What’s in what we eat: the hidden ingredients you’d ever want on your table

About this thing, there is a curious article published on Wired.it, which analyzes 50 foods that contain "strange" ingredients, used to improve the flavor or consistency of products, to increase their weight or to alter properties such as color and preservation.

By Cookist

At the base of a correct diet, as a first rule we have the use of natural ingredients, fresh and possibly chemically untreated. We are not here to list the many benefits we can derive from this correct habit, but rather we want you to reflect on an aspect not always considered but that is perfectly linked with the rules of healthy eating: which ingredients are actually hidden in the food we daily buy?

About this thing, there is a curious article published on Wired.it, which analyzes 50 foods that contain "strange" ingredients, used to improve the flavor or consistency of products, to increase their weight or to alter properties such as color and preservation. Let’s summarize what they have discovered!

If a good beginning bodes well…

One of the most counterfeited products on the market is honey: the scammers add it with invert sugar or corn syrup to dilute it, and there are even those who feed bees directly with sugar.


For the same reason, coffee is often added to other seeds, such as tamarind, or roasted chicory, in order to cheat on weight.

As for tea, this raw material for our infusions is not always cultivated and treated appropriately: not so long ago high percentages of residual pesticides were found in Chinese tea leaves.

And if you decide to drink a good fruit juice, always check the quality and ingredients: it may happen that a drink that needs to be stored away from mold and bacteria, contains benzoic acid (a common preservative) that, in reaction with the vitamin C present in the drinks, would develop benzene. It is true that the European regulations establish since the 1990s limits to the use of benzoic acid, but studies show that they are not always respected. (Source NCBI)


Neither meat nor fish

Just a few weeks ago, inspectors from the Irish office of hygiene found that beef meat hamburger produced in a well-known international supermarket chain also contained horse and pork, introduced in a dishonest attempt to save money by using cheaper ingredients from the beef. (Source BBC)

For the same reason, often animals bred to become meat for slaughter are fed with cortisone: daily adding to the diet of a calf few grams of a cortisone drug, the animal can gain weight up to 80 kilos more than not doped animals and this obviously affects the quality of its meat.

If it is so easy to bluff with "fresh food", do not be frightened if we then discover that the wurstel are composed of what is technically called "mechanically separated meat": in short, it is a pink mush obtained by chopping poultry as much as possible, even the bones.


Even more worrying are the data that emerge analyzing the fish distributed as fresh: the bluefin tuna is for example the first one when it comes to refinement and quality and for this reason it happens that a simple yellowfin colored with turnip juice can be sold as a superior quality bluefin tuna. On the other hand, also the freshness of the fish is a relative element: the law authorizes the use of additives in fresh, frozen and deep-frozen fish and in unprocessed fillets; unfortunately the rule is not always applied and these substances are used to mask the processes of alteration, to improve the appearance or to artificially increase the weight of fish foods. Examples are not lacking, just think about the carbon monoxide used to improve the color of tuna and the added polyphosphates to increase the amount of water retained and increase the weight of the fillets. The techniques are different: a solution containing the additive is often injected, or the fish is allowed to soak in water so that the active ingredient is absorbed.

The Members of the Club Sandwich: sandwiches, tortillas, cold cuts and preserves

Before having a snack, read here!

Those who think to stuff the tortilla only with vegetables for a 100% vegetarian dish are often mistaken: in many cases, in fact, the tortilla is prepared with lard, animal fat, and the same goes for sandwiches.


In sandwiches bread there is also another unusual ingredient, ethyl alcohol, which you can smell immediately opening the bag: the bread is treated superficially with alcohol (the same that we find in alcoholic beverages) for its antimicrobial power and to avoid the formation of mold.

And there is more, even for cured meats: very often they contain lactose, used to soften the meat and increase its taste; and in the worst case, to obtain the same result, we have polyphosphates, additives that help to retain water in the meat but which interfere with the absorption of mineral salts, especially with calcium.


Finally, for lovers of jars full of vegetables, spreads, etc etc, you must know that as preservatives, but also as acidifying and antibacterial agents, they contain lactic acid salts. Yes, just the substance that is formed after doing too much sport and that makes our muscles achy!

Every dish has a story
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