It’s sometimes hard to know what exactly is in the food that you eat. However, with the help of science, understanding what’s hiding in your groceries just got a whole lot easier.
Where would we be without food? It provides us with energy, staves off feelings of hunger, and basically keeps us alive. It’s a vital component of everyday life, but how often do we actually think about what we’re putting into our bodies? So much of the food we buy in the store isn’t what we think it is, thanks to the presence of additives, preservatives, and other unpleasant ingredients. While your groceries might look the way you expect them to, there are a lot of secrets hidden beneath the surface.
So, how do you find out if the things you buy are actually authentic or not? Well, it seems some tests can be run to identify whether your food is the real deal or if its nothing but a fake. It’s incredible the things you can uncover in a laboratory, especially when it comes to analyzing groceries. Although not every test has proven that your food is hiding questionable ingredients, they do highlight the lengths manufacturers will go to when selling their products.
Honey makes a great addition to any slice of toast in the morning, and some people can’t get enough of the sweet stuff. However, while you might think that what you’re eating has come straight from a beehive, that’s not usually the case.
A lot of companies dilute the honey they sell so they can produce more batches with what’s available to them. A variety of ingredients are used to cheat the consumer this way, including water. Luckily, in this instance, you can identify it’s a fake by using it on a candle. Pure honey will burn, whereas the fake stuff won’t.
Wax on fresh produce
If you ever thought that the fresh produce you buy at the grocery store is naturally shiny, you might want to think again. The reason that fruits and vegetables sometimes have this glossy appearance is that they’ve been dipped in wax.
That probably sounds a little concerning given the ways that wax is normally used. However, it’s not as big an issue as you might think. This wax is actually FDA-approved because it’s edible and helps prevent a loss of moisture in the food. Of course, if you still don’t want to eat it, the substance washes off in warm water.
Although vegetarianism and veganism might be growing in popularity, the majority of people in the world are still classed as meat-eaters. However, that might change with the revelation that there’s a form of glue in many meat products sold in the US. Known as transglutaminase or “meat glue,” it’s an enzyme which is used to bind smaller pieces of meat together.
The substance is natural and apparently formed from fermented bacteria, with the FDA stating that it’s safe to eat. It’s apparently been used in meat for over a decade and is praised for adding a texture to the product.
Rice water in milk
Have you ever thought that your milk contained more than it was letting on? Well, it seems there’s a chance that it could actually be adulterated with rice water, according to one test. The hypothesis was tested by adding seaweed to a glass of milk, an experiment which resulted in the liquid turning blue.
This is based on a well-known piece of science that states the presence of starch will turn things blue when mixed with iodine. Rice water naturally contains starch, and seaweed is apparently a good source of iodine. However, rice water is rarely used in milk over here.
Old produce is dyed
Sometimes when people want their products to continue looking fresh and appealing, they’ll dye it, so consumers won’t realize it’s old. This is something that’s commonly done in India where rhodamine B is apparently the additive of choice. Plenty of produce there is covered in this ingredient to maintain a fresh appearance, despite being on their way out.
You can always tell when it’s been used by rubbing the food with a wet cotton ball. If the color seeps into the cotton, then you know you’re dealing with dye. Thankfully, this isn’t done in the US because rhodamine B contains carcinogenic properties.
Artificially colored split peas
It seems that rhodamine B isn’t the only thing that’s sometimes used to dye food. Apparently, artificial coloring is used frequently enough on split peas that the Food Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had to get involved.
Technically, reports of its use have been unconfirmed across Asia. However, it’s still prevalent enough that guidelines are in place to identify if the dye has been used or not. Supposedly, all you have to do is mix the peas in water and leave them for half an hour. If the water is very clearly a different color after that time, then you have your answer.
In most cases, tea leaves will leave a stain. However, it’s believed that altered teas cause a more pronounced mark than those considered pure. This goes double if the product has been dyed with coal-tar. This dark substance is typically used to coat old leaves and give off the impression that they’re fresh.
Luckily, it’s relatively easy to identify if this dye is present or not. Just apply some leaves to a piece of filter paper then sprinkle it with water. After that’s done, run the paper under a tap and identify if there are any stains. Pure tea won’t leave a mark.
Chalk and salt
It’s incredible just how many things aren’t actually what they say they are. You would think that something like salt is so small that people wouldn’t bother messing with it. However, tests have discovered that some of these granules actually contain chalk, an ingredient you definitely don’t want garnishing your meal.
This unpleasant addition can be identified by stirring salt in water and seeing what happens. If there’s chalk in the mixture, it will turn the liquid white. Again, we’re fortunate not to have this problem here, but it’s unfortunately quite common over in India where adulterating is a common practice.
It’s not always easy to know what’s in your spices. That’s a problem considering how often these products are supposedly mixed with other things during production. However, while we might be clueless for the most part, there is at least one spice we know how to test.
Asafoetida is commonly used in India, and it’s usual for foreign resins to be present in this product. To identify any unwanted additions to this spice, all you have to do is hold a spoonful of it over a flame. If the asafoetida hasn’t been tampered with, it will burn like a flammable wax.
