Yesterday a store bought box of cookies was bestowed upon my family. I really like cookies so after dinner I decided to open the box and try a few (don't worry, the serving size was 3 cookies and that is what I had). AFTER I consumed the cookies I decided to check the ingredients. I was appalled to find out that the cookies had shortening in them that contained beef fat. I do not eat beef and I would prefer not to eat beef fat. This was listed as the second ingredient and I was interested to see what else might be hiding in these cookies. I am going to list the ingredients for you and then I am going to tell you in English what those ingredients mean.
Ingredients of the Cookies: Enriched wheat flour (malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Shortening (beef fat, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil), sugar, eggs, corn syrup, natural and artificial flavors, cocoa, cocoa(processed with alkali), salt, leavening (baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate), partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (palm kernel oil, cottonseed oil, and/or soybean), whey (milk), spices, dextrose, corn starch, modified food starch, dextrin, soya lecithin, confectioners glaze, carnauba wax, titanium diozide, coloring (includes yellow 5, yellow 6, red 3, red 40, blue 1, blue 1 lake, blue 2 artificial color).
So..what does all of that mean?
Enriched Wheat Flour- Do not be fooled by the term "wheat flour" here. Enriched wheat flour has actually been stripped of 11 natural vitamins and minerals and then has been replaced with synthetic chemicals that make up the small amount of vitamins and minerals listed above. It is nutritionally no better than plain old white flour.
Shortening-Well, here we have the beef fat (yuck) and partially hydrogenated oil. Whenever you see hydrogenated oils listed as an ingredient you should automatically recognize that the food contains trans fat. Surprisingly, the nutritional info on this box of cookies boasts that it has NO trans fat. What you should know is that trans fat levels of less than .5g per serving can be listed as 0. Tricky, tricky!
Natural and Artificial Flavors- hmmm, this is interesting. My husband told me once that they can use this in the nutritional info to hide secret recipes. Well, that may be true, but what else could they be hiding with this blanket term? The term is basically telling us that the food processor used some brilliant concoction of chemicals and natural flavors to make these cookies taste a certain way. Sounds yummy!
Dextrose-A corn-derived caloric sweetener. Pretty harmless in moderate amounts but adds calories to whatever you are consuming.
Modified Food Starch-This basically describes a starch(derived from corn, wheat, potato, or rice) that has been modified to help with the cooking, or baking process. The problem with this term is that there is no way to know for sure what chemicals are used in the process.
Dextrin-A low-molecular-weight carbohydrate. It is used to enhance crispness in food.
Soya Lecithin- Lecithin is a fatty substance that comes from animal and plant tissues, and in egg yolk. In the ingredients it is listed as Soya Lecithin which means it comes from soybeans. The main use in these cookies is probably as an emulsifier for the cocoa. This isn't a bad ingredient. Actually, there are some studies that show soy derived lecithin may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Not so sure that the lecithin level in these cookies going up against the trans fats levels are worth the chance.
Carnauba wax- A wax of the leaves of the palm. This ingredient can be used as formulation aid, lubricant, release agent, anti caking agent and surface finishing agent which is probably helpful in making these beautiful cookies. The problem I have with this ingredient is when I read what else it is normally used for. Carnauba wax is also used in car waxes, shoe polishes, and floor and furniture wax. It is also the primary ingredient in surfboard wax. Doesn't that sound yummy and safe? I guess if the FDA approved it then it must be okay, right?
Titanium Dioxide-the naturally occuring oxide of Titanium (whatever that means). The use of titanium dioxide in these cookies is probably for food coloring or pigmentation. Titanium Dioxide can also be found in paints, coatings, plastics, papers, inks, foods, medicine, and most toothpastes. The only draw back of this wonderful additive is that inhaling Titanium Dioxide dust can be hazardous. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified it as a Group 2B carcinogen which means that is is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Food Coloring- Food coloring, just like the colors found in these cookies, are highly scrutinized for the possible effects they may have on children. Studies have shown that when artificial ingredients, including artificial colors, were removed from school food programs academic performance increased while disciplinary problems decreased. The Studies are controversial, but why take a chance when you can buy cookies and snacks that do not contain artificial coloring?
Wow, that's a lot of bad stuff in one little tempting box of assorted cookies. I feel bad that the cookies were given to me and now I will not be eating any more. It just proves how important it is to be knowledgeable about the things you put into your body. The more knowledgeable you are the easier it is to make better choices for yourself and your family.