Read That Label: A Cautionary Tale

Who knows what’s lurking in this innocuous-looking jar…

You probably already know that we strive to eat mostly whole, nutritious, unadulterated foods. No fast food, no cruelty meat. I read labels on a regular basis, especially after discovering how many items (like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia® – alas!) now contain carrageenan. So what happens when you assume – like I did – and grab something that seems so simple that it couldn’t possibly contain a bunch of unnecessary additives?

I ran out of fermented jalapeños, and happened to spy some pickled ones while at the store. Great, I figured, this will hold us over until I can get my hands on enough fresh peppers to make a batch. I tossed it in the cart, paid, and took it home.

A little spice can really add that special “something” to dishes like beans, spaghetti (oh, yeah), nachos…that spicy pepper bite can elevate a dish from merely pedestrian to memorable. Suffice to say that we like our spice. I find that jalapeños have the right balance of heat and flavor to make them incredibly versatile in cooking.

I actually ate some of the pickled jalapeños I’d purchased before I took a look at the label…and was taken aback.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these (many) additives:

  • Calcium chloride  – firming agent, flavoring, preservative – concerns appear to be focused on the health risks it poses to industrial workers who are exposed to it in its pure form
  • Polysorbate 80 – emulsifier and defoaming agent. This article from the Weston A. Price Foundation details concerns related to the ingredient being used in vaccines; this one from Reuters describes intestinal inflammation risks.
  • Turmeric oleoresin – an extract of turmeric used as a coloring agent, rat and mice feed studies show toxic and carcinogenic effects

For crying out loud – these are supposed to be pickled jalapeños, not peppers soaking in a chemical soup! Even if I didn’t care about the health effects of consuming these ingredients (and I do), they simply don’t belong in a jar of pickled peppers. Or in my digestive system.

As much as I try to avoid food waste, I threw out the peppers and recycled the container. I’ll just stick to making my own pickled peppers going forward. If you care about what you’re ingesting, read, read, read those food labels or you may get more than you bargained for…and don’t forget that even “trusted” foods can have their formulations change (like that Cherry Garcia).

Have you had an unpleasant surprise when reading a food label? Tell us about it in the comments!

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