Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – Processed foods vs. Industrially manufactured foods by Sally Cronin

Over the last nine 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 of that mind for over 25 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. This is from a site that is not longer available but I did find it very interesting.

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.” It is thought that if you have an allergy to penicillin that you may react to this additive and should eat blue cheese with caution.

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 higher than normal salt intake may increase the likelihood  in some people of high blood pressure. Although there are several other factors that cause high blood pressure and salt is not necessarily the leading one. Smorgasbord Health High Blood Pressure and the Salt Debate

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. Apart from the sugar content… there are many more ingredients we would not recognise as healthy.

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 Daily Mail – Why you may never eat a ready meal again!

  • 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.

A little bit about me nutritionally. .

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.

Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 21 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin


54 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – Processed foods vs. Industrially manufactured foods by Sally Cronin

  1. We try to avoid processed foods and this post shares a lot of reasons why, Sally. It makes me want to expand my garden this year. Thanks for sharing your research and advice. Healthy food is essential to healthy bodies. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thaks very much William and I have to say when we moved to Spain in the late 90s I was amazed by the supermarkets where in the US and the UK we were used to several aisles of prepared dishes and products there was only one small aisle and an incredible range of fresh produce couners with fabulous produce… you could only cook from scratch.. hugsx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, in America you can still pick up a hot ready-made meal almost anywhere. No wonder obesity is still a problem, with all of its ramifications.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I do give in to the temptation of a ready meal sometimes, but there’s never that same satisfaction and pleasure as you get from a cooked-from-scratch meal. A lot of this information was shocking! When I was a child, I asked my father what the blue stuff was in his cheese. When he told me it was mould, I thought he was joking. I still can’t bring myself to eat it! ♥♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do buy a ready meal sometimes. Dunnes here to a limited range of their finest ingredients and their fish pie is delicious. I think if you are picky about the ones you eat then it does you no harm from time to time. And that blue cheese is a bit off putting lol… I still like a piece of really good cheddar from time to time.. ♥♥

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Over the years, I have become an avid reader of labels. It’s surprising what is added to foods they call ‘natural.’ I prefer to prepare my own meals from the freshest ingredients possible. It’s getting harder and harder to find true organic produce, but I still try. Thanks for this, Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is all you can do Jan. We are lucky with our produce here and there is always a reasonably priced organic section. I know for busy mums it is often an easier option to buy the family prepared meals but I do believe it is a false economy as far as health is concerned. Sounds like you are doing a great job ♥


  4. I’m happy that you have decided to be the food police for today Sally…although I cook from scratch 90% of the time even I was surprised by a couple of the food inventions …I now know what that bright almost glowing yellow stuff is that I have seen at some food stalls(and) not eaten from that stall I will say…eeek…I’m going to stop there before I never ever eat again unless it’s from my kitchen or a very well-known source…Shared on Thursday Thoughts Hugs xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Unfortunately the packaging is usually prepared by the marketing department not the food production staff as I think they probably avoid eating it themselves. It is amazing what they hide in the small print and they have invented new words for previously banned substances. I need two pairs of glasses to read most labels and I know the majority of people don’t bother… too time consuming when you have a busy life so you go by what it says on the front of the package. Thanks for another share ♥♥

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome, Sally my rule is more than 5 on the ingredients list and I don’t buy it…like you I can’t read the labels but I am guessing even someone with 20/20 vision would struggle…I just don’t get why those that can can’t see the damage that is inflicted on health and do something but I guess I do its all about the money..Our money lining their pockets…I’m now winding myself up…but I can’t see it changing just getting worse because no one who can make a difference will take a stand…Hugs xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • I get wound up all the time Carol… I watch young mums with their trollies loaded with the stuff and big bottles of soda, cheap bread, packets of crisps and a handful of veg… much of the next generation will be the victims of the manufacturer’s greed and governmental negligence… I better go and do my walk lol. ♥

        Liked by 1 person

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  6. Great information, Sally. I meant to tell you. I quit Weight Watchers (WW now). On Monday, they announced they were going to partner with a telehealth organization to provide doctors (only $100 a month) for members to get prescriptions to Ozempic, and some of the other weight loss/diabetes drugs. I felt deceived after all the years of hearing how we should lose weight through clean eating and exercise. Of course, this is all about money for them. Their stock jumped 79% on the announcement. Imagine going to meetings and having women talk about all the weight they lost while using these drugs, compared to the rest of us who don’t qualify or don’t have that kind of money. 🤦🏼‍♀️

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is appalling Colleen and goes completely against the mission statement of WW.. That is neither a safe nor long term answer to weight. In the UK now they have paved the way for this new weightloss drug Wegovy that is used by celebrities but has side effects and has not been sufficiently tested, to give to thousands of obese patients. I don’t know what the world is coming to. I am sure you have more than enough experience Colleen to make the right decisions for your body including leaving WW. thanks for letting me know xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too! I achieved lifetime status in 2012. We moved and I had no meetings close by. Of course, my weight crept back up. In 2020, I started back to online meetings. They’d changed the plan so much I only 9 pounds in 3 years. WW has lost tons of business and money. I’m sure this is their way of getting rich quick off the Ozempic and Wegovy drugs. Here in the states, these drugs cost around $1000 a month and insurance does not cover them. I can’t imagi ne spending that much money a month. But you know women who will! The whole thing is crazy. And, I read after they stop taking the drugs, they gain the weight right back. So, I’m not sure how this really is a help to anyone? I’m very disappointed.

        Liked by 2 people

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  8. Hi Sally, oops, I got distracted and my phone finished my comment for me. I try to cook from scratch every weekend and make enough for 2 week nights. My mom likes to cook easy meals but the aren’t necessarily processed. I’m thinking if things like sausages. I do love cheese and we eat a fair amount of it.

    Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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