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Care for some wood with your Filet O' Fish?


Toliver
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This is a slide show of some well known companies who add cellulose (wood pulp) to their products:

Who's putting wood in your food?

Are you getting what you pay for on your plate? A recent lawsuit against Taco Bell raised questions about the quality of food that Americans eat.

Chief among the general concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an additive used in everything from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods. Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that's processed into cellulose gum, powdered cellulose and other materials. It's also used in plastics, detergents, pet litter and asphalt.

Companies such as McDonald's, Wendy's, and General Mills routinely add wood pulp to their products. It's a way for them to add bulk, mouth feel and fiber to a product without spending a lot of money. The more cellulose used in a product the less the amount of other ingredients (which cost more) need to be added.

I'd love to hear from some SSB's (Smug Scientific Bastards) who can either defend this practice or refute the overall "no harm, no foul" defense of it.

Wood in our food. A good thing or a bad thing?

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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SSB here. Not sure why changing the mouthfeel with cornstarch (presumably acceptable) is different from changing the mouthfeel with cellulose gum. One comes from the kernels, the other from the husk or stalk. You can bulk up a product with any number of things--gums, starches, water, air... Why is cellulose gum the one that crosses the line?

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SSB here. Not sure why changing the mouthfeel with cornstarch (presumably acceptable) is different from changing the mouthfeel with cellulose gum. One comes from the kernels, the other from the husk or stalk. You can bulk up a product with any number of things--gums, starches, water, air... Why is cellulose gum the one that crosses the line?

Because it makes for good alarmism when you can make it sound like people are putting sawdust into your food. :hmmm:

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I guess its still better than China where they put poison in their baby mixture, causing all parents nationwide to panic and protest, but of course you're not allowed to protest in China or you get put in the tank. . .

As long as its proven to be not harmful I suppose its okay.. course it does make you more cautious when chowing down on that filet o fish..

Jade Shing!

It is nice to e-meet all of you ^_^

My Love of Kitchen Gear is a love of Kitchen Tools :)

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Isn't celery almost all cellulose? And isn't it pretty close to being wood if it had been born better? If the additives were made from processed celery would that still be evil?

Edited by Dignan (log)
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Wood in our food. A good thing or a bad thing?

Wood-derived cellulose...(C6H10O5)n...is no longer wood or wood pulp, just like cellulose derived from cotton is no longer cotton. Cellulose gum isn't wood either:

CMC [Carboxymethyl cellulose or cellulose gum] is used in food science as a viscosity modifier or thickener, and to stabilize emulsions in various products including ice cream. As a food additive, it has E number E466. It is also a constituent of many non-food products, such as K-Y Jelly, toothpaste, laxatives, diet pills, water-based paints, detergents, textile sizing and various paper products. It is used primarily because it has high viscosity, is non-toxic, and is non-allergenic. In laundry detergents it is used as a soil suspension polymer designed to deposit onto cotton and other cellulosic fabrics creating a negatively charged barrier to soils in the wash solution. CMC is used as a lubricant in non-volatile eye drops (artificial tears). Sometimes it is methyl cellulose (MC) which is used, but its non-polar methyl groups (-CH3) do not add any solubility or chemical reactivity to the base cellulose. [source]

Since cellulose is the most plentiful organic compound on the planet, we're going to eat some of it. I don't necessarily want it in everything but I'm not going to sound the alarm over it either unless someone tries to sell me a piece of cardboard while calling it steak.

Edited by PetersCreek (log)
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This is a slide show of some well known companies who add cellulose (wood pulp) to their products:

Wood in our food. A good thing or a bad thing?

I love wood sap (i.e. maple syrup) so bring on the wood pulp as long as

A) it is not harmful

B) it is not misrepresented

As long as those two conditions are met (and I have no doubt about A) then I cannot see what the problem is unless someone wants to engage in some knee jerk hysteria.

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  • 1 month later...

