Monday, April 26, 2010

What's in that?

At the beginning of my journey for school food ingredients, I was in contact with a new member of my district's Aramark representatives. Luckily for me at the time, this particular representative was unaware of her ability to deny me ingredient information. After a few weeks of gathering facts I was sent a word document which contained a few ingredients for many of the main entrees served at my school. I was unsatisfied as the document was not only obviously unofficial, filled with errors in spelling and unspecific cafeteria food terms, but also lacked the information for numerous menu choices. However, I was pleased with some of the information I received, and later used it as evidence in a speech I gave at my school board meeting on removing additives from our cafeteria food.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun and informative to pull out some of these facts and see for ourselves exactly why ingredient transparency is so necessary.

I will henceforth be reviewing items on the daily.

These facts are dedicated to the loving parents out there who have dumpster-dived their kids' schools.

Also, anyone who is interested in seeing these word documents for whatever purpose can feel free to request them via email. I would be happy to share them with you!

Today I thought it would be fitting to begin with the item I used as evidence for my school board meeting speech, which I spent a good minute and a half reading aloud for all to hear. After I was finished a board member remarked, "I hope that's not a salad!"

Gravy Ingredients: maltodexrin, modified cornstarch, bleached enriched wheat flour, hydrolyzed corn gluten, soy, wheat gluten protein, cornstarch, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed, whey, onion powder, yeast extract, less than 2% sugar, soybean oil, caramel color, xanthan gum, soy sauce, garlic powder, dextrose, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, spice, sunflower oil, citric acid, thamine  
 So maltodextrin comes first which is a sort of over-processed starch. Then we've got another modified starch, followed by a flour which has been bleached (to suck out the nutrients) and then enriched (to chemically "put some of them back").Then we enter some probable MSG in disguise, followed by some soy and wheat proteins for texture. Oh, and we mustn't forget the trans fat for shelf life.

Here's a tip I often give to people who want to start taking care of their bodies:

"If you don't know what it is, DON'T EAT IT."

Unfortunately in today's day and age, many of us don't have that luxury.


  1. Seriously? Hydrolyzed corn gluten is a form of MSG? Just this past weekend on my Facebook page I was questioning what hydrolyzed is and responses were that it is safe for a gluten-free diet, yet no clear information as to exactly why it's beneficial to add. (I discovered it in the chicken patty at Subway.)

    Please, Tara, if you have info on this item I'd love to hear about it! Thank you!

  2. Keep going Tara.
    How's the latter writing campaign going?

  3. Whoops....meant questioning what hydrolyzed corn gluten is.

  4. @Beautiful Pink Dream- some info for you:

    Try googling "corn gluten" for more info.

  5. Another one for BPD-