About a month ago, I downloaded this really cool free app called Fooducate and became addicted immediately. The app has a scanner and a search. The scanner is my favorite. I spent one evening going through my entire kitchen scanning every food item that had a barcode and learned all about what we have been eating. It works on a grading scale and provides all the nutrition facts on each product. Overall, we scored about a C due to the fact that we eat way too much sugar and not enough WHOLE grains.
There was a lot of eye-opening information and things I never knew that were possible in our food industry. Here are the most important items I learned using this app:
- L-Cysteine, found in my Yummy brand Dino Bites chicken nuggets, is an ingredient that acts as a dough conditioner and can extend shelf life. It is derived from human hair or duck feathers. When there’s not enough hair found on the floors of the Chinese barber shops, they use the duck feathers. I had just bought a box of these and just couldn’t give them to my son, so I returned them promptly and bought the package right next to them that did NOT contain L-cysteine. Easy as that!
- Turbinato sugar, or Sugar in the Raw, is no different from granulated white sugar. It is only darker because it’s packaged in an earlier stage in processing. I spend at least 3x the money on this sugar to find that granulated is the same. I need to consider using less sugar or a natural sweetener instead.
- Animal rennet, found in some block cheeses, “…is made from rennin, an enzyme that is secreted in the fourth stomach of calves, lambs, and goats. It is most often derived from the dried and ground stomachs of unweaned calves and is used in making cheese.” For you koshers, vegans, or simply those that don’t want to eat part of an animals stomach, you can buy cheese that uses a vegetable-derived rennet instead.
- Update to this post… new information found with my sister while she was eating Dannon (fruit on the bottom) Blueberry Yogurt
Carmine or cochineal extract is an ingredient used as a natural red food dye. It is made from ground up cochineal insects. The process of boiling them, letting them dry out in the sun, then grounding them up produces a red dye that was used more frequently 100 years ago. The artificial red dye replaced it for many years, but it has since been making a comeback. The FDA requires this ingredient to be labeled on food packages. One positive is that this a real ingredient and not a chemical dye, but the ick factor is pretty huge on this one.
- Carrageenan is in so many dairy products, almost all of the ones I buy for my family. It can be found in individual milk cartons, yogurt squeezies and smoothies, and creamer. It is used as a thickening agent and is extracted from seaweed or moss, so it’s considered a dietary fiber. Degraded carrageenan is recognized as a possible human carcinogen. Degraded carrageenan is carrageenan subjected to high temperatures and acidity. What products have this degraded carrageenan is a big question, but I wonder if products that are ultra pasteurized are since they are flash heated at really high temperatures? This is just a guess, but since there are some options without the carrageenan, I will avoid any ultra pasteurized dairy products with this ingredient. One example, Horizon Organic Milk cartons have this ingredient and is ultra pasteurized. It seems that in small amounts this ingredient is okay. However, when you eat them everyday and sometimes in multiple products…any small amount can still add up.
Fooducate is awesome. It provides so much information. The app works great, the website is filled with even more great information. You can use it to learn about key ingredients to embrace or avoid. I wouldn’t say it’s the absolute source for your food information, but it’s a great tool and will help you to avoid ingredients like human hair in your chicken nuggets.
Go Fooducate yourself today!