A Clean Label Experiment

Reader Rick wrote in over the weekend with this comment:

I was very interested by your post on sorbates in ice cream, especially the comment that it’s the food makers that have to list all the additives in the ingredients they use. If I understand you correctly, if I made a commercially distributed carrot cake I would have to list everything that’s on all the packages of all the ingredients I used?

Correct. Which means that this seemingly simple list:

Flour, sugar, carrots, walnuts, eggs, canola oil, cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, lemon zest, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract.

…become this:

Flour (unbleached hard wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, carrots, walnuts, eggs, canola oil, cream cheese (pasteurized nonfat milk and milkfat, whey protein concentrate, cheese culture, salt, whey stabilizers [xanthan and/or carob bean and/or guar gums] sorbic acid, vitamin A palmitate), powdered sugar (sugar, cornstarch), butter, lemon zest, baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract (water, caramel color, propylene glycol, ethyl vanillin, artificial flavor).

That’s assuming you use imitation vanilla, which I usually do for cake batters. Amazing how an innocent list of “from scratch” ingredients can turn satanic when you apply food labeling law to it, isn’t it? This is a big part of the reason why many ingredient manufacturers are now lobbying the FDA to get some of the labeling requirements changed. They’d much rather say “seaweed extract” than “monosodium glutamate” and “tea leaf extract” instead of “propyl gallate.”

I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Better, I think, if people could just stop freaking out over chemical names and start finding out where the ingredients in their foods come from.

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