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cereal : ingredients

ingredients

(from the TV commentary 60 Minutes in 1999)

Next to the newspaper, the thing I read most is labels on packages of food. I read more labels than novels or directions how to do something or how to put together something I bought. Iíve probably read words like riboflavin, lecithin, niacin and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil ten thousand times. Iíve eaten the stuff ten thousand times and I have no idea what riboflavin, lecithin, niacin or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is - or are.

Corn flakes have riboflavin in it. Others have niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin ... natural flavor, it says. White Castle hamburger buns have niacin, mono- and diglycerides, polysorbate 60.

We went to a commercial drug company and bought some food additives to see what they really look like before they add them to anything.

This is a little bottle of the magic potion - riboflavin. Yellow. Looks like curry powder. It says, "KEEP FROM CHILDREN". I donít know why they would say that. They put it in everything that kids eat. If its dangerous to children what are they doing adding it to everything?

Sodium Alginate... Polysorbate 20. This is a liquid... You could have this on the rocks. It looks like motor oil. I wonder if there was a chemist who failed to be successful because he only came up with Polysorbate 19.

Guar gum is a popular ingredient. A jar of olives has guar gum in it. Why would they put guar gum in olives?

The definition of lecithin in The Handbook of Food Additives reads: "Mixture of the diglycerides of stearic, palmitic and oleic acids linked to the chlorine ester of phosphoric acid" ... Well, sure ... And its really good for us?

Lecitithin is in almost everything you eat. These are cute little devils. They look like jelly beans.

This is thiamine mononitrate ... iron metal here ... and it really is iron ... very finely ground. It tastes a little tinny.

If all this stuff is so good, how come we donít get to use it ourselves when weíre cooking?

I looked through The Joy of Cooking and Fanny Farmer. Not a single word in here about any of these ingredients. Why didnít Irma Rombauer or Fanny use riboflavin in her recipes if its so good?

Pepperidge Farm cookies. Theyíre good cookies but listen to this lyric prose on the label: "STROLLING DOWN A COBBLESTONE STREET TO YOUR FAVORITE EUROPEAN BAKE SHOP. THE AROMA OF OLD WORLD BAKING FILLS THE AIR. PEPPERIDGE FARM BRINGS THAT EXPERIENCE HOME."

Then look at the ingredients on the other side ... iron ... thiamine mononitrate ... riboflavin and partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Cant you practically smell that stuff filling the air of a cobblestone street in Europe?

The other thing a lot of labels say these days of course is, "ALL NATURAL". You cant expect them to say, "WITH A LOT OF FAKE INGREDIENTS".

Andy Rooney: Years of minutes, PublicAffairs, New York, 2003.

[A selection of Andy's TV commentaries broadcasted on 60 Minutes from 1982 to 2003]

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