Posted by: TTCLauren | March 12, 2011

Mystery Ingredients…what’s really in your food?

There have been 12 million new packaged foods introduced to the market in the last few years. Food manufacturers are trying to compete with fast food companies by making quick and easy products. But what do these ‘time saving products’ really contain? Let’s take a look… (we have some fun with this at my Wildtree taste testing home parties)

When you dig into a strawberry Yoplait yogurt, do you ever contemplate where the pretty pink color comes from?  Would your breakfast taste as yummy if you knew that the answer was crushed bugs? Yes, bugs! The female cochineal beetles and their eggs, to be exact.  According to the a recent article in Business Week, these infamous beetles also give red coloring to Good & Plenty candies, Tropicana grapefruit juice and other common foods. Companies cleverly call it ‘artificial color’ without giving further details. Look for “cochineal extract” or “carmine extract” on the label next time you open a Mango Snapple! Yes, Snapple is advertised as an ‘all natural’ product. But so are bugs!

How about that bright white color of Betty Crocker icing? You presume it comes from cream or egg whites, but what if you knew it actually came from “titanium dioxide,” a mineral also used in house paints? Would you still want that coveted corner piece of cake with all the extra frosting on it? I tend to doubt it. As the article went on to say, even Jello isn’t immune! Gelatin, the main ingredient, is actually a hydrolyzed animal protein. What’s that? A protein created from the prolonged boiling of animal skin, tissue, and bones.  How large a bowl would you like now?

Next time you reach for that packet of Old El Paso chili mix to make a quick dinner, look at two things—first the sodium content, which makes up 20-25% of the serving, at a whopping 550 mg. Second, the ingredients…one that stands out is Silicon Dioxide, which is found in most powdered mixes. Before you run for the dictionary, let me save you some time—you know exactly what it is already! Do you recall those little white packets in shoeboxes, pocketbooks, or leather goods that is stamped “Silica Gel – Do Not Eat?” BINGO! The chemical compound Silica has 13 crystalline forms, one of which is Silica Gel, and another is the anti-caking agent commonly found in powdered foods, called Silicon Dioxide.

Another mystery ingredient on that same label is Ethoxyquin. Check that one out on-line, and you will find it is listed in the US Dept of Agriculture’s farm chemical handbook as a pesticide, and that the container has a skull & cross bones on the label.

By comparison, Wildtree’s chili mix contains NO sodium, no silicon dioxide, and no ethoxyquin (all of our products are 100% all natural, with no additives, preservatives, MSG or food dyes), and can be made just as quickly and easily as the store brand, and tastes great! So given the choice, why wouldn’t you choose the healthier version that you don’t need the internet or a dictionary to translate the ingredients of?

I’m sure your next question is, how can the food companies put these items in our food? Well, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has a category called GRAS in their labeling, which stands for ‘generally regarded as safe,’ meaning they have decided that certain chemicals are safe for consumption in small, controlled quantities.

But my question is this…is that ‘safe quantity’ threshold the same for a 3 year old as it is for a 250 lb adult? And what about the cumulative effect if you were to ingest chemicals like this in at least one meal a day, 365 days a year? No one talks about that. But it does give one pause, as to why there are so many diseases and syndromes in this day and age that did not exist when our grandparents and great-grandparents lived. Coincidence? Or not?

There are so many more interesting ingredients contained in the foods sitting in your cabinets, and in future articles we’ll look at some more. Meanwhile, if you’re thinking about tossing out half of your pantry after reading this article, call me! I’d love to show you some healthy alternatives for quick & easy meals with ingredients you don’t need a dictionary to decipher!




  1. I just knew there was crap in our food, and you have confirmed it, so thank you for writing this article and informing us all! I highly encourage you to do it again!

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