Wednesday, 6 March 2013

What's In My Food? Chicken Rib Meat Special!

English: Dinosaur formed chicken(?)-nuggets, e...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I occasionally do a post where I look at the content of some piece of food or other. Today, still reeling from the various horsemeat and food adulteration scandals, we hear that Ikea has recalled batches of chocolate cake from stores in 23 countries after samples were found to contain faecal bacteria. Yummy!

As I pointed out in this here post, we have accepted a dangerous principle here - that they're putting stuff in our food without us knowing what it is. It's a short step from 'improving' a natural product to 'adulterating' it. The industrialised production of food is all very well, but its when the principle of cutting corners becomes enshrined in business' approach to processing, you get horses or poo in your food. Or ground up bones.

One great example of this is chicken 'rib meat'. Take, for instance, the ingredients of a McDonald's Crispy Chicken Fillet:
Crispy Chicken Fillet: Chicken breast fillet with rib meat, water, seasoning [sugar, salt, sodium phosphates, modified tapioca starch, spice, autolyzed yeast extract, carrageenan, natural (vegetable and botanical source) and artificial flavors, maltodextrin, sunflower lecithin, gum arabic]. Battered and breaded with: bleached wheat flour, water, wheat flour, sugar, salt, food starch-modified, yellow corn flour, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium bicarbonate), wheat gluten, spices, corn starch, dextrose, xanthan gum, extractives of paprika. CONTAINS: WHEAT. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
Quite apart from containing an awful lot of scary-looking chemicals, the list begs the question, what IS 'rib meat'? You won't get far by Googling it - in fact, you'll get a highly mendacious article titled "What's really in that chicken nugget?' penned by the US National Chicken Council that avers, "Rib meat is simply a natural extension of the breast meat. It is NOT an additive or a filler."

Ah, no. Rib meat is, in fact, MSM - or mechanically separated meat. Also known as 'white slime'. The meat and bone from an already-stripped carcass are pushed through a sieve under high pressure and the resulting bone-enhanced white gloop can be moulded into star shapes or whatever you fancy - dinosaur shapes, from the example photographed above. McDonalds labels its chicken nuggets as containing 'White boneless chicken', which may or may not be another way of saying 'rib meat' which is, of course, another way of saying 'Mechanically Separated Meat' or even, more deliciously, 'meat slurry'.

Interestingly, there would appear to be a regulatory requirement to label MSM as such in ingredients lists, but the regulations aren't global, aren't easy to understand and, obviously from the above example, aren't being adhered to. A certain amount of ground-up bone is permissible in MSM, typically about 3% - and pieces no larger than 0.5mm. That's the US regulation. The EU and other bodies will have their own versions.

And yes, Dimethylpolysiloxane is what it sounds like. They're putting silicone in your food.
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Bush Mechanic said...

It would feel good to be vegetarian, except, my bag of New Zealand frozen broccoli is labelled "Packed in New Zealand from imported ingredients". This is because labeling the bag 100% product in China, where the fecal material may have actually been the fertiliser may reduce the appeal of the product. It could be called food laundering. Why else export broccoli from China and bag it there then reexport to Australia, UAE and elsewhere.

Luke said...

"hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ"

TBHQ stands for Tertiary Butylhydroquinone. Surely with a name like that, it cannot be good for you.

Luke said...

It's bad enough that the soybeans will be of the genetically modified sort. But then they go and hydrogenate them and add a dollop of Tertiary Butylhydroquinone for good measure.

There is only one solution to this problem and that is to stop buying them. Buy fresh and untreated produce, wash it properly and cook yourself for scratch. It's not difficult, it's just expensive - a topic that opens up a whole new debate.

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