Chemical Cuisine: App tells you what that additive really is

I was recently buying some fish sticks to have in the house for Lent. I never buy fish sticks so I wanted to see how “bad” they truly were.  So I pulled out my phone and shot the barcode with my Fooducate app (that I wrote about recently) and found out they were graded a B but had a questionable petroleum by-product used in it. The app didn’t have any other information about that particular chemical additive. (It didn’t sound good though. I didn’t buy them.)

However, there is app that probably could have told me more.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released last year Chemical Cuisine, an app for Android and iPhones. While it currently doesn’t have the capability to read the barcode, it does have impressive data about more than 120 food additives.

From Forbes magazine:

“ ‘There is a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theorizing on the Internet about different food additives like high fructose corn syrup or aspartame,’ says Jeff Cronin of CSPI.  “We cut through all that and present a science-based perspective.  Alternatively, people might see ‘caramel coloring on food labels and assume it’s natural and innocuous.  The truth is it’s not natural and there may be problems with carcinogens forming when caramel coloring is made from an ammonia-sulfite process – the kind used in Coke and Pepsi.”

“CSPI is a science-based organization that doesn’t take any money from the food industry, or any other industry for that matter,” says Cronin. “Our executive director, Michael Jacobson, is a microbiologist by training and wrote Eater’s Digest, an early book on food additives.  He has helped remove or restrict some of the most dangerous food additives from the marketplace.”

“Sadly, CSPIs research – and now the data in the app – shows many dangerous chemical additives still sit on the shelves of the supermarket.  Yellow dye #6  found in Velveta and Doritos, for example, “causes tumors in the adrenal gland and kidney….and may cause occasional, but sometimes severe, hypersensitivity reactions.”  Aspartame is also on the CSPI “avoid” list; “…initially thought to be the perfect artificial sweetener, it might cause cancer or neurological problems such as dizziness or hallucinations.”

Chemical Cuisine can be used on the CSPI website, or downloaded for 99 cents via the iTunes App Store or the Android Market.”

I don’t expect you guys to have a tremendous conversation about this. I just wanted you to know this app is available to help you evaluate food choices.

35 comments Add your comment

catlady

March 15th, 2012
6:56 am

Glad to hear it, Theresa, but…Buy from around the edges of the store (you’ve still got chemical resuidue), or grow your own and join a meat CSA that farms organically.

shaggy

March 15th, 2012
7:20 am

You know…it occurs to me that you don’t have to buy everything out of a box, and most things are better homemade anyway. I do a lot of DIY stuff, like knapping stone points, and working hides. Doing stuff like that relieves stress for me almost as much as the massage therapy that I posted on your topic from yesterday.

Here is a link to make your own fish sticks, with no petroleum additive, unless you just want to squirt some WD40 for finish:
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/eatingwell_fish_sticks.html

homeschooler

March 15th, 2012
7:38 am

Thanks Theresa. Just added it to my phone. It drives me crazy trying to figure out what is bad and what’s not. I don’t trust the FDA yet I’m no where near a “conspiracy theory” type. I avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs. I buy a few sodas (for me) sweetened with Stevia but I understand that to be completely natural.
As far as preservatives, I am clueless but truly believe that we would all be healthier ( and skinnier) without all the added junk. Weeding through it all is mind boggling.
It’s easy to say “stay around the edges of the store” but, I don’t have time to make home made spaghetti sauce or salad dressing. Who in this day and age can avoid buying some canned goods? How do you know what is safely processed and what’s not? Sure, you can buy all organic but who can afford that? I bought organic milk for years. 2-3 gallons a week at 5-6 dollars a gallon. Finally gave it up but now I worry about the added hormones etc. in milk. Funny thing is I’m really not that careful about what I buy because it is so mind numbing. I stay away from what I consider to be the overly processed things (like fish sticks :-) ) and just hope for the best with the rest of it.

Thanks

March 15th, 2012
7:58 am

Thanks for a helpful article

homeschooler

March 15th, 2012
8:00 am

Shaggy, this recipe looks very yummy. I even saved it because I think my kids would love these. However…love how they say

“You can make these homemade fish sticks in about the same amount of time it takes to bake a box of the frozen kind.”