SSB here. Not sure why changing the mouthfeel with cornstarch (presumably acceptable) is different from changing the mouthfeel with cellulose gum. One comes from the kernels, the other from the husk or stalk. You can bulk up a product with any number of things--gums, starches, water, air... Why is cellulose gum the one that crosses the line?

SSB also here. Humans used to be able to digest cellulose (the reason we have an appendix) but don't anymore. So cellulose just passes through to the toilet. It's not absorbed by the body. It acts like fiber which can help with constipation and lower risks of colorectal cancer. So only is it not bad, it's likely good for you.

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. . . .

SSB also here. Humans used to be able to digest cellulose (the reason we have an appendix) but don't anymore. So cellulose just passes through to the toilet. It's not absorbed by the body. It acts like fiber which can help with constipation and lower risks of colorectal cancer. So only is it not bad, it's likely good for you.

That's why we have an appendix? Legitimate reference please.

Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk

Darwin, among others, hypothesized that the human appendix may have once played a role in the enhanced digestion of cellulose (e.g. that found in leaves), but there does not appear to be anything that supports this as being more than a possibility.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Companies such as McDonald's, Wendy's, and General Mills routinely add wood pulp to their products. It's a way for them to add bulk, mouth feel and fiber to a product without spending a lot of money. The more cellulose used in a product the less the amount of other ingredients (which cost more) need to be added.

I'd love to hear from some SSB's (Smug Scientific Bastards) who can either defend this practice or refute the overall "no harm, no foul" defense of it.

Wood in our food. A good thing or a bad thing?

They are not adding wood pulp, that's an inaccurate, hysterical simplification. They are using methylcellulose, which is a synthetic derivative that's been used in the food industry for decades.

Methylcellulose has some interesting qualities and it's popping up in modernist cuisine- it's in some of the modernist cuisine/ molecular gastronomy kits you can buy. In volume 2 of 'Modernist Cuisine' it illustrates how methylcellulose can be used to create a high quality consomme with less flavour loss than the traditional egg-white method. Methylcellulose is also added to foods that are to be deep-fried as it prevents them from absorbing oil.

But just because it's an interesting, harmless product doesn't mean it should be used to artificially bulk up products. But claiming that these companies are 'adding wood pulp to their products' is just as misleading.

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They are not adding wood pulp, that's an inaccurate, hysterical simplification. They are using methylcellulose, which is a synthetic derivative that's been used in the food industry for decades.

But just because it's an interesting, harmless product doesn't mean it should be used to artificially bulk up products. But claiming that these companies are 'adding wood pulp to their products' is just as misleading.

Well, "methycellulose" has too many syllables for a mass-media news report. I'd agree that this is unlikely to be a serious health issue, despite the suggestion of the story otherwise. It should be a concern of representation of expectations, though. If you sell a product as one thing, and it contains enough cheap filler that someone could legitimately feel cheated, that's an issue. When folks go to McD's, they expect to get chicken nuggets, not packing material. It's not like the processors go out of their way to inform customers what's really in the product. Unfortunately, the mass-media has learned that people don't pay attention to basic facts, they have to be tarted up with a patina of alarm.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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If Archer Daniels Midland secretly replaced their High Fructose Corn Syrup with carboxymethylcellulose gum and stevia in water, it would probably reduce the growing prevalence of obesity in the US.

According to the CDC August 2010,

"Among states, the prevalence of adult obesity ranged from 18.6% in Colorado to 34.4% in Mississippi. Only Colorado and DC (19.7%) had prevalences of <20%. A total of 33 states had obesity prevalences of ≥25%; nine of those states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia) had prevalences of ≥30%..."

"...no state had met the Healthy People 2010 objective to reduce the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults to 15%."

