Smorgasbord Health Column – Processed foods vs. Industrially manufactured foods.

Over the last four years, those of you who regularly read the health posts will know that I am very keen on the ‘cook from scratch’ with ‘fresh produce’ approach to eating.

I have been on that mind for over 20 years, even though I do enjoy buying the odd thing that is manufactured such as crisps (potato chips) cereals, bread, they are nearly always from the in house bakery, own brands fresh sauces or organic brands.

But even then, when you see bread displayed without packaging and oddly shaped, it may have been created from frozen dough from thousands of miles away, defrosted, formed into loaves and baked in the ovens.

I came across the following article back in 2015 and I have the link in a special folder of those that I want to keep and reread from time to time. This particular post lays bare some of the behind the scenes manufacturing processes that go into the foods that are packaged and that are bought by millions to feed their families.

There are certain foods that we eat daily that are processed, such as dairy products and certainly milk is pasturised for safety reasons. (There is a new movement towards raw milk that I am not quite sure about for the time being).

We eat a lot of cheese and we assume that is completely natural… but did you know that in the making of this delicious fatty and salty product various additives are used.  These include Cheese colouring to add either a lovely creamy finish or a red cheese. Some colourants are made from natural plant sources such as the Annatto tree but the product itself contains potassium hydroxide and castor oil. Whilst the consumption of castor oil in these small quantities present in cheese making might not be classified as harmful, it is commonly used for constipation and in some people can cause an allergic reaction.  If you have ever wondered why eating too much cheese causes you to have a stomach upset, it may be due to the additives rather than the dairy content. And the yellower your piece of cheddar is the more colourant it contains. The whiter the cheese the more natural. You will also find calcium chloride (for a nice thick curd and is an E number 509) Lipase to give your cheese a more cheesy flavour and citric acid for some of the soft cheeses such as mozzarella.

Then of course there is the mold that is added to certain cheeses that look very pretty with their blue veins running through them.

Penicillium Roqueforti (blue mold) is used to ripen and give flavor to Blue, Gorgonzola, and Stilton cheeses. This mold gives an intense blue-green marbled interior, piquant aroma and creamy consistency.”

Changes that occur in cheese with the fermenting and “ripening” process include the production of a toxic alkaloid called roquefortine, a neurotoxin which can cause mice to have convulsive seizures. Probably, all blue cheese contains roquefortine. The alkaloid is produced by the mold Penicillium roqueforti.

Milk, produced by mammary glands that are actually modified sweat glands, is naturally high in salt. Cheese shares in this high salt content. A high salt intake increases one’s likelihood of having high blood pressure.

The rennet for the curdling process in cheese-making is commonly obtained from calves’ stomachs. A combination of rennin and pepsin is sometimes used, or plant enzymes derived from fungus. The pepsin is obtained principally from fresh hog stomachs. Many processed cheeses have preservatives, emulsifying agents, and other chemicals added to them that can have a harmful effect on the body. The putrefactive process through which milk goes to produce cheese reduces the vitamin content. Cheese is almost completely devoid of water soluble vitamins. Losses of both vitamins and minerals occur with the loss of whey.

Am I suggesting that you give up cheese?  No, I actually eat cheese myself from time to time although in recent years I can no longer indulge in a cheese platter with lots of butter and crackers. But like most high fat and salty foods, moderation is definitely the key with cheese.

So that is the processed foods that we assume are natural…

Now a look at what happens when the food industry gets hold of a natural ingredient and then transforms it into a pre-prepared meal for the family, cakes, biscuits, bread, yogurts, desserts, pies etc.

Here are some extracts from the article that I keep in my file as a reminder of why I rarely buy industrially manufactured foods.

“Read this and you’ll never eat a ready meal again: JOANNA BLYTHMAN spent months probing Britain’s convenience food industry. Her findings will turn your stomach

  • More than three billion ready meals were eaten in Britain in 2012
  • They make up the biggest sector of the UK’s £70 billion a year food budget
  • Food manufacturers carry out little or no preparation of raw ingredients
  • They buy treated ingredients, mainly frozen or dried, from other companies
  • Meat, fish and vegetables are kept at sub-zero temperatures for months
  • But when the food is thawed and cooked it can be marketed as ‘fresh’
  • A ready-meal factory can churn out 250,000 portions a day using 70 different ingredients

Finding out the truth about what we are really eating eventually became my career, as a food journalist.

Most people love ready meals, however; three billion were eaten in Britain in 2012 and they make up the biggest sector of the country’s £70 billion annual retail food budget.

Processed food is everywhere, despite numerous news stories warning of the dangers.

In the past few days headlines, taken from my book, highlighted the risks of eating bagged salad: the greenery can be as much as ten days old and have been submerged up to eight hours in tap water heavy with chlorine, to inhibit bacteria.

Citric, tartaric and other fruit acids are also painted on to the leaves to keep them looking fresh. It sounds revolting but it does not stop millions from buying bagged leaves”

And in another section of the article

“When an ITV investigation on the Tonight programme analysed a typical supermarket ‘British lamb hotpot’ ready meal, it discovered the ingredients were from ten countries and included New Zealand lamb, Israeli carrots, Argentine beef bones and Majorcan potatoes.

Irish authorities were equally shocked to discover that a pizza bearing the label ‘country of origin Ireland’ in fact contained 35 ingredients that had passed through 60 countries during preparation and packaging.

Most of the meat, vegetables and fish in our convenience food has been transported and stored while frozen.

Typically, it is kept at sub-zero temperatures for months, even years, but when it is thawed and cooked, it can be marketed as ‘fresh’.