SUUUURE! drag out the food processor, a cutting board, knife,bowl, three dishes for flour, egg and bread crumbs. Then have an 8 yr old help because that part is completely unavoidable. Buy the time you get the fish sticks in the oven you have at least 6 dirty dishes/utensils etc. Flour, bread crumbs and egg pasted to your counter and you have to spend 25 minutes cleaning everything up. (at least an hour for this whole process before the dinner dishes) Or..dump some frozen sticks on a piece of foil in your toaster oven and bake, serve on paper plates. (15 minutes, tops, including bake time). And then you still have to be concerned about..should I buy free range eggs, egg lands best, regular eggs? Should I buy only the whole wheat bread crumbs or are the enriched kind okay? What about the tilapia? Was it cleaned with ammonia? Remember all the uproar about tilapia a few years ago? I am being somewhat sarcastic here but, once again, moms are made to feel bad about everything. Feeding our families are just another thing we feel totally responsible for if we screw it up.

Augusta

March 15th, 2012
8:04 am

I make just about every thing from scratch. I do not buy anything in a can, except the occasional Corned Beef Hash…..love that stuff.

It is VERY easy to make homemade spaghetti sauce. VERY EASY. I make a ton of it, and freeze it. I made chicken parm the other night, and all I used for the sauce, was garlic, onions, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and diced tomatos…..SO EASY….and the entire family loved it.

I do A LOT of cooking on Sundays. I freeze stuff like crazy…..I need to take out stock in Freezer bags..LOL.

I work from home, husband has a 40 hr/week job, we have 4 kids, a dog and two cats, and I still cook everything from scratch. You have to MAKE the time…just like everything else that’s important to you and your family….

RJ

March 15th, 2012
8:19 am

This is a great app. I’m definitely going to get it. I try my best to cook from scratch, but the reality is I can’t always do it. So, sometimes they’ll have to get frozen meals from the grocery store.

@Augusta, I’ve worked from home and I can tell you that it’s much easier to cook from scratch when the kitchen is a few feet away. I leave home at 6:30am and don’t get back until after 5. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to cook meals from scratch. You’re very lucky to be able to do so.

justmy2cent

March 15th, 2012
8:33 am

I do most of my cooking from scratch, but not all. Last year I really put more effort into my garden, so I started canning- salsa, pickles, jams & jellies. I did freeze a lot of tomatoes and will use them to make sauce this year, which I will can. I got the cheapo starter kit from Ball and it is all you really need. Just set aside a few hours on a weekend and voila- stocked pantry!

Hmm, I drink caffeine free diet coke- not encouraging news on that!

homeschooler

March 15th, 2012
8:35 am

Augusta, here is my experience with home made spaghetti sauce. Hubby grows tomatoes so occasionally we have tons of extras. So, I cut the tops off of about 25 medium tomatoes, boil them in water for a few minutes to loosen the skins. Burn the $hit our of my hands when I try to then peel them. Try to squeeze most of the seeds out because I hear that makes your sauce bitter. simmer the little bit that is left of them in a pan, add some garlic, oregano etc… and, after about and hour and a half end up with about 4 servings. My kitchen is a disaster and I roll my eyes as my husband tells me how good it is and isn’t it so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar. So, what am I doing wrong? doesn’t seem easy to me.
I consider myself a pretty good cook I have even learned to snap and can green beans and (God forbid) blanch and freeze broccoli, corn etc..All to please my husband, mind you. Last night I made vegetable beef soup with fresh organic ground beef, fresh potatoes, celery, carrots and onions but I used canned tomatoes and frozen green beans. I love too cook but some things just take too long. I work all weekend (plus two nights) and homeschool all week. I have to find a balance. Canned and frozen, minimally processed items are my balance.

Buzz144

March 15th, 2012
8:48 am

Dear Leader Obama has decided to send inspectors into our schools to inspect our kids lunches. Maybe he could re-route some of these inspectors to fish processing plants. Only Dear Leader Obama can save us from evil people intent on hurting us simple people.

