Getting such information is easier said than done, considering how the food industry has created a near-impenetrable wall of security around its manufacturing activities.
Companies hide behind the rationale that processing methods are trade secrets, and that they’re merely protecting proprietary information from competitors.
“They’ve gotten away with that for years. What that means is that unless you’re a food industry insider, you’re just not going to know what’s happening behind the scenes,” Joanna says.
So, to get the inside scoop, Joanna assumed a fake identity and managed to convince a smaller food manufacturer to provide her with a professional cover. Using that cover, she got an inside look into the “core” of the food manufacturing industry. And what she learned was surprising to say the least.
For starters, what non-insiders do not know is that there are a multitude of chemicals used in food that do not have to be in any way disclosed, as they’re considered “processing aids.” So besides preservatives, emulsifiers, colors, and flavors, which are generally listed, there are any number of others that you’ll never find out the details about.
“I realized that there’s so much going on behind the scenes of food manufacturing. Most consumers, we haven’t got a clue, and we are not allowed to know. You can’t even trust things that would seem to be the healthy choice,” she says.
This is disconcerting, as many health conscious consumers now take the time to carefully read food labels. But what Joanna’s research reveals that there’s an array of additives that will never make it onto the label.
Surprising Truths the Processed Food Industry Hides from You
Do you eat processed meats like hamburgers, thinking you’re eating mostly real beef? Chances are you’re way off in your assumption. One type of meat process involves soaking butchered carcasses in hot water with added enzymes. This has the effect of releasing about another five percent of meat-like substance from the carcass.
This is then added into cheap burgers, sausages, and other processed meat products. Enzyme-treated blood products are also routinely added to lower-end processed meat products.
“What really got me were the things that seemed to be really natural… For example, I was amazed to find that there is a kind of coloring known as the cloudifier. It makes your juice look as though it’s got more real fruit juice in it because it creates that hand-pressed, natural look,” she says.
Enzymes are used in a number of different ways in food processing. For example, when eggs are pasteurized, they lose their color. An enzyme is therefore added that brings back the color of the egg.
There are at least 150 enzymes being used in food manufacturing, and they’re rarely ever listed on the label. According to Joanna, there’s typically at least one enzyme-modified ingredient in every processed food. Breads usually have five enzyme-modified ingredients.
Enzymes by themselves aren’t intrinsically toxic. They’re merely functional proteins composed of natural amino acids. But what they do is they mask and deceive you about the underlying process, fooling you into believing that you’re buying something that you really aren’t.
“The classic one is a mature cheese flavor. If you matured cheese the proper way, then you have cheese. You keep it for three months or six months, even longer, to develop that nice, mature flavor. But you can do that in a few days with an enzyme. You can create a fake flavor.”