The truth about food is illusive.

by Andrew Schneider on May 12, 2008

When I look at the dozens of questions that readers send me every week, issues of labeling are often at the head of the list of puzzlements. Typically, they deal with country of origin or ingredients � where does your food come from and what’s really in it?

I’d like to think that all food producers and distributors aren’t intentionally trying to mislead consumers. You know lie, fib, fabricate, falsify, misrepresent or otherwise deceive us on the wholesomeness and quality of their products. I’d like to think that corporate dishonesty is not universal.

We can often get a clue where the melons came from by looking at the empty boxes below the display rack. And, we might wonder why printing on the boxes says “Honduras,” where the recall for E. coli or salmonella is still under way, while the small sticker on each lope proclaims “Grown in Guatemala.”

The sleuthing for safety becomes far more difficult when you attempt to decipher the ingredient list of the side of every can or box.

Food additives can fall into a variety of categories based on their functions, says Pamela Stuppy, nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy writing in the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald.

Some of the major categories include adding or preserving color, for sweetening, for added fiber, for thickening the food, as emulsifying agents (used to combine oily foods and water-based foods), stabilizing agents, flavor enhancers, for adding vitamins and/or minerals, to slow food spoilage, or as “functional ingredients” (for adding nutritional value beyond vitamins and minerals).

This link will take you to her report where she offers up a great guide to sweeteners, the world of mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, thickeners, emulsifiers and other frightening stuff,

It’s worth the read.

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