Augusta

March 15th, 2012
8:50 am

Homeschooler – I will be happy to cook for you!!! I’d really like to start some sort of meal delivery company, locally, with about 5-10 customers. I’ve already started with a friend who has serious healthy issues because she doesn’t eat well, and drinks about 12 cokes a day…….She’s already lost 5 pounds and can feel a difference in her body.

I’d love to do this…..

motherjanegoose

March 15th, 2012
9:03 am

@ Augusta…congrats on working from home…looks like you may have another line of work too!
I always crack up when people tell me that I am lucky, as I can work from home and for myself. Tome….ANYONE can work for themselves…it just takes a bit of creativity, a skill you can make money with and stubborn determination. You also need to be able to wait weeks and sometimes months for money. You cannot depend on a paycheck each week or even each month….thus you have to put money away and not spend it. In my line of work, there is no paid vacation nor sick days. I do get 12 weeks off per year NO PAY and I am great with it. I love what I do and have been doing it for almost 15 years now.

I have never made home made tomato sauce. I grew up with a garden and we grew most everything we ate…even had our own beef and chickens. My Mom even made KETCHUP. UM not so much now. I admire those who enjoy working in their gardens. I love my flower beds and we do grow a few vegetables but not a full scale garden. I have enjoyed the things catlady shared with me…I am holding her to her promise on the apple butter :). YUM!

shaggy

March 15th, 2012
9:24 am

shaggy’s baked tomato sauce:

*Grow Tomatoes
*Get other stuff by either going to the store or stealing it from someone. (just kidding, they will lock you up)
*Core Tomatoes
*Turn Oven “On”
*Slice cored tomatoes into wedges, leaving seeds, and on it doesn’t make it bitter.
*Cut onion (preferably Vidalia) into chunks
*Slice at least 2 cloves of garlic
*If you like, use green pepper that you could have grown with the tomatoes…very easy.
*Add EVOO to baking pan bottom
*Place cut side down tomatoes in lubricated (that sounds sexy) pan.
*Insert onion pieces, green pepper (if you like), and sliced garlic strategically (sexy again) between tomatoes in pan.
*Drizzle more EVOO on tomatoes in pan. (I am needing a “massage” by now.)
*Season with pepper, fresh basil (grow it; it’s easy), oregano, (grow that too), and WD40 finish in honor of Theresa’s fish sticks.
*Place in 375 oven for as long as it takes to start bubbling good…for me that is 2 beers worth, sometimes 3.
*It’s done…use, or freeze in bags…or you can throw at husband that keeps wanting a “massage” and knows too much about Asian massages.

Augusta

March 15th, 2012
9:43 am

Shaggy I have to try that recipe, it sounds delicious.

As I am sitting here, I am working on my menus and grocery list for the upcoming week. I like to shop on Thursdays, leaving my weekends free of that chore.

I grow fresh herbs too, and tomatos, jalapenos, etc. This year, we are expanding our garden, and I’m going to try a “salad” garden…….I can’t wait….

I’ve already started my flowers from seeds, and some are ready to be put in to pots….Another favorite activity, gardening…..I’m so happy spring is here and I get to play in the dirt.

jarvis

March 15th, 2012
9:56 am

How do you people even sleep worrying about the crap you do?

Figment

March 15th, 2012
10:39 am

Like a lot of others I do not have the time to make everything from scratch. Nor do I really worry about all of this stuff. I do my best to limit my son’s consumption of junk food and try to keep plenty of fruit on hand for snacking.

My mom didn’t make everything from scratch and I’m just fine.

jarvis

March 15th, 2012
10:54 am

You’re fine Figment. They made everything from scratch and additive free from the beginning of time until 1950, and somehow people are living much much longer now.

It’s mind boggling.

K's Mom

March 15th, 2012
11:34 am

@homeschooler, Publix carries completely hormone free/antibiotic free milk (their brand). It is a little over $3/gallon.

