olive oil may not be what the label claims: 100% pure olive oil. There’s a good chance the bottle on your pantry shelf has been mixed with other oils. Is that really such a big deal? It is if you’re allergic to peanut oil, which is commonly mixed with olive oil in an act of food fraud.
Maple syrup comes from sap from a maple tree. The sap is boiled and becomes the sticky stuff you know as maple syrup. Pancake syrup (also called table syrup) is not the same. Pancake syrup’s main ingredients are corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
A few types of fish that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid due to mercury. Tilefish is one of them. Unfortunately, it’s easy to eat this fish and not realize it. Markets and restaurants sometimes swap it for more popular species such as red snapper and halibut.
Drugs in Your Honey
Food fraud isn’t the only reason some foods aren’t exactly what you think. Think about honey. It may benefit your health in many ways, sometimes as a wound dressing. It’s also a delicious natural sweetener. It may have plenty of contaminants, including traces of antibiotics that beekeepers use on their bee broods. They won’t make you sick, but they could add to the public health problem of antibiotic resistance.
There’s nothing natural about some of the “natural flavors” in packaged foods. Food companies make them in a lab to mimic the flavor of real foods. The FDA banned several synthetic flavorings in response to data that shows health risks in lab animals. If you want to eat healthier, stick with the original natural flavors: Found in real, whole foods.
Icky Side of Spices
The spice jars in your cabinet are filled with more than flavorful herbs. The FDA allows a certain amount of insect fragments, rodent hairs, and other gross things in every jar. For example, ground oregano can have up to 1,250 insect pieces per 10 grams before the FDA calls it “adulterated.” Most products are well below the standards allowed for these unwelcome additions.
It’s sweet and creamy. You can buy it in candy bar form or sprinkle chips of it into your cookie dough. But it’s not really chocolate. According to the FDA, chocolate has to have at least 10% chocolate liquor. That’s the cocoa butter and the solids you get when the cocoa bean is ground. The white kind is made of a mix of cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar no chocolate liquor.
Often, fruit juice is not 100% real fruit juice. Make sure you check the ingredients list. If it’s a long list, that can be a clue that what you’re buying isn’t actually all that it seems. Even if the label reads “100% fruit juice,” it might not be what you’re expecting. That just means everything in it came from either a fruit or a vegetable
Vanilla Flavoring vs. Extract
Vanilla flavoring — also called imitation vanilla — is not the same as vanilla extract. The extract is made with vanilla pods and a simple alcohol called ethanol. But this is expensive. Also, high temperatures destroy much of the flavor. The flavoring is made with synthetic vanillin. Food companies sometimes make this from castoreum extract, which is a secretion from the anal glands of beavers. Even so, it’s considered a natural flavoring because it comes from an animal source. But most of the time, it’s made from chemicals found in wood pulp.
Orange juice that’s “not from concentrate” is pasteurized. This takes the oxygen out of the juice. This also takes out many of the natural chemicals that give the juice its flavor. Also, the producer may store the juice for more than a year. So they hire other companies to make flavor packs to add to the juice to make it taste fresh. These packs are often made by the same companies that make perfumes. The added flavors won’t be listed as an ingredient because they’re made from orange essence and oil.
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