Posts filed under ‘Pure Food and Adulteration’
Perhaps you are aware of the tiny war being waged on the “ingredients” panel of your average processed food. The law requires that ingredients be listed. But every food processor knows that more and more consumers are wary of the multi-syllabic mystery chemicals that make possible the magic of modern food. So the food industry is very interested in what grad-student types call “semantics”: how things get named.
Controversies over naming go all the way back to the dawn of processed foods. One of the first had to do with a corn derivative that was having an image problem. The common name was “glucose,” but food reformers’ attacks had made consumers suspicious of an additive reputed to be concocted of arsenic, saw dust, and glue. So the corn industry came up with a much nicer sounding name: corn syrup.
I thought of this when I read about a new additive known to the trade as Verdad Power F80, a preparation developed by Dutch company Carbion Purac that is designed “preserve the freshness and flavor of a variety of fresh and ready-to-eat foods, including sauces, salads and bread.” No stranger to the label wars, Carbion Purac assures its customers that this additive can legally be named on ingredients lists by a much more benign title: fermented sugar.
Carbion Purac claims the additive is “natural” and the product of “minimal processing.” Something about “the latest in fermentation and spray-drying technology.” I don’t know what that means. But I do know what this means: “With Verdad Power F80 we …. can now offer food processors a greater choice of label-friendly ingredients.”
Maybe I’m being too curmudgeonly. Verdad Power F80 does seem to be less of a chemistry experiment than many other additives. So isn’t that a good thing? I’m not sure. Does a dose of “all-natural” preservatives really make it that much better to chow down on Twinkies and PopTarts?
As reported in the Philadelphia North American on November 30, 1908:
Grubbstown, Pennsylvania, Nov 29. The astounding discovery has been made here that impure and decayed rocks are being used in the manufacture of rock candy.
How long this violation of the law has been going on is not accurately known, but certainly the fraud is widespread and thousands of persons have been cheated, if not positively harmed, by the men who have been carrying on their wicked work.
Special Agent Horatio Acornley, who has been investigating the matter for several weeks, says he can produce positive proof that several large candy manufacturers have been buying rotten rock at a low price and using it most exclusively in making rock candy.
“Thosands of innocent children have thus been exposed to the poison,” said Mr. Acornley, “and I would not be surprised to learn that it is responsible for many cases of hardening of the heart which have been reported to us.”
“As every one knows, only the best quality of rocks should be used…and we propose to bring suits against the guilty wretches.”
“In this connection I may say that I am looking into several cases of using poor limestone in making lime drops.”
Candy Professor adds:
It was these sorts of stories that made V.L. Price, the Chairman of the N.C.A. Executive Committee in the early 1900s, positively crazy. He was charged with responding to press accounts of poisoned or adulterated candy. So when the North American published this satirical piece, he put pen to paper to patiently respond, no, there is no rock in “rock candy,” only good pure sugar, and of course there are no limestones in lime drops either.
Which pedantry seems excessive, were it not for the fact that some time later Price found the Minneapolis Tribune publishing an investigative report raising the alarm about the use of crushed rocks in rock candy and limestone in lime drops. Price remarked wryly:
Of course, in gay Philadelphia they all saw the joke as it appeared in the paper’s columns as a fake, but in staid old Minneapolis they all took it seriously.
Or at least Marion Harland, the author of the Minneapolis piece, took it seriously. Just goes to show, you can’t believe everything you read in the papers!
Source: V.L. Price, report to the National Confectioners Association Convention June 1909, as reported in Confectioners Journal July 1909 p. 73.