TWG, will your kids eat shrimp? I make shrimp scampi from scratch about twice a month and K eats it with gusto. I cannot stand fish sticks and so my kids will not be eating them either. I do not completely stay away from processed food, but I only buy fresh meats, seafoods and fruits. I do buy frozen veggies during the winter. I hope to have a bigger yard one day and a garden to go with it…..

Roberta Higginbotham

March 15th, 2012
11:40 am

It’s fine if folks want to drill down to this level of detail when buying food for themselves or their family. To each his/her own, I guess. However, I do have a suggestion. If one shops with “concerns” about what chemicals the food they consume contains, but still buys diet sodas or other sugary drinks for their family to drink, stop wasting your time with this bar-code scanning madness. The effects of sugar on one’s overall life-long health is exponentially greater than any chemical additive one may consume with the occasional fish stick.

Sugar is the elephant in the room that nobody seems to be able to see.

A

March 15th, 2012
12:18 pm

I can’t stand fish sticks either, which probably goes back to my elementary school days when it was a frequent cafeteria meal…and tasted terrible.

Figment

March 15th, 2012
12:35 pm

@jarvis – must the all the preservatives ;)

Penguinmom

March 15th, 2012
1:48 pm

I have to admit anything put out by the CSPI is suspect in my book. They tend to use scare tactics to try to get things banned. They are behind the ‘caramel coloring’ ban in California even though other scientists have said that the amount you would have to drink to even be at risk of getting cancer is 2,900 cans of cola every day for 70 years. The scare is based on one study of mice. Even they have admitted that you are unlikely to get cancer from drinking cola but that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to push for its ban.

I do not believe they are ’science’ or in the ‘public interest’. They are just a bunch of people who like to cause problems and scare people needlessly.

Becky

March 15th, 2012
1:51 pm

I don’t stress out over this stuff..We eat fairly healthy and I cook a lot of stuff from scratch…

@shaggy..These look really good and I’m going to try them this weekend.,,As it is, when we eat fish at home (2-3 times per week) it’s talipia..The kids love it..

@K’s mom..Is it just because it’s fish sticks or is it any foods that you don’t like that your kids won’t be eating? I ask this, because I know a couple of women who don’t like certain things and therefore won’t cook it for their husbands or kids..I think that’s crazy as all get out..There are quiet a few things that I don’t like, but my two love and know that I will cook it for them if they want it..

homeschooler

March 15th, 2012
2:20 pm

@K’s mom..thanks, I actually buy Publix milk a lot. I knew that the Aldi brand was hormone free but didn’t realize that about Publix. A little guilt lifted. :-)

@ Augusta.. I think a food prepare service is a great idea. Like I said, I love cooking, so I don’t really need one but I know a lot of people who pay for prepared meals and would love to have some delicious, organic food. Now if you would grocery shop and clean up the dishes for me….:-)

@Shaggy, the tomato sauce sounds great. I like anything I can put in the oven and walk away from (a crock pot is even better). I’ve even started putting bacon in the oven. Awesome to cook up a whole pound at once. Maybe I should give the tomato sauce another try.

@ Penguinmom. Interesting about CSPI. How do you know who to trust?
I wish the FDA truly cared and informed us appropriately but as long as they continue to say that aspartame is safe, I will not trust them.

@ Roberta.. agreed about the sugar. I found a decrease in weight just by cutting out white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. I was still eating things with cane sugar or raw sugar. Suposedly the more refined the worse it is for your body and the way your body absorbs/uses it. Again, I don’t know if that’s true. Just something that makes sense to me and seems to work. We never, ever have soda in the house. My kids drink sweet tea or sprite at restaurants and that is quite a treat for them. In re: to diet sodas, nobody in my family would touch anything with aspartame in it. Makes me crazy that they put it in kids vitamins and medicines.

redhousecat

March 15th, 2012
2:29 pm

I just looked at the chemical cuisine app. It appears to be very basic with quite a few bugs. Reviewers state there is very limited information; missing and even contradictory information. As a paid app, they should probably expand their database and make the data a bit more credible. But, it appears to be good enough for the nervous nelly’s out there.

shaggy

March 15th, 2012
3:29 pm

I am happy some of you see the promise of the sauce. Easy, good, and allows you to drink beer in peace, without all of that stirring madness.

