In the past few years I have become a devout label reader. Before I buy anything, I thoroughly read the ingredients on the package’s label.

I try to understand what each ingredient means, but since I lack a degree in chemistry, often it’s a roll of the dice with some of the names. Although I probably don’t have a mono-sodium glutamate deficiency. Good to know.

What is this stuff that we are eating, anyway? Some ingredients are just letters, like BHA and BHT. Thank God there is no CIA or FBI ingredients.

I checked them online and according to Google, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are widely used by the food industry as preservatives, mainly to prevent oils in foods from oxidizing and becoming rancid. That’s a big help.

And how about invert sugar, which is a mixture of glucose and fructose? Invert means to turn inside out, or upside down. Apparently someone is turning my sugar. News to me. Sure, it saves me time and the trouble, but I have so few joys left anymore that turning my sugar upside down, or inside out, was one of them.

Many labels say things like “No Artificial Preservatives.” I guess the manufacturers prefer using “Real Preservatives” instead. One small step for real preservatives and one giant leap for mankind.

Not only do manufacturers list the ingredients that the products do contain, but they often list ingredients that a product doesn’t contain. Like “Contains No Sugar,” and “Contains No Salt,” or “No Cholesterol.” Folks, why stop there? Why not say “Contains No Cow Manure,” and how about really giving the public a piece of mind and say “Contains No Plutonium.” Think outside the box, ingredients people.

One of my favorite ingredients is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. If they are going to go to the trouble of hydrogenating it at all, then why don’t they simply hydrogenate it all the way? Partially just isn’t good enough; give me fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, if you please.

Since I didn’t know what it means to hydrogenate something, I also looked it up online. Good ol’ Google said that to hydrogenate is “to add hydrogen to the molecule of an unsaturated organic compound.”

Of course. Now I remember. For those of you who may not remember what hydrogen, is I looked that up that word, as well. Hydrogen is a “nonmetallic, colorless, odorless, highly flammable diatomic gas.”

Um, yummy. I certainly hope that terrorists never find out Snickers bars may be potential bombs.

Well, I sure learned a lot by reading food labels. And now I’ve also lost my appetite.

Val Valdez is a Herald correspondent.

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