December 12, 2007
Musings on (what's in) Chocolate
Lately, because of different circumstances and people in my life, food ingredients and purity of ingredients has really been in the spotlight for me. I've been learning so much about different food additives, and also about how our bodies process what we eat, sugars and carbohydrates in particular. It's fairly mind-boggling. This in turn is redefining what I consider quality food products, and what I will and will not buy. My health is very important to me, and so is the health of my family and my clients. The more I know, the more I realize I have to know, because there is no one out there going to take the responsibility for my health and safety. I have to know what's good, and I can't rely on governments or food manufacturers to do my homework for me, or be in my health's best interest. Especially when that best interest comes into direct conflict with the bottom line.
So, a few days ago I talked about Chocolate, one of my favorite foods on the planet. I gave information on the "Don't Mess with our Chocolate" campaign, which I wholeheartedly support. But now I want to talk about what is currently in our chocolate. I've done a lot a research on what is added to the chocolate in particular. The two main additives that can be questioned are soy lecithin and PGPR. From what I can gather, soy lecithin, a chocolate emulsifier, of itself is not a problem. The problem lies in the fact that soy lecithin can be made from Genetically Modified Soy(GMO), and/or it can be manufactured by a chemical extraction process. The optimal soy lecithin for consumption is made by organically grown, non-GMO'd soy, manufactured by a mechanical process. As you can imagine, this is also the priciest lecithin product out there, so... good luck, label watchers.
PGPR is another emulsifier that is being used in chocolate. Polyglycerol polyricinoleates (PGPR's) are produced from esterification of polyglycerols with polymerised ricinoleic acid. Doesn't that just sound delicious?
Anyway, this product is supposedly derived originally from castor oil (which is something I love, personally, as a skin oil as long as it's cold-pressed) but which I'm not too impressed to find in some weird chemical soup in chocolate. It says right on Danisco's website (one of the European manufactures of PGPR) that "It can replace fat (cocoa butter) in chocolate while maintaining the same flow properties during production. Thus, when thin-flowing chocolate is required for enrobing or when producing hollow products, e.g. Easter eggs, GRINDSTED® PGPR can be used as a cost-effective alternative to a higher fat content."
Yay! Who needs cocoa butter, that pricey, pricey stuff, when you can use this new goop and cut costs and still get chocolate! Well, sort of, but that's OK. Americans will eat it!
Some pages worth reading:
"Organic Rules Tightening on Lecithin" By Ken Roseboro, Editor The new proposed labeling requirements actually made me happy. However, it's also disappointing to understand that as soon as labeling laws change, the first things companies do is try and figure out ways around them. They seem less interested in making their products safer or healthier. It's a little sobering to realize that even in health-food stores with health-food products, you can't just blithely throw items in your cart, secure in the knowledge that the higher price tag guarantees you quality. Because it doesn't.
'How to order "The Non-GMO Sourcebook"' Listed on The Organic and Non-GMO Report website. This website also has some good information on soy lecithin.
Twango's Tidbits Blog: "The Shopper's GMO guide", by Twango
I love the information on this page, and I want the book she's talking about! Very much worth a read.
Polyglycerol "Polyricinoleate (PGPR) Popping Up In Sugar-Free, Low-Carb Chocolates", by Jimmy Moore I'm not really on the low-carb bandwagon- I'm more on the eat the correct types of carbohydrates and in the correct proportions wagon, but this article has some good information.