Notice, I left off salt altogether. I don’t use it very much in cooking, preferring to season to taste after cooking. If you like it salty, go for it and dust that sucker, like a dog for fleas if you want.
Also, I leave the skin on, because I like a little skin every now and again, mostly again. You can remove that, but it complicates the sauce, therefore cutting into the beer timing…unacceptable.
Balance the ingredients to your taste, and you can’t go wrong.

I really do use this for garden tomatoes. My wife thinks I am insane (and she is probably right) until we crack open a bag of sauce and make something out of it.

K's Mom

March 15th, 2012
3:32 pm

@Becky, it is a combination of I don’t like it and it is fairly unhealthy that I will not fix it. I do not really like brocolli, but we eat tons of it because my husband and child both love it. I would add chef boyardi stuff and mayonaise (my husband hates mayo too) to the list of not likely to fix for the kids too. If it is healthy and I do not love it, I will eat it, if it is not healthy, why bother. We eat salmon and tilapia in a variety of ways, so I do not see any point in fixing fish sticks.

Becky

March 15th, 2012
4:47 pm

@K’s Mom..Ok..Thought that might be the reason, was just wondering..How do you cook your salmon? I mostly only eat fried salmon patties (yeah I know..fried)..I would be interseted in knowing other ways to cook it, so that it would be healthier for us..

K's Mom

March 15th, 2012
5:03 pm

When I do salmon I get the fillets that still have the skin on them. I marinate them over night in Trader Joe’s soyaki sauce which is pretty much teriaki amped up with pineapple juice (YUMMY). I then cook them on a george foreman grill, skin side down for 5-8 minutes. I do not like mine over cooked, so if you want it well done, you may go for 10 minutes. When you take it off the grill, the skin peels right off and it is generally $2-$3/pound cheaper with the skin on.

K's Mom

March 15th, 2012
5:06 pm

@Becky, I forgot to add that I generally roast sweet potatoes sprinkled with a little brown sugar and chili powder and either brocolli or green beans as a side dish and it is a family favorite meal.

homeschooler

March 15th, 2012
11:04 pm

@becky, love salmon patties. Over the years I have learned to make them very healthy. I use oatmeal instead of bread cracker crumbs, season them with lemon pepper, spray both sides with spray olive oil and cook them in the George Foreman Grill. They come out crispy and very healthy.

We also love tilapia and salmon. I buy the individually frozen fillets, put them frozen in the pan and cover with Italian dressing. Cook at 350 until they are almost cooked through. With the dressing and water (from them being fozen) they create a lot of water. sprinkle parmesan cheese over them and broil high for a few minutes until bubbly. SO good and healthy.

Becky

March 16th, 2012
8:52 am

@K’s Mom..Thank you, that sounds good..Will have to try that recipe soon..I’m pretty lucky that my two will eat (or try) anything, so shouldn’t be a problem to get them also..

@homeschooler..Have never tried them that way..I got my two to eat salmon patties by telling them they were jsut liek the crabby patties that Spongebob eats..They love them..Usually when I cook talipia, I spray the pan with Pam and the use a cajun seasoning..Add asparagus (sp), and speckled butter beans and they are happy campers..Or I do oven roasted french fries..Yummy..

Thanks to both of y’all…

K's Mom

March 16th, 2012
10:33 am

@homeschooler, where do you get good frozen fillets? That is one thing I have not found at my publix and I am willing to try the frozen ones.

Good luck Becky. I am fortunate the K eats most anything too.

homeschooler

March 16th, 2012
11:13 am

I get them at Aldi Foods. Probably at Kroger and Walmart occasionally, too. Funny I didn’t think about it until you said it but I guess I don’t ever buy them at Publix. If I get seafood at publix it is normally fresh.

motherjanegoose

March 16th, 2012
12:12 pm

@Becky..we get our salmon at Costco and put it in a large foil with any type of Oil/Vinegar Dressing on it plus season and or some herbs. Once, we put orange marmalade on it and that was tasty! Just wrap it up and put it on the grill. No mess.