Friday, January 8, 2010

Jan.8 - Toxin of the Day: Microwave Popcorn

Microwave popcorn is a "guilt free" staple of dieters far and wide. Sure it is low calorie, but as we all know, "low calorie" and "good for you" are not always riding in the same car.

Let's examine the ingredients in a popular brand of microwave popcorn that you can find on the shelves of any grocery store in North America.

Ingredients: popping corn, palm oil, salt, potassium chloride, natural and artificial flavors, butter (Cream and annato), color added, freshness preserved by TBHQ and Citric Acid

Okay, the first three ingredients I understand. I can picture them in my head. I might actually use those ingredients in making my popcorn at home. But what are those other ingredients?

Potassium Chloride: According to Wikipedia, the number one use is for fertilizer. Mmmm. It is also used to melt ice in commercial "sidewalk salt" and for a little bit more fun, it is used as part of the chemical compound used in lethal injections to carry out the death sentence. Wow. Could you pass me some of that?

Natural and Artificial Flavors: Natural flavors are derived in some way from organic things, but not necessarily the organic item it is supposed to taste like. Artificial flavors are synthetic and if they make up less than a certain percentage of the ingredients then the manufacturer is not required by the FDA to distinguish the chemicals used to produce those flavors. So basically, your guess is as good as mine as to what this popcorn contains.

Annato: A naturally occurring food coloring, Annato is the only natural food colouring linked to allergic reactions. This is what gives the popcorn it's yellow "buttery" color.

TBHQ: That is the short way of saying tertiary butylhydroquionine. I'm not sure how to say it the long way, but I don't blame them for abbreviating it. This is added to stabilize the oils used in the popcorn. This chemical has been proven to cause precancerous stomach tumors in lab animals, and long term exposure is said to cause other cancers as well. TBHQ is also used to stabilize explosives and make varnish.

Citric Acid: That's just vitamin C, is the common refrain. True. However the commercial citric acid used as a food stabilizer is obtained by growing mold in scrap molasses. I'd frankly prefer to get my vitamin C from eating an orange. Other uses for citric acid include delaying drying time for cement, developing film and making explosives.

Let's make our paper bag popcorn tonight instead, shall we?

Have a squeaky clean day!


1 comment:

  1. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, not citric acid.