20 September 2011

Food, deconstructed

When I recently purchased a small container of a seafood casserole, my wife pointed out to me that the ingredients list was almost as big as the package itself...

imitation crabmeat
  • pollock
  • water
  • sugar
  • soybean oil
  • egg whites
  • wheat starch
  • salt
  • potato starch
  • sorbitol
  • modified corn starch
  • artificial crab flavor
  • sake
  • sugar
  • yeast extract
  • sodium tripolyphosphate
  • tetrasodium pyrophosphate
  • paprika oleoresin
  • carmine
  • corn syrup
  • soy lechithin
  • soybean oil
  • water
  • egg yolks
  • vinegar
  • grated parmesan & Romano cheese
  • pasturized skim milk
  • cheese culture
  • salt
  • enzymes
  • cellulose (anticaking)
  • sugar
  • salt
  • corn syrup
  • dehydrated garlic
  • lemon juice concentrate
  • anchovy 
  • spice
  • lactic acid
  • onion powder
  • xanthan gum
  • extractives of tamarind
  • hydrolyzed soy protein
  • propylene glycol alginate
  • calcium disodium EDTA [preservative]
  • durum wheat semolina
  • niacin
  • ferrous sulfate
  • thiamine mononitrate
  • riboflavin
  • folic acid
sour cream:
  • cultured milk
  • cream
  • whey
  • sodium phosphate
  • guar gum
  • carrageenan
  • locust bean gum
  • potassium sorbate [preservative]
sodium lactate
sodium diacetate
green onion

lemon juice:
  • water
  • lemon juice concentrate
  • sodium benzoate and sodium bisulfate [preservatives]
  • lemon oil
potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate (preservative)
black pepper


  1. The two more amazing things about this are 1) that there is such a thing as seafood casserole, and 2) that it is available pre-packaged.

    As much as we may complain about commercial homogenization in this country, there are still interesting regional things to discover.

    Please send some here. :-)

  2. Wow, that's pretty amazing. I recently bought those really soft white cookies with the pink frosting and sprinkles, and that ingredient list was also impressively long.

  3. Anon, I may have used the word "casserole" inappropriately. I didn't save the part of the label with the name on it - just the ingredient list.

  4. Carmine is a red food coloring obtained from bug guts. Check Wikipedia, if you doubt me or want to see a photo of the bug.

  5. Any foodstuff contents is impressive when listed out that way. Of course, we all should have proper concerns about the artificial additives, etc., but this also makes me remember an effective print ad from the 70's(?) that had a very large list of chemical ingredients and the photo was of a single apple.
    Chemicals R Us.

  6. FWIW, carmine has been used as a coloring for thousands of years (albeit not necessarily in foodstuffs). It isn't some evil modern invention.

    --Swift Loris

  7. I didn't say it was new. I just think we should be told what is being put in our food and let us make our own decisions. The FDA allows them to put 'Natural Food Coloring' on food labels because it comes from a biological source.

  8. It is not bug guts.

    "To prepare carmine, the powdered scale insect bodies are boiled in ammonia or a sodium carbonate solution, the insoluble matter is removed by filtering, and alum is added to the clear salt solution of carminic acid to precipitate the red aluminium salt..."

    The "bugs" are used as a cheap way to retrieve the aluminum salt of carminic acid.

    Not saying this makes anything more natural or the sort. Just for the sake of accuracy and not just "eww... bug guts!"

  9. I see sake as an ingredient to the imitation crabe meat. First time I have seen this.

  10. You should read Michael Pollan's books on modern food if you want to extend this line of thinking. He overuses the word "Virgil(s)" and can be too flowery for my taste, but there are some eye-opening thoughts in his writing.


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