A 2004 CDC study "...finds U.S. women increased their daily calorie consumption 22 percent between 1971 and 2000, from 1542 calories per day to 1877 calories. During the same period the calorie intake for men increased 7 percent from 2450 calories per day to 2618 calories." and "...the actual number of fat grams consumed per day has changed little since 1971 due to the increase in overall calories consumed daily. Protein consumption for both men and women remained about the same from 1971 to 2000."

I have eaten products with "wood flour" as one of the ingredients, but I checked a few of the items in that story and all had CMC, and the position on the list indicated only a small percentage. My lab experience with gel forming agents (agarose, PEG, collagen(jello), CMC, and the vitreous gel in the eye) is that one to two percent in water causes large changes in viscosity.

I read food labels, and for me it's more about how much protein($$$), micronutrients/vitamins($$), complex carbs($) are in the food, and what their proportion is compared to simple sugars(often cheap HFCS), and how much it costs. I'll choose a cheap food with a good balance of protein to carb and fat made with texturized vegetable protein and wood flour from Wal-Mart over an expensive high calorie low protein food made with organic cane sugar, organic white grape juice concentrate, and organic oat rice and corn flours from Whole Foods.

Farmer's market local produce, and fresh local meat, gives me a large bang for the buck, and a nutritious diet. "Artisanal" cheese at $25 per pound versus New Zealand cheddar at $4.99/lb, not so much.

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if I'm not mistaken methylcellulose is also used in movies, it's the slimy stuff dripping off the Alien's fangs in Alien and other such movies.

So it's a good thing :-)

Though I'd rather have meat if I order meat, not some something or other, no matter how good (or bad) for you. But then, I don't frequent those "wood burger" places anyway. (yes, I know it's not wood)

There are odd things in a ton of food, stabilizers, emulsifiers, preservatives, "natural" and artificial flavors, it's just the way it is. Hopefully they are safe to eat/drink and if you live off of food that has this stuff in it every day, please change your diet for your own sake. Just because, and just to be safe.

Now excuse me while I digest my dinner, a soup made of roots, leaves, flowers and excretions of a large mamal with hooves. And minerals dug out of the ground somewhere. And bread made from some parts of a grass or something.

:laugh:

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Isn't celery almost all cellulose? And isn't it pretty close to being wood if it had been born better? If the additives were made from processed celery would that still be evil?

Good comparison...also made in an WSJ article the other day: Why Wood Pulp Makes Ice Cream Creamier

"Cellulose is cellulose," regardless of if whether it comes from wood pulp or celery, says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that advocates healthier, more nutritious food. He says no research points to health problems related to consuming cellulose.

I do read ingredient lists, but this is not one that I worry about in my food. If it's being used to replace truly nutritious substances with undigestible fiber for populations on the verge of starvation, that's another story.

Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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  • 11 months later...

This is a slide show of some well known companies who add cellulose (wood pulp) to their products:

Who's putting wood in your food?

It's also used in plastics, detergents, pet litter and asphalt.

The "also used in" line is a good indicator of a junk science article. Using that logic we should be concerned about water being in our food since water is also used in rat poison, concrete and nuclear weapons.

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1) Filet O' Fish tastes good

Only because you haven't had a fishamajig. :)

Actually, for a megachain fast food place, I have to give props to Long John Silver's. I would probably eat a fish sandwich there.

--

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Well, fiber does help one remain regular.

If you need fiber, then to quote Frank Zappa, "Call any vegetable..."

Do we know for a fact that they use trees as the source for cellulose?

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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  • 3 years later...

Cellulose is back in the news...this time in regards to being added as filler in canned grated "Parmesan Cheese".

Quote

...“no Parmesan cheese” was used in manufacturing Target Corp.’s Market Pantry brand 100% grated Parmesan Cheese, as well as Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc.’s Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese.

The U.S. allows a small percentage of cellulose to be used as filler but some companies were adding about 8% or higher in their containers of grated "Parmesan cheese".

Some companies were ditching the Parmesan Cheese completely (see the quote above).

Not that I buy the canned stuff...but I know people who do and I will make them aware of this issue.

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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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