Eggs are supplied to food manufacturers in many forms but almost never in their shells.

Instead, they come as powders, with added sugar, as products made just from albumen (egg white) or they come hard-boiled in a long cylinder so that, when cut, every slice of egg is identical.”

Anyway – for those of you who are not taken in by the food industries marketing… this will confirm why you ‘cook from scratch’ and I do suggest that you read the entire piece for yourself.

Thanks for dropping in today. It is not my intention to be the food police as I would be arrested frequently. However, I do think that particularly when we are responsible for the health of our children as well as ourselves, it is a good idea to think about the long term effects of using a high percentage of industrially manufactured foods in our diet.

34 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Processed foods vs. Industrially manufactured foods.

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  2. Reblogged this on Retired? No one told me! and commented:
    A great post from Sally highly processed foods… Why do so many still eat processed foods? Processed foods why should we limit how much we eat and how it affects our health and our families health…A good well researched post…No Gimmicks or untruths just facts… A must read !

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you very much Carol.. I think it boils down (sorry) to time and cost and the marketing companies play on those two elements. I cooked for 140 pupils at the school where I worked back in the late 70s and Birds Eye produced 10 portion main meal mass catering packs. When I arrived the children got those at least 5 times a week. The first term I did deals with local farmers for eggs, fruit, vegetables etc and even some meat products. I cooked from scratch and saved £2000 the first term. In 1977 that was a lot of money.. and I did that virtually every term from then on. When working I used a slow cooker with a stew for three days.. I only cooked twice a week. The misconception is that you have to cook every day. Thanks for spreading the word.. you are a star… hugs

      Liked by 5 people

      • I totally agree Sally the common consensus seems to be that if you cook from scratch you spend all day in the kitchen …nothing is further from the truth as we both know… I may spend a few hours occasionally especially around big holidays or if I am batch cooking but I don’t spend all day…I did a good months supply of tomatoes last week( I don’t) buy tinned..Under an hour tops…Healthier, far cheaper …I just freeze in portions. Today I have made a batch of mint sauce( hoping I can get some lamb lol but I had a glut of fresh mint ..15 minutes if that tops…We need to be in charge of the nations food Sally and rattle a few cages to boot…What fun we could have …Hugs xxx

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Sally, thank you for your very interesting and frightening article. I eat and offer very few ready meals but how do we avoid the minefield of additives and down right destructive ingredients in preparation of common food as cheese. Even milk.
    I am a vegetarian who also eats fish and seafood. Lately I have noticed that vegan food is growing among the young who are rebelling against many food chains.

    I had a very interesting yoga teacher who said. Maybe for now we steer between the shores carefully and avoid the worst.
    What do you think we should do?? I do believe all your research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have adopted a 80/20 approach to my diet Miriam.. there are somethings that I believe we do need in moderate quantities such as dairy, particularly in countries where there is a lack of sunshine.. Most is fortified with Vitamin D which is becoming one of those nutrients that is increasingly and dangerously deficient. I tend to eat more fish than meat these days and if you are eating plenty of varied vegetables, moderate intake of wholegrains (in relation to your activity levels) some fruit, nuts, seeds with the addition of white cheeses such as goats, feta and organic white cheddar etc you are avoiding the colourants at least. The important element is making sure that your diet is nutrient dense and choosing foods that are not just empty calories.. I have a basic shopping list which provides most of the nutrients the body needs to be healthy if you think it is useful. best wishes Sally

      Liked by 3 people

  4. A great post, Sally. That’s why I shop at my local butcher and fishmonger who can tell me where the meat and fish come from. I buy most of my fruit and veg from the market. Again, mainly local stuff.
    I have always cooked fresh and from scratch. However, I love cheese, and that’s worrying.
    My grandma used to buy food on an almost daily basis. That, I suppose was possible in those days, when women didn’t go out work after they married, but young people especially, eat these prepared foods for quickness and convenience. Having sai that, when I was working, i cooked meals from scratch when I got home. It’s possible.
    What about baby foods? I’d like to see some research on them. My daughter prepared her own food for her children when they were babies.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Listeriosis is much in the news right now – Listeria is the bacteria which has been found to be in processed cold meats – almost a 1000 people have been diagnosed with this illness in the last year and sadly many have died. It affects new borns and the elderly – I gather in those whose immune systems are somewhat compromised. So, cold meats, viennas, russians … The bacteria has been found to be present in factories in a couple of BIG NAMES in the food industry. Thanks Sally … we are indeed what we eat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes the toxic bacteria found in foods is very serious and I have done a series in the past with repeats coming up.. Personally don’t eat very much raw including salad vegetables unless I have done the cleaning. I trust very few in the food manufacturing industry, least of all the big names.. I would rather by local and family run businesses who suffer repercussions in the community if they are found wanting.. not a firm with a barrage of spin doctors and lawyers on retainer.. thanks Susan..

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Another great informative if a little unnerving post Sally. Cooking from scratch is definitely the best way to go! Pxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Paul and it is a little unnerving. I was very aware of that this morning when I went shopping and checked in my own trolley. I then tried to read the small print on the packet of pasta I bought and must have looked a right twit wearing my normal glasses as well as my reading glasses.. They don’t make it easy… hugs xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for a very enlightening article Sally. I also cook from scratch for the very reasons that you have mentioned, these days I read more and more about the unhealthy effects of ready made meals. As regards the cold meats, Belgium health advisers to the country have now classed those as junk foods.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Scary thoughts!! I always like a reminder as sometimes these ready-made meals are so convenient! Beyond all the toxins and preservatives they’re all usually loaded up with so much fat and sodium that they wouldn’t be good for anyone regardless! Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

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