Ah, Europe. A place where they eat cigarettes like Halloween candy going out of style yet worry about every little nit when it comes to their food.
“Oui! Next week I may hack up a cancerous thing that used to be a lung but today I will live, dammit, live! The juices of life must be savored to the fullest! The one thing we must absolutely never allow is diphenylamine in our food, you damn foolishly greedy capitalistic yanks.”
I, for one, say thanks. Because, without the European Food Safety Authority banning this, that and the other thing, I wouldn’t be able to say things like: “Oh yeah? Well Kraft Macaroni & Cheese still contains two artificial dyes banned in Europe.” Chef Booyah la de Fuckin’ Dah!
Kraft Foods is an American food company that was owned by a tobacco company until recently when they jury rigged the corporate legalese by rebranding Philip Morris as Altria Inc. and allegedly, in 2007, successfully underwent a Siamese twins separation operation, at least theoretically on paper. That’s because Kraft wants you to know they care about what you put in your body. Kraft Kares ™.
“Parents have told us that they would like fun Mac & Cheese varieties with the same great taste, but with improved nutrition,” a Kraft spokesperson said in a prepared email statement. Yeah, right. I’d bet my life that not a single parent in the history of time ever uttered to Kraft the phrase, “We want the same great taste.” Kraft is nothing if not imaginative. Kraft is not known for great taste. It’s known as something Mostly Edible ™ that you can shove in your face hole when you are too lazy to get up off your Americanized lard ass and make something real. Yes, the word “artificial” actually means something.
Recently Kraft was hit with a grass roots campaign to remove Yellow Dye No. 5 and Yellow Dye No. 6 from it’s line of mac and cheese products. Kraft responded by replacing the dyes with spices to maintain the “famous yellow-orange color,” but only in products like SpongeBob SquarePants and those with “Halloween and winter shapes.” Say what? We’re talking about food, right?
Kraft also promised to keep the dyes out of new products like Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and “How To Train Your Dragon 2” from Dreamworks. Again, this is food, right? And if mutants don’t get the whacked out dyes, there’s something just plain wrong. At least then we could say, “Ah. I know how you turtles became mutants.”
In the most telling move of all time, though, Kraft foods told food worriers to “suck it” when it came to their flagship product, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
“Making ingredient changes isn’t as simple as it would seem,” the company statement continued. “All of the ingredients must work together to deliver the distinctive taste, appearance and texture consumers expect and love from Original KRAFT Mac & Cheese. Our fans have made it clear they won’t settle for anything less.” Wow. I’d ask what color the sky is in the Kraft world but we already know. It’s famous yellow-orange. Must be hellish.
So what are these dyes and, more importantly, why are they so crucial to the process of making distinctive great taste, appearance and textures in “food.” (Hint: Behind your back they call that crap “mouthfeel.” Mmm. That sounds good!)
“Yellow Dye 5” is also known as Tartrazine. It’s found in products like Nabisco Cheese Nips Four Cheese; Frito-Lay Sun Chips Harvest Cheddar and other Frito-Lay products; some Hunt’s Snack Pack Pudding products; Lucky Charms; Eggo waffles and other waffle products; some Pop-Tarts products; various Kraft macaroni and cheese products; Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper and other products. It’s hard to say what it actually is. Information about how it is made is strangely hard to come by. Unconfirmed information suggests is it derived from a byproduct of production of coal tar or crude oil. “Regular internet sources say it comes from benzene, a colorless runoff from crude oil, mixed with nitric and sulfuric acids to make aniline which is then modified to change the color saturation.”
“Yellow Dye 6” is also known as Sunset Yellow. It’s found in products like Frito-Lay Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Crunchy and other Frito-Lay products; Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-ups; some JELL-O gelatin deserts and instant puddings; Fruity Cheerios; Trix; some Eggo waffle products; some Kid Cuisine Kung Fu Panda products; some Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners; some Betty Crocker frostings; some M&M’s and Skittles candies; Sunkist Orange Soda; Fanta Orange. Wikipedia says it is manufactured from aromatic hydrocarbons from petroleum.
Again, these are the products that Kraft essentially says it has no choice to use because of consumer demand. By God, what would happen to the world if an elbow macaroni cheese product was the wrong color? It’s too unimaginable to even contemplate.
And that brings us back to apples. Like delicious Pacific Northwest apples. I heard an industry spokesperson on the radio saying something along the lines of, “It hasn’t been proven to be dangerous.” If that doesn’t sound delicious, I don’t know what it.
“Here, Johnny. Stick this in your mouth. Masticate. Swallow. Don’t worry. It’s safe. As far as we know, today, it hasn’t been proven to be dangerous.”
Factoid: Johnny Appleseed would secretly rub apples in his crotch before passing them out to friends to eat. That’s where crabapples came from.
So some folks are worried about diphenylamine used on apples. I decided to find out more. “Diphenylamine is produced by contacting aniline with an alumina catalyst and a sulfur content.” Apple producers apply diphenylamine to apples after harvest to fight something they call “storage scald” which is the process of apples developing brown spots when “stored for several months” which, in turn, makes the product less appealing to consumers.
As near as I can figure they want to maximize profit on fruit that they wish to store for “several months” rather then getting to market as fast as possible. Viola. Diphenylamine to the rescue.
Is diphenylamine on apples safe? Well, that’s the big question. Apparently apples on U.S. shelves may have up to four times the new European limit. Critics say that washing an apple may not remove the substance. Experts in the U.S. and Europe don’t know for sure, so Europe’s action could be viewed as precautionary.
Why not just label everything and let consumers make up their own minds? It turns out there’s a fly in that ointment, too. Much of this arcane world of complex and mysterious chemistry is hidden from the average consumer. Rather than scary words “diphenylamine” our products are labeled with euphemisms like “artificial and natural flavors.” Why is that? Because very often the people that make foods are the same ones who vehemently oppose any attempts to label them. Wow. What an interesting coincidence.
“Trust us. We only give you what you want. We have your best interests in mind. So what if this also happens to be the most profitable course of action for us? That’s a coincidence.”
Weird how the people who say things are safe to eat are the ones who profit from the eating.
Shouldn’t food be a game about what’s best to eat rather than “what the hell can we get away with sticking in there?”
Bold. Fresh. Natural. Flavors. Like your chemistry teacher would have wanted.
What would a world with no food coloring added to macaroni and cheese look like? I’d like to find out. The steaks couldn’t be higher. It’s a matter of taste.