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Why is preserved food so bad?

Why is preserved food so bad?

Why preserved food is so terrible…

We all known preserved foods are bad for us, but what exactly makes them so unhealthy?

Simply because the process employed to increase the shelf life of food involves zapping any nutrients and microbes that might cause it to spoil, then packing it with additives to make it taste nice.

To do this the industry uses a technique called confined high heat cooking – a machine that blasts food at 252 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting taste of the scorched food is often referred to as “retort flavor”.

why is preserved food unhealthy 550x412 Why is preserved food so bad?

Why Preserved Food Is So Unhealthy

Image Credit: Jon Sullivan, 2001.

Barb Stuckey, a researcher working on preserved potatoes at Mattson commercial food lab in Foster City, California, explained:

The potatoes look right, once we’ve fluffed them up a bit, but the wholesome earthy taste and smell of fresh potatoes is almost gone from the dish. In its place there’s a tired, wet-paper flavor with notes of old steam pipe. This side effect of confined high-heat cooking is known in the trade as “retort flavor.”

Stuckey’s theory is that it’s just underlying parts of the flavor coming through. Before food is retorted, she says, the dank base notes present in it are masked in part “by the beautiful aromatic volatile notes that we take for granted. When the retort destroys these low-molecular-weight flavors, what’s left is the ugly insides.” [Popular Science]

But how do they make this left over produce taste good? Lots of salt, fat and a few secret ingredients.

Some of the ingredients used to make instant potatoes taste better included a masking agent called Wixon, a white powder that tastes like sweetener and takes of the edge of the retort flavor.

Another is a dairy flavoring created by Edlong. This is a buttery paste that can withstand the heat of retorting and is said to have a pungent, sweaty-socks odor but has a buttery taste in the finished potatoes. Sodium bisulfite, a chemical food additive with E numbers, is also used to give the potatoes an attractive shade of white. And these are just additives used for potatoes, think how many others are being used in other types of processed foods.


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  1. Paul Adams: Making Preserved Food Actually Taste Good. Popular Science, 05/10/2012.

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