Chewy baby food
The point of baby food is that it’s smooth and easy for your child to swallow. After all, your kid’s not exactly rocking a strong set of chompers when you feed it to them. However, reports have emerged suggesting that some baby food products contain ground-up rocks which are advertised as fortified calcium.
That’s extremely concerning to hear, especially for all the moms and dads out there. Thankfully, whoever’s been spreading this information seems to have their wires crossed. Fortified calcium comes in all forms, not just bits of rock. Of course, you can always feel around for anything that doesn’t feel right.
Apparently, tea isn’t the only hot beverage that’s been messed with in India. The FSSAI has had issues with coffee in the past, to the point they’ve had to highlight how to test for the presence of unwanted ingredients. It seems clay and chicory powder are two things that are regularly used to adulterate coffee.
Fortunately, if you want to see if they’re present, you just have to put the granules in a glass of water. After stirring a bit and leaving the glass for five minutes, things should become clear. The actual coffee will float, while the additional ingredients will sink.
Oil in butter
Butter is one of those foods you should eat in moderation because of what it contains. Vegetable oil is rumored to be one of the many things present in this product. It’s hard to say for sure if that’s true, but tests can potentially be done to highlight such a thing.
An experiment was once run in India which examined whether vanaspati – a vegetable shortening – was an ingredient in ghee – clarified butter. The latter was melted and combined with concentrated hydrochloric acid and some cane sugar. After being shaken and left alone, the mixture turned crimson red, confirming the presence of vanaspati.
Natural vs. synthetic
When you have an imbalance in your body, such as being iron deficient, you might turn to supplements to sort things out. These give you a boost of what you’re missing and help alleviate potential health problems. However, when it comes to these products, do you go for the natural ones or the synthetic ones?
Well, people usually argue for the former, although telling the difference can sometimes be hard. It was initially believed you could identify them by whether or not they melted in an oven. However, given synthetic supplements typically contain the same chemicals as natural ones, this was disproven.
If you’ve ever eaten rice dry, you may have thought it was a bit like consuming plastic. Perhaps that’s why so many claims have been made about the food containing bits of plastic. Concerns of this have caused widespread panic in parts of the world, but it seems it’s nothing more than just a hoax.
Fortunately, if you do ever find yourself in a position where your bag of rice contains plastic, you should be able to identify it pretty quickly. After all, when used in a frying pan, it typically melts or turns clear, highlighting that there’s something wrong with your food.
Tampering with ice cream
There’s nothing like a few scoops of ice cream on a warm, sunny day. However, this sweet treat becomes a lot less tempting when combined with detergent and washing powder. You’re probably wondering why anyone would even consider adding these substances to this product.
Well, apparently it’s done to increase smoothness and cause frothing, although we’ve yet to see clear proof of this. Luckily, if you’re worried about what might be in your ice cream, you can always put some lemon juice on it. If washing powder is present, the food will apparently start bubbling in reaction to the liquid.
It’s long been said that processed cheese is difficult to melt because of the additional ingredients it contains. The belief is so strong that it’s inspired many people to put a flame to their cheese products over the years and test that theory. However, it seems that people have gotten things the wrong way around.
Apparently, a lot of fake cheese products contain things like chelating salts and citric acid, which actually help the food to melt. These do a much better job of breaking down the proteins in cheese, meaning the product is more susceptible when put to a flame.
Parmesan cheese makes for a great addition to pasta dishes like spaghetti bolognese. However, did you know that the cheese you’re being offered in the restaurant or at the grocery store probably isn’t the real deal? Authentic parmesan is only produced in some areas of Italy where cows don’t eat certain types of fermented grass.
It’s this fact that actually makes it easy to identify when parmesan is fake or not. That’s because mass spectrometry can determine whether the cheese contains certain fatty acids. If these are present, then the parmesan probably has additional ingredients and other cheeses that shouldn’t be there.
Oil in the oil
When it comes to olive oil, the assumption is typically that there’s more to it than meets the eye. Most products are watered down with additional oils to sell more batches and dupe the public. Without a lab at your disposal, it’s hard to know if what you’ve bought is the real deal or not.
However, there are some tests you can do at home, not that they’re necessarily foolproof. For instance, when you put the oil in the fridge, it should become thick and cloudy because of the fats present. Unfortunately, it’s still possible for adulterated products to do this too.
Always check the label
Settling down with a glass of prosecco is a pretty great way to chill out when you’re feeling stressed. However, fans of the drink might be concerned to learn that not every bottle they buy is a genuine one. It seems that, as with many food and drink products, there are plenty of counterfeits going around of this sparkling wine.
How can you tell if what you’re consuming is real? As with most things, checking the label is always a good start. There are apps you can use now which will scan the product and tell you if the drink is authentic.
Fooled by fish
You might not realize it, but a lot of fish that’s sold in the grocery store isn’t what you think it is. Apparently, one study found that 33% of the fish examined weren’t what they were reported to be, meaning many customers are being misled every day.
Unfortunately, when you’re at the fish counter, you may not be sure if something’s authentic or not. Luckily, the Environmental Defense Fund has some advice for anyone buying these products. They recommend that you educate yourself on what you eat and be wary if prices are too low, or if fish are sold out-of-season.