Did you hear about the class action suit brought against Taco Bell about their use of Cellulose Fiber in their products?
Cellulose is a form of wood pulp. You may see it on food labels in many forms such as cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose. The FDA, which regulates food industry products, lists cellulose as safe for human consumption. Even more interesting, the government does not set any limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products. However, the USDA (who regulates meats) limits cellulose fiber in meat to 3.5%.
Cellulose extends the shelf life of processed food. It is found in everything from crackers and ice cream to pudding and baked goods. But until now, no one knew what they were actually paying for (and consuming).
With food manufacturers looking to cut costs wherever possible, cellulose is becoming more in demand. It’s cheaper than other fiber sources, allowing the manufacturer to save upwards of 30% in ingredient costs.
Just as there are those who say High Fructose Corn Syrup is simply ‘corn’ and isn’t bad for you, there are cellulose proponents who boast that they can remove as much as 50% of fat from bakery goods (cakes, brownies, cookies, biscuits, breads, pizza crust, pancakes, muffins) and even scrambled eggs and mashed potato mixes, by substituting powdered cellulose without impacting taste or appearance. Then they promote it to customers as low fat and high fiber. Which it is, I guess. But to me, it’s still wood pulp.
J.Rettenmaier USA, is a company which supplies “organic” cellulose fiber to processed food and meat manufacturers. They sell food for both human and pet consumption. These companies also use cellulose for detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, auto brake pads, glue, roof coating, asphalt, and more.
Some reports say that Humans are unable to properly digest cellulose, and don’t have the necessary enzymes to break it down. But it hasn’t stopped the food manufacturers from promoting it to us in items such as:
- General Mills “Fiber One Ready to Eat Muffins,”
- Kellogg Eggo Nutrigrain waffles
- Cinnabon pancakes and snack bars
- MorningStar Farms chicken patties and veggie wings
- Kentucky Fried Chicken’s popcorn chicken and Cornbread Muffin
- Kraft Thick & Creamy Mac & Cheese, and also Three Cheese shells
- Wheat Thins
- McDonalds Fish Filet, McRib, Caesar Salad, Strawberry Sundae, McFlurry
- Nestle Hot Cocoa Mixes
- Aunt Jemima Syrup and Frozen blueberry pancakes
- Pizza Hut Yum! brands
- Sara Lee/Jimmy Dean frozen breakfast bowls
- Sonic blast, ice cream, and banana split
- Taco Bell corn tortilla, southwest chicken, caramel apple empanada, enchilada rice, nacho chips
- Weight Watchers Vanilla Ice cream sandwich, English Toffee Crunch ice cream bar, cookies & cream ice cream bar
- Wendy’s/Arby’s fat free french dressing, blue cheese crumbles, frosty shake, and 1% low fat chocolate milk
And the list goes on….happy label reading! Enjoy your low fat, high fiber processed foods…but just watch out for “splinters!”