What the Fuck am I Eating?

Is food addictive? Or are we being fed drugs?

Did you know that one of the biggest industries in Ireland is the manufacturing of food additives?

Kerry Group say this on their website...

"Creating food that tastes good and makes people feel better – that’s what Kerry is all about."

Note they say, “creating food”. They are not sourcing food, growing food, or cooking food. They are creating it.

Then in the next paragraph, they say this...

"Kerry is a world leader in excipients and media supplements for the biotech, pharmaceutical and nutrition markets. Our investment in research, technology, new drug and delivery formulation puts us at the cutting edge."

Wikipedia defines an “excipient” as “a substance formulated alongside the active ingredient of a medication, included for the purpose of long-term stabilization, bulking up solid formulations that contain potent active ingredients in small amounts (thus often referred to as "bulking agents", "fillers", or "diluents"), or to confer a therapeutic enhancement on the active ingredient in the final dosage form, such as facilitating drug absorption, reducing viscosity, or enhancing solubility. Excipients can also be useful in the manufacturing process, to aid in the handling of the active substance concerns such as by facilitating powder flowability or non-stick properties, in addition to aiding in vitro stability such as prevention of denaturation or aggregation over the expected shelf life.

Kerry is a drug delivery company. They are also a “world leader in the global food industry”. Kerry employs a lot of very well-paid experts to "deliver a world of natural tastes inspired by the earth and perfected by our scientists". Inspired?

There is a reason why Kerry hire all these scientists. It is so as big food companies can say they use "natural flavourings". In Kerry's own words: "These dairy profiles are labelled as natural flavour and deliver a taste, texture, mouthfeel and aroma similar to real dairy ingredients." Or if you are vegan try their onion or garlic flavours: ‘labelling declarations include “flavouring” and “natural flavouring”’.

So how does Kerry advertise these products that are invented by scientists in a company that makes drugs/additives/excipients so that other companies can say “natural flavourings” on their product labels? Well they make videos that show lots of real food and that mention family and friends repeatedly. Surprisingly there are no scenes showing a scientist playing with a factory of chemicals to create the “natural flavour” of an onion.

 

Kerry is not the only Irish company involved in this aspect of the global food industry. Glanbia (Irish for “clean food”) tell us that their “customers rely on our R&D teams to provide a sophisticated portfolio of ingredients that match the current market trends and meet consumer demand for nutrition, taste, texture and flavour. GN’s innovation continues to provide an advantage for our customers since many of the technologies and ingredients used are unique to Glanbia. For example, in 2017 we built upon our current offerings by developing intellectual property around clean label cheese, increasing shelf-life stability of nutritional ingredients and new innovations around protein delivery in nutritional bars. Not only do we provide one of the best global ingredient portfolios, we also show our customers how to use ingredients in developing innovative food products.

For a company called “clean food” the range of products they make looks more like a pharmacist’s bargain bin than a farmers market.

Glanbia products

There is a reason I am writing this. We use sugar in our sauces. What we don’t do is test 59 sweetness profiles to see which one hits the brain sweet spot for addictiveness. Soft drinks companies do that. Then they enhance the flavour with “natural flavourings”. Even the sugar they use is not old-fashioned raw cane sugar – it is more likely a scientifically profiled combination of sugars designed to make your brain tingle.

We also use salt in our sauces. Not much, but the salt we do use is Oriel Sea Salt. That is 100% sea salt. The salt used in junk food is often chemically manipulated to dissolve faster and give your brain a quick hit. It is a drug.

The next time you are buying food, please stop and think for a minute. Should you be afraid of sugar and salt? Or should you be afraid of a building full of scientists in Tralee or Kilkenny who are hired to create “excipients” and “natural flavourings” and who promise their customers “clean label” solutions?

Sources and Further Reading 

https://www.kerrygroup.com/taste-nutrition/processing-capabilities/

https://www.kerry.com/products/taste/savoury-flavours-and-extracts

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excipient

https://www.glanbia.com/our-business/innovation

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/16/459981099/how-the-food-industry-helps-engineer-our-cravings?t=1572599992579

https://allthatsinteresting.com/why-we-crave-junk-food

https://thriveworks.com/blog/5-junk-foods-that-are-addictive/

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/business/kerry-group-and-danone-in-vanguard-responding-to-clean-label-global-movement-says-broker-884469.html

An Example of a Kerry Group Product - Naked Glory Sausages

Naked Glory Sauces

Ingredients
Water, Rehydrated Textured Soya and Wheat Protein (23%) (Water, Soya Protein, Wheat Protein, Salt, Soya Bean Oil, Natural Flavouring), Rusk (Wheat), Coconut Oil, Wheat Starch, Soya Protein Concentrate (3%), Chicory Root Fibre, Less than 2%: Stabiliser: Methylcellulose, Natural Flavouring, Herbs, Spices, Onion, Garlic, Yeast Extract, Colours: Beetroot, Safflower, Salt, Casing made from Sodium Alginate

Some Observations

Rehydrated Textured Soya and Wheat Protein 
I am no expert but a quick Google suggest this is soya/wheat that has been manipulated to feel like meat. Note it contains "Natural Flavourings". In other words, it tasted like shit until they added a variety of "natural" products that possibly taste like pork.

Soy Protein Concentrate
According to Google "Soy protein concentrates are processed selectively by removing the soluble carbohydrate from soy protein flour by either aqueous alcohol or isoelectric leaching."

Methylcellulose
According to drugs.com "Methylcellulose is a bulk-forming laxative that increases the amount of water in your stools to help make them softer and easier to pass. Methylcellulose is used to treat constipation and to help maintain regular bowel movements. Methylcellulose may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide." We will assume Kerry have found another purpose for it!!

Salt as a Colouring Agent
This one baffles me, is it possible that by declaring it as a colour rather than a flavour it is not counted as part of the salt content? I hope not.

Sodium Alginate
According to Modernist Pantry: "Sodium Alginate (E401) is extracted from brown seaweed. It is used as a stabilizer for ice cream, yoghurt, cream, and cheese. It acts as a thickener and emulsifier for salad, pudding, jam, tomato juice, and canned products." Note that like most products Kerry no longer use the E numbers for ingredients. When E numbers came out first they were preferable to big long scientific names. Then they got a bad rap and the scientific stuff came back. The problem with scientific names is that there are often many names for the same thing.

I have no idea if any of the above ingredients are bad for you. But when we make sausages here in GNL towers the ingredients are pork, onion, oriel sea salt, mace, pepper, and hog casing.

* Disclaimer. I eat lots of junk food and I am not that healthy. I am also not a food scientist. This blog post is a muse and a rant. Take it or leave it.