Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Misleading the Public

A recent article in the New York Times focused on the safety of ground beef. Apparently a lot of ground beef includes bits and pieces cut from parts of the animal that are likely to be contaminated with feces, and thus E. coli.

Not all the meat is tested before sale, increasing the chances that you'll get sick from eating it unless you cook it to death.

But another comment in the article didn't seem to arouse much comment. According to the Times article, "To finish off the Smiths’ ground beef, Cargill added bread crumbs and spices, fashioned it into patties, froze them and packed them 18 to a carton."

Bread crumbs? In ground beef? What's going on here?

According to the article, "The listed ingredients revealed little of how the meat was made. There was just one meat product listed: 'Beef.' "

When I first read this, I thought it meant that the only ingredient listed was beef, and I was outraged, thinking of all the people who have wheat allergies that could be triggered by even small amounts of wheat. Other people apparently also read the sentence that way.

But on rereading, I suspected that what the author really meant was that the only kind of meat listed on the label was beef. And I assume the bread crumbs were also listed.

I'm still angry. If I buy ground beef (and I only buy it at the local general store, which I know grinds its own), I expect to get ground beef, not ground beef plus a lot of fillers. And what about people with serious wheat allergies who eat hamburgers at parties, or at restaurants, if the ground beef comes from one of these companies that add bread crumbs to them?

We really can't trust anyone when it comes to food labels.

Another example is the new high-fiber sugar substitute sold under the Splenda label.

One problem with most commercial sugar substitutes is that they because the sugar substitutes are so intensely sweet, they need some kind of bulking agent so you can pour it out of the container. Without the bulking agent, much of the sweetener might stick to the side of the package.

And unfortunately for those of us with diabetes, the bulking agent is often glucose (listed as dextrose, which some people don't realize is the same thing) or maltodextrin, which consists of 3 to 19 glucose molecules strung together and acts essentially the same as glucose in the gut.

So when I saw that Splenda was offering a new "high fiber" form, and the ingredients were simply "soluble corn fiber and sucralose," I was thrilled. At last someone had figured out that you could use fiber instead of maltodextrin or glucose as a bulking agent.

But because I'm not too swift, it took me a bit to notice the nutritional facts, which said there were 2 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber. Wait a minute! If only 1 gram is fiber, what is the rest of the carbohydrate?

The other versions of Splenda list 1 gram of carbohydrate, so it looked as if instead of substituting fiber for maltodextrin/glucose, they'd simply added fiber to the regular stuff and not listed the maltodextrin/glucose on the label.

So I wrote to the manufacturers and asked, "Your new Splenda with fiber contains 2 g of carbs and only 1 g of fiber. What is the other gram of carbohydrate? Maltodextrin?"

In response, I got a canned response giving the sugar equivalents for Splenda and never even mentioning the new high-fiber product. So OK, they're not going to help. I searched the Internet for answers.

According to one site, "Corn syrup is being relabeled as "Soluble Corn Fiber" in foods and artificial sweeteners, possibly to avoid consumer health concerns about high fructose corn syrup."

And from the cached page of the company that produces it, Promitor (they've removed the original page), "Soluble Corn Fiber may be labeled as “soluble corn fiber” or alternatively, it may be labeled as “corn syrup” or “corn syrup solids” depending on whether it is liquid or dry."

In other words, they take corn syrup, which includes some soluble fiber, and process it to maximize the amount of fiber and then use that as the bulking agent. Their site says that soluble corn fiber is 70% fiber, so obviously 30% is something else.

The 50:50 breakdown on the label (2 g of carbs and 1 g of fiber), instead of 70:30, is probably due to rounding. If you have 2 g of carbs that are 70% fiber, that would be 1.4 g of fiber, and if you're not using decimal places, this would round to 1. The 0.6 g of nonfiber would also round to 1.

But what isn't fiber is most likely maltodextrin and glucose, but they don't have to say that on the label, and most consumers don't t realize that they're eating corn syrup. I didn't.

Various discussions of the soluble corn fiber note that it can be used for "consumer-friendly labels." I would describe them as "consumer-deceiving labels."

I don't like it when a company tries to deceive me with "consumer friendly" terms, making me think there's no corn syrup in what I'm eating, so I'm not planning to buy any more Splenda.

Type 2 Testing

I posted a blogpost at Health Central on testing in type 2, and on the basis of the number of comments I received, I gather this is a pretty hot topic for a lot of people. You can see it here.

Back Again

I recently returned from a short trip to southern France, which was great. But unfortunately I and my traveling companion both returned with some kind of virus, which we probably got on the crowded plane, and I've been under the weather since then, not trusting my brain to write anything very worthwhile.

However, I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and I've started tackling the stacking of 3 cords of wood. Maybe that's helping to cure me.

France was great for someone on a low-carb diet, as the French aren't as fat-phobic as most Americans. My first meal, in a small town along the coast, was the only thing they were serving at that hour (restaurants serve only from noon to 2 p.m., which we didn't know): a large assortment of delicious cold cuts, pates, and a green salad. I was in heaven.

Also, meals didn't come with huge mounds of mashed potatoes or rice, and corn. Of course all the meals come with bread, but I only tasted that. Some was delicious and some was mediocre, not as good as the stuff I used to make using Julia Child's bread recipe and King Arthur flour. A popular "dessert" in France is cheese, and I was able to substitute that for the sweet dessert that came along with full-course meals. Breakfast at the B&B included yogurt and "fruits rouges" (berries), cheese, and sausage along with bread and homemade jam, which I tasted.

But the woman couldn't grasp the concept of a LC diet and assumed I was gluten intolerant. When she finally grasped that I was diabetic, she then assumed I could eat other starches, just not sugar. Oh well. I survived.

I was stuffing myself with fatty cheeses along with other LC food, and when I got home I discovered I'd lost 2 pounds.

I think I need to get a grant to return to France to study this phenomenon.