I was hungry for a donut the other day but couldn’t find one anywhere near the Capitol the other day. I ended up settling for A Nestle King Sized Sandwich (only now do I realize that no where are the words Ice cream to be found on this wrapper.) As I was eating the sandwich I turned over the wrapper and looked over the nutritional information and list of ingredients, as is my want. I noticed that for the vast majority of them I had no idea what they were… Considering that monoglycerides don’t sound that appealing I decided to investigate!
For those of you who can’t make out the list in the picture above this “frozen dairy dessert” contains:
Whey, sandwich wafers (bleached white flour, sugar, caramel color, dextrose, palm oil, corn flour, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, baking soda, modified corn starch, salt, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, cocoa), sugar, corn syrup, cream, tapioca maltodextrin, propylene glycol monostearate, skim milk, guar gum, monoglycerides, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, carrageenan, annatto color, artificial flavor, caramel color, salt.
Good lord, some of those are a mouthful aren’t they? Now let’s see if I can find out what they all are? And if you didn’t know ingredients on food are listed by the quantity in the product, so the first item is the most, and the last item is the least.
Whey – is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It can be used to make ricotta or brown cheeses but is most often used as an additive in many processed foods, such as this ice cream sandwich
Sandwich wafers – see below
Sugar – this is a fairly generic term, I’m assuming that it is referring to sucrose hear, as it is the most common and popular.
Corn syrup – made from the starch of maize. Corn syrup is mostly glucose. According to Wikipedia it is used, “in foods to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar, and enhance flavor.”
Cream – skimmed from the top of milk; this is butterfat. This is a common ingredient in ice cream.
Tapioca maltodextrin – a modified food starch that thickens and stabilizes fatty compounds. It is produced from tapioca starch by a natural enzymatic process to give desirable fat-like and stabilizing properties. Van be used as a fat-replacer in desserts, cheese products, and ice cream. Some of the benefits include the neutral flavor which makes it an excellent flavor release with improved smooth texture. The off-white color and low application rate of 2% to 10% makes it a great substitute for fat, milk, gums and other stabilizers.
Propylene glycol monostearate (PGM) – ss a colourless, viscous, colorless liquid. It is mixable with water alcohol, and many solvents. PGM has a wide range of applications including industrial solvents, paint and coating solvents, polyester and alkyd resins, antifreeze coolants, heat transfer fluids, deicing fluids, plasticizers, detergents and surfactants, and bactericide (YUM!) Pharmaceutical grade PGM is used in foods, pharmaceutical, and personal care products. Propylene glycol monostearate can be used as a lipophilic emulsifier and emulsion stabilizer in food.
Skim milk – milk with all of its cream removed.
Guar gum – the ground endosperm of guar beans. Typically produced as a free-flowing, pale, off-white colored, coarse to fine ground powder. Guar gum has man applications from the explosives to mining industry. Most likely its use here is to help maintain the homogeneity and texture of the dessert.
Monoglycerides – a common food additive used as an emulsifier, to help blend certain ingredients together such as water and oil. When you bake or make ice cream at home you use an egg yolk.
Sodium carboxymethylcellulose (SCMC) – Commonly used in pharmaceuticals. SCMC is a gummy substance that is a sodium salt of carboxymethyl cellulose; used as a thickening or emulsifying agent. It is also used in paints, detergents, and most disturbingly the oil drilling industry (as part of the mud they use to plug wells.)
Carrageenan – derived from seaweed carrageenan gel increases viscosity.
Annatto color – derived from the achiote tree. Annatto is used to produce a yellow to orange food coloring.
Artificial flavors – through the magic of science we can create volatile (how else would you be smelling them?) compounds which mimic the complex chemicals that give flavor to the foods we eat. The flavor business is a cut-throat one which is why manufacturers don’t have to tell use what they are using.
Caramel color – another food coloring. Caramel color is one of the oldest and most widely-used food colorings, and is found in almost every kind of industrially produced food.
Salt – you should know already
Bleached white flour – white flour that has been chemically treated, usually with the same chemicals used to age the flour, to remove the light yellow color caused by xanthophylls, a variety of carotenoid also found in potatoes and onions.
Sugar – see above
Caramel color – see above
Dextrose – is glucose how this is different from fructose and sucrose is beyond my grasp of chemistry.
Palm oil – edible plant oil derived from the fruits of palm trees. Palm oils are high in saturated fat. Common in processed foods because of how cheap it is.
Corn flour – A powdery flour made of finely ground cornmeal. White corn flour is used as a filler, binder and thickener in cookie, pastry and meat industries.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – According to Wikipedia, HFCS “comprises any of a group of corn syrups that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of its glucose into fructose to produce a desired sweetness. In the United States, consumer foods and products typically use high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener.” This is because it is usually cheaper than sucrose, or table sugar.
Corn syrup – see above
Baking soda – sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda is used in baking because it facilitates the rising of dough.
Modified corn starch – created by physically, enzymatically, or chemically treating native starch, thereby changing the properties of the starch to enhance their performance in different applications. Most likely used here to prevent the wafers from dripping while they defrost.
Salt – see above
Mono and diglycerides – see monoglycerides above
Soy lecithin – a yellow-brownish fatty substances occurring in Soy beans. Its use here is probably for its emulsifying properties since it reduces fat and egg requirements. It also acts as a releasing agent to prevent sticking and simplify cleaning (important in mass production.)
Cocoa – the low-fat component of chocolate.
Before carrying out this exercise I had no idea what the majority of these items were (outside the ones with common household names and the various sugars) or how they were made. Now that I do know I’m only slightly perturbed (disturbed.) The idea that many of these items are produced in chemistry labs instead of grown on a farm, while alarming, doesn’t seem to indicate that they are actively harmful.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the industry that uses and creates them. HFCS is no more harmful than common sugar but, the system that created that made HFCS viable as a substitute is quite harmful.
I enjoyed the sandwich but I don’t think I’ll make eating them a habit. I continue to follow Michael Pollan’s advice from In Defense of Food, “don’t eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food.”