Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What's in your food part 5 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Reese's, wow. Harry Burnett Reese left his job at Hershey chocolate and started the Reese Candy company in the basement of his home back in 1928. He used Hershey chocolate in all his creations and eventually discontinued all but the peanut butter cups. He passed in 56 and his six sons merged with Hershey in a really really cool tax free stock exchange and today the six of them own stock worth over a billion. Hershey has kept the Reese's as a separate company though, because it's non-union whereas the rest of Hershey is union. Well, that sort of shocked me, but, the business world is full of stuff like that. Anyway, the actual peanut
butter cup itself is made using pretty much that same ingredients as they used in the early days. Well, except for the addition of some rather nasty additives, TBHQ being the worst. Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, TBHQ is by law limited to no more than 0.02% of the fat content of the product. This chemical is a derivative of butane and is added to stabilize fats and keep them from degrading and turning rancid. And it works too, products like Reese's have shelf lives of several years instead of only one, all because of the addition of this chemical. One of the things that I notice during my research for this blog is the all too apparent range of LD50 for many of the chemicals used in modern food manufacturing. Some are relatively innocuous, with very high LD50 values. Some have very low LD50 values with experimental dosage rates being in just a few mg per Kilo of body weight for various mammals (now that is kind of a weird job for lab technicians now isn't it, killing animals for science) But when the LD50 for TBHQ turned out to be only 700mg/Kg I was shocked. For any food additive, that is very very low. (MSDS for TBHQ see Section 11)  The thing to look at here though is the lack of long term data on the MSDS. For that we have to go to the Fed's own ToxNet (Toxnet for TBHQ) and here we see the results of long term feeding studies on rats that show neurological and digestive system damages. The good news though is that it is classified by IARC as a Class 3 carcinogen, meaning that at this time and with data from feeding studies there is no classifiable carcinogenicity. But there is that neurological damage thing. What was I talking about, oh yeah, I ate a lot of these as a youth. My memory isn't what it once was. And just a side note here, if you go to the ToxNet, you will see long term feeding studies done on a vastly huge number of chemical additives. What you won't find though are any on GMO crops nor for Glyphosate. Next we have PGPR which is an emulsifier. In the industry it's known as a cheat. The reality is that it has very low toxicity and low long term side effects. What it does though is it makes chocolate creamier, smoother, have better mouth feel and all the while the manufacturer can use less cocoa butter to achieve similar taste sensations as chocolates with what are considered normal or regular amounts of cocoa. That's probably why when most people taste high quality hand made artisinal chocolates they exclaim how great those are. It isn't anything different, it's just that they use the whole cacao bean and the big guys remove the cocoa butter and use emulsifiers in attempts to trick consumers. It works, the chocolate industry sells billions.  But then we get to the ultimate expression of cheating, and that's making chocolate candies without any chocolate in them at all. Reese's Pieces. They contain absolutely no chocolate at all. They do contain a whole host of chemicals though, and four, count'em, FOUR different coal tar dyes. Remember from previous episodes, coal tar dyes are illegal in most of the rest of the industrialized world, because they are known carcinogens. There are three different sugars, regular beet sugar, corn syrup, and dextrose. There are hydrogenated oils (aren't those bad for us?) And there is reduced mineral whey. Not sure why they remove the minerals, the stuff has little nutritive value to begin with so they make the candy even less likely to be healthy. It has Carnuba Wax and Resinous Glaze. Those are part of the candy coating. I don't need to define Carnuba Wax, most of us use it on our cars, but the Resinous Glaze is made from the excrement of the Tachardia Lacca beetles. The beetles live in India and it is a big industry there to harvest the excrement and process it into food additives and lacquer for the furniture industry. And finally, artificial flavor. That's where the chocolaty taste comes from. Now these are pictures of the labels from the products, the company doesn't put the ingredients on their website. It's kind of scary when the manufacturer won't put the ingredients on their website. It's right there on the package, but they won't tell you online. (Check out their site)

Would I eat these creations of big agribusiness? No. I have friends at the farmers markets that hand make chocolates right directly from imported cacao beans. Real stuff. Yeah, it's more expensive. But then I read those ingredients again and perhaps in the long run, maybe all that crap that I ate in my younger days are contributing to all the problems I have with my health today.

1 comment:

  1. Farmers markets' chocolates REALLY are super! They taste superb (with all those little bits of real food like berries), smell so delicious as to be totally indescribably awesome, and the cocoa is ,,, well, so good for you, releasing those feel-good chemicals!
    Thanks, Roy, for sharing why I haven't chosen to have a Reese's in years!