giant Eagle (subarb of Pittsburgh) organic natrual section has almost trippled in size in a year. They offer products that are for all practical purposes "pure" ... Also the internet also allowies for the ability to seek out the "pure" food located nationally and even globally.
The underlying monster is when it comes to food pricing. Myself I will pay the extra .60 for a quality product of any brand. Although, most average Americans DO NOT CARE.... Hope this will change
Do you drink 100% cranberry juice?
A '100% juice' label is meant to contrast with a punch which has a sugar or HFCS base. The juice of many fruits - such as cranberry, mango and papaya - is too tart, too thick, or too expensive to sell by itself as a drink, especially not in the $2-$4 per half gallon range. There's nothing new about this. I've been paying attention to the ingredients labels of juices, punches and juice drinks for 20 years. If I'm thinking of juice as a healthy drink, I don't want to be buying flavored sugar water.
As to the blending of concentrates from all over the world, that's probably been going on for decades. What's new is the labeling, identifying countries of origin. If you want juice from one location, your best bet is a cider mill that squeezes its own apples right before your eyes.
I think that beevod has the right idea (and you have two hands ergo two drinks or one very large one).
But back to your original comments. Unless you want to grow your own and cook exclusively (which I think you already do based from reading your posts) right down to milling your own flour and milking your own cow/goat, you're going to have to put up with this because it's a question of costs, texture, transport and shelf life. Thisi s more prevalent in the West than it is in other countries but it's encroaching as people request ready-made.
I can make ice cream with muscovado sugar, free-range eggs, cream hand-milked from artisinal cows and Tahitian vanilla hand-picked by Polynesian grandmothers, but I don't necessarily want to do that every day ("do I love you enough to do it?") and there are lots of people who don't make it at all. But we'll all want to eat it, so you want a tub of the stuff that tastes like the flavor you want and has that mouthfeel that you want for less than $15/serving. Everything that you list for ice cream relates to allowing the product to retain a certain textural range while surviving the transport roller coaster between the plant to the end user, and to control costs because cream and real flavorings are expensive.
The acai juice? Unless it's grape or apple juice that one's buying any other flavor will be supplemented by something else since it's cost-prohibitive. An acai berry is apparently 25 mm in diameter and the "juicy" part is 1 mm thick, meaning that a glass of 100% acai juice is going to take a whole lot of acai berries. You're also better off eating the berries themselves (I had some when in Bahia - not too bad).
Do I find this scary? Apart from the QC of products from Mainland China, not really. No one is making me buy prepackaged, and when I do have something that likely came from a box (e.g. lots of stuff on the room service menus), I really don't worry about it because it's either that or the Clown.