What your food label really means
Added vitamins: One-dimensional factory versions of natural vitamins found in whole foods: ascorbic acid (man-made vitamin C) is usually synthesised from the fermentation of GM corn, while artificial vitamin E is commonly derived from petrol.
Soluble fibre: A healthier-sounding term for modified starch, which is widely used to reduce the quantity of more nutritious ingredients in processed foods, and keep down manufacturers’ costs.
‘Natural’ colourings: The only difference between these and artificial ones is that they start with pigments that occur in nature. Otherwise, they are made using the same highly chemical industrial processes, including extraction using harsh solvents.
Artificial ‘diet” sweeteners: Several large-scale studies have found a correlation between artificial sweetener consumption and weight gain. Accumulating evidence suggests that they may also increase our risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Enzymes: Used to make bread stay soft longer; injected into low-value livestock before slaughter, to tenderise their meat; and used in fruit juice processing to create a cloudier, more natural appearance.
‘Packaged in a protective atmosphere’: Food that has been “gassed” in modified air to extend its shelf life. It delays what food manufacturers call “warmed over flavour”, an off-taste that occurs in factory food.
Beef/pork/poultry protein: Collagen extracted from butchered carcasses, processed into a powder and added to low-grade meats. It adds bounce, increases the protein content on the nutrition label and, combined with water, is a substitute for meat.
Washed and ready-to-eat salads: “Cleaned” by sloshing around in tap water dosed with chlorine, often with powdered or liquid fruit acids to inhibit bacterial growth. The same tank of treated water is often used for 8 hours at a time.
‘Pure’ vegetable oil: Industrially refined, bleached, deodorised oils. Food processors often add chemicals to extend their “fry life”.
‘Natural’ flavourings: Even the flavour industry concedes that “there isn’t much difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavourings”. They are made using the same physical, enzymatic, and microbiological processes.