Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hidden Ingredients

A close friend of mine (Hi Miss Laura!) told me about the Mrs. May's Trio bars that she picked up at Cosco that tasted yummy, were relatively inexpensive and had a very simple ingredient list. Better yet, the bars are described on their website as being:
Vegan, No Trans Fat, No Additives, No Preservatives, No Cholesterol, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Wheat Free, Non-GMO, Kosher
I was instantly intrigued. So, I looked up additional information on the Mrs. May's brand and their food philosophy. The following is Mrs. May's About Us section of their website...
In a world of processed foods, endless ingredient lists, and high sugar treats; Mrs. May's Naturals took a more basic approach. Why not combine simple and wholesome ingredients to make a delicious snack?
Sounds easy, but it wasn't. While Mrs. May's treats go back more than two generations, we've re-worked and perfected our recipes to bring you the best possible product.
The result is always the same: a deliciously light and crunchy snack that everybody loves. After introducing four flavors just a few years ago, Mrs. May's now offers 15 great varieties.
Each made with premium grade ingredients such as roasted nuts, toasted sesame seeds, natural fruit pieces, organic evaporated cane juice, rice malt, and sea salt.
The snacks are slowly dry roasted to bring out the most flavor, and to add a lively crunch!
All Mrs. May's products are vegan, non-GMO, cholesterol free, dairy free, wheat free, Gluten free, 0 Trans Fat and contain no artificial colors or flavors. And our ingredients lists are short and sweet!

Well, that sounded excellent! Then Laura then sent me the Trio bar ingredients list and I was instantly intrigued.
  • Cashew
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Strawberries
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Rice Malt
  • Natural Flavors
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Sea Salt
At first glance, this ingredients list seems rather harmless and clean. The bars are filled with yummy, good for you natural ingredients... nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Evaporated cane juice and sea salt are used, which are both great clean alternatives to refined white sugar and table salt. Also, these less desirable ingredients are at the very end of the ingredients list, meaning that they were used sparingly.

However upon further inspection, I was a bit taken back by Mrs. May's use of "natural flavors" to describe some of their ingredients. If they are truly a natural company, as their website states, why would they not simply list the "natural flavors" that they use?

According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations describes a "natural flavouring" as:
the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavouring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavouring rather than nutritional.

So, I sent Mrs. May's an email asking about the natural flavorings that they use and here was their response:
Our Natural Flavor is composed of the following ingredients: DEXTROSE, CORN STARCH, WATER, SILICON DIOXIDE (ANTI-CAKING AGENT)
Dextrose: Better known today as glucose, this sugar is the chief source of energy in the body. Glucose is chemically considered a simple sugar. Dextrose, commonly called glucose, d-glucose, or blood sugar, occurs naturally in food, and is moderately sweet. It is a monosaccharide (basic unit of carbohydrates, C6H1206) and has a high glycemic index (digested carbohydrates ability to raise blood glucose levels, also called Gl) ranking at 100.
Cornstarch, or cornflour, is the starch of the maize grain, commonly known as corn. It has a distinctive appearance and feel when mixed raw with water or milk, giving easily to gentle pressure but resisting sudden pressure. The composition of cornstarch varies depending upon the feedstock, but it may considered to be approximately 25% amylose and 75% amylopectin.
Our products are "dairy free." Please be advised, because there is cornstarch in the “natural flavor,” there is a small amount of corn derivative in our product.
For more detailed information for “natural flavors” please visit www.goldcoastinc.com.
I hope this helps!
Thank you,
After receiving this information, I determined that the bars are really not as clean as I once thought because they contain dextrose (high-glycemic, refined sugar), cornstarch (filler/thickening agent), and silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent).

Now, I don't know about you, but I would not identify cornstarch, water or silicon dioxide as ingredients that are used for the sake of flavoring. Cornstarch is commonly used as a thickening agent or as a food filler and is regarded as being tasteless. While silicon dioxide is an anti-caking agent. It seems as though Mrs. May's might be attempting to hide these ingredients from consumers as opposed to protecting their list of natural flavorings. Although, I do applaud their customer service for being frank and open in addition to sending a very prompt response to my inquiry.

The moral of the story is that we should always, always, ALWAYS be weary of the ingredients in EVERYTHING that we consume, even if everything looks clean and natural... natural is not always clean. :)


Maxine said...

Excellent work! I love uncovering things like that too :)

Lauren said...

Great info!!! Thanks for posting that :-)

Anonymous said...

Not only that, they're made in China. With all the issues they've been having with toxic stuff lately, I think I'll pass on any food products from there.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this. I have been eating them periodically since I found them at CostCo and have had a sneaking suspicion that they contain corn (which I am sensitive to). Thanks for confirming this and letting others know.