This is the first in a series of food labeling articles I plan on writing over the next few months, on “factory goop”…the stuff listed on ingredient labels that we have no clue as to what they are. Take the term “modified milk ingredients” for example…because milk may undergo a number of changes during processing, it cannot be called milk on the label anymore, therefore the term modified milk ingredients is used. That name can mean just about any product that was initially part of milk, including skim milk powder, milk protein concentrates, milk protein isolates, casein, or whey protein.
It’s possible to make products such as cheese and ice cream using only modified milk
ingredients. If you think ice cream is necessarily made from cream, or even milk, you’d be wrong. In fact, most commercial ice cream on the market today is composed primarily of modified milk ingredients, which can mean any of a number of different factory goops that are derived from milk. If you’re lucky, the modified milk ingredient in your ice cream is simply powdered milk. More likely it’s casein (factory-extracted milk proteins), or whey proteins, or a butter oil compound, which is comprised of 49% butter-oil and 51% sugar.
You might ask yourself why do they do this?, but it will likely come as no surprise: the bottom line of course. Under current law, only a limited amount of milk and cream can be imported tariff-free into Canada. Modified milk ingredients are cheaper to import because they are not ‘milk’ and are therefore tariff free. The butter-oil compound is particularly good example, because it contains 51% sugar it is more non-dairy than dairy, and can therefore be imported tariff free. In other words, it is cheaper to use imported butter oil compound than to use fresh milk from the dairy farm just down the road. Apparently, most of the butter-oil compound used in Canadian-made ice cream comes from overseas.
It’s a sad state of affairs indeed. In a time where we are making more of an effort to eat and shop locally, this kind of shopping carries a huge carbon footprint from the international shipping of the ingredients in these dairy products. And you are definitely not consuming a quality product, or even a real food, because ice creams require the addition of even more factory goop in order to make it resemble the texture of real ice cream. Ice cream composed primarily of modified milk ingredients is also full of various gums (guar, cellulose, carrageenan, etc.), which are used to stabilize the product and to give it a creamy texture. This applies to other kinds of dairy as well, such as several brands of cheese, cream cheese, and so on.
Obviously this can’t be healthy for us to consume. The trouble with processed foods is not just the goop that’s been added to them, but what’s been lost. Many of the naturally occurring nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, soluble fibre, antioxidants, and “good” fats may be stripped in processing. If you choose to eat real food versus the processed foods, many types of dairy should be scratched from your shopping list. Make a conscious choice to eliminate processed foods from your diet and leave the factory goop on your grocer’s shelf!
For more information, please refer to a good article at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/milking-meaning-from-the-ingredients-label-1.916956, or google “modified milk ingredients” to come up with a huge list for further reading.
Written by Su Morin – The Ecology Action Centres’ – Community Food Programmer for Cumberland County, NS.