What’s Really In Your Food?

by in Food News, Food Safety, January 27, 2011

food label

Taco Bell’s beef claim isn’t the only questionable marketing out there lately. Check out some other surprisingly shameless food claims, and find out what you can do about it.

Taco Bell
Did you really think Taco Bell’s beef was 100-percent beef? If you’ve eaten real, premium beef, the texture and taste of the chain’s taco filling doesn’t come close. A California resident is suing the fast food giant, and the lawsuit claims that Taco Bell’s beef contains up to 65 percent fillers. Taco Bell’s CEO defended the mixture, saying that the company’s taco filling is 88 percent beef, but it’s fair to say some percentage of the mix is a combination of water, wheat, oats, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agents and modified corn starch — not exactly what you’d find in Mom’s tacos.  (Get the full ingredient list here.)  While Taco Bell does call out on their Web site that the meat mix contains wheat and soy, in-store marketing still might lead those with food allergies to bite into a “beef” taco.

McDonalds’ Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
Would you call a dish “Fruit and Maple Oatmeal” if there’s no real maple syrup in it? That’s exactly what McDonald’s did and this didn’t sit very well with the state of Vermont and the maple syrup industry. According to Vermont law, if you’re going to say a product contains maple syrup, then it must come from the sap of a maple tree. McDonalds’ oatmeal doesn’t fit that bill: Ingredients include oatmeal, diced apples, cranberries, raisins, cream and a “proprietary blend of natural flavors.” The company has agreed to offer a side of real maple syrup to Vermont customers, but for the rest of us, it’s still plain old brown sugar.

Blueberries are healthy, right? Well…only if they’re the real thing. Some food companies use blueberry “bits” or “particles” that are really starches coated with food dye to resemble the nutrition-packed fruit. Case in point: Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry Muffin. Although the front-of-box photo shows real blueberries, the ingredients state “blueberry-flavored crunchlets” and “blueberry flavor” — no real fruit.

DiGiorno’s “Wyngz”
DiGiorno has also taken some heat this week on its newly-released Pizza and Boneless “Wyngz” combination. Instead of real wing meat, you’ll find a breaded white-meat chicken fritter shaped like a chicken wing. C’mon, people, when something isn’t spelled correctly on the label, there’s probably a good reason for it!

The Bottom Line
Read the labels carefully and if you find strange items (like blueberry-flavored crunchlets), opt for a simpler alternative without a laundry list of foreign ingredients. (See our list of 5 food additives to avoid.)

TELL US: Will you still be eating these products? What are you going to do about it?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (836)

  1. Tammy Cannon says:

    The lines are blurred between real/fake food in the eyes if the average food consumer.

  2. joe says:

    just like all these chefs gushing over nutella when it contains vanillin and not real vanilla same thing though it seems a little discrimnatory to chastise some things and not another.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tanya Edwards, FN's Healthy Eats, Dina L, mywholelifeblog, toby amidor and others. toby amidor said: Haven't we all been asking this question lately: What's REALLY in your food? http://fb.me/OAXzixv8 […]

  4. Jen C. says:

    Yeah, this is amazing to me. If anyone was surprised by Taco Bell then you clearly never ate there! But my favorite about this article has to be the "maple syrup" issue that the WHOLE state of Vermont has with McDonald's oatmeal?! REALLY?! HAHAHAHAHAHA – it doesn't actually say "maple syrup" in the title of the item, it just says "maple." I would also bet money that Quaker's instant "maple and brown sugar" doesn't contain real maple syrup, and no one has complained about that in the ??? years they've manufactured it. And if it did have real syrup in it, it would be a neat trick! Haven't we all learned by now? Unless you bought it yourself fresh, you never really know what is in pre-packaged, frozen, or fast food.

  5. Ilsa Draznin says:

    And why in the world are you forgetting BPA???? Its in almos all plastic and linings of tin cans, leaching estrogen into all of our bodies.

  6. Mity26 says:

    Have you real the label of that childhood staple–Campbell's Tomato Soup? The second ingredient is HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP! I always thought I was giving my kids something good, with that grilled cheese sandwich. I was still having it after they left home. No more!

  7. Debyi says:

    Didn't eat any of these to begin with, so will continue to not eat them :) I prefer my food to come from actual food.

  8. Grace says:

    I may have been living in a cave, but will someone please tell me what "sugar alchol" is? I was checking the ingredients on a sugar free item and this was listed.

  9. Rose Ann Posch says:

    It's about they reduce the sodium content, not only in some foods, but all. There is no reason to over a 1,000 mg. of sodium in any food. Between the sugars and salts in our food, it is no wonder why the nation is getting increasingly fat.

  10. im_pinoy says:

    Me too.. Did'nt eat any of these food but great that I already have a knowledge about these kind of foods so i would be aware if ever i'll be eating this for the first time.

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