18 July 2008

Corporate intelligence: Hydrogenate this!

By this point in the campaign by the nation's sanctimonious (myself included), I think we're all aware of how toxic partially hydrogenated oils are. Semi-solidity at room temperature is not a natural state for most liquids, and does not make for a friendly substance in your body.

However, because it's cheaper than similar natural substances and because it help keep food from turning into a science project* that even the uninitiated can recognize as an unhealthy thing to put in one's body, the country's mom-and-pop food producers pump it into most everything we eat.

This tide has been slowly turning for a few years, as corporations try to respond to what vocal demand there is while still making sure to increase profits enough to not be considered "stagnant" (dun-dun-dunnnnn!).

However, this effect clearly does not extend to product lines aimed at the poor and/or desperate, such as vending machine and convenience store foods or generic store brands. The only exhibit you need is this jar of generic peanut butter we unwillingly purchased, which contains as its third ingredient the elusive Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil:
No holds barred peanut butter-- it does nothing halfwayWhat's more, they go on to specify in parentheses the vegetables whose oils they are fully hydrogenating, beginning with the startlingly named Rapeseed. Now, if you were trying to convince someone to buy your product versus another, you'd use the happier-named Canola breed. But when you know you've got your target market right where you want them, you have no need for artifice, and you just do the cheaper, easier thing and let them know exactly what you're giving them.

Mmmmm... nothing like some good old hydrogenated rape to keep you going through the afternoon!

* A fact that of course indicates even filthy mold spores can't find much nutrition in these alleged food substances.


unmitigated me said...

Almost nobody calls it 'rapeseed,' though. It's more commonly called 'non-consensual-sex-seed.' Geez, L-Dan, get with the times.

Anonymous said...

Not exactly what George Washington Carver was thinking a long time ago, is it?

Swirl Girl said...

Gives a whole new meaning to PeeBee and jay sandwich, no?

Anonymous said...

Ewe! And, I read this before dinner, too.

Anonymous said...

I switched to "natural" peanut butter about a year ago; it was weird for only a day or two. Now, I am grossed out by JIff! The rest of the family have their heels dug in, but I'm going to keep trying...

Natalie said...

i can't give up my peanut butter. i just can't do it. i don't eat it often, but when i do i want it to be full of the bad stuff. or to taste just as good as always. at least it doesn't have formaldehyde in it. i might have to draw the line there!

josetteplank.com said...


When I was in England, I actually skipped through a field of rape.

Luckily I wasn't wearing a miniskirt or a belly shirt.

TerriRainer said...

That last line was a KILLER!

I try not to read labels - I know how parentally irresponsible that makes me, but I can live with myself.

Oh, and thanks for that comment for the contest...you ALMOST had even me fooled that you would EVER read a romance novel!

:) Terri

Kevin McKeever said...

Sometimes we go into the local Italian restuarants and note that they list on their menus broccoli rape. I feel no need to comment further.

LiteralDan said...

Middle Aged woman: Hey, I'm nothing if not an old fuddy-duddy.

Mary: How will we ever know? Maybe he strained against the limitation of the world not yet being ready for high-fructose corn syrup.

Swirl Girl: Don't ruin those sandwiches for us-- they are more than a staple for all of us. I think we might all whither away and die without them. Or I'd just have to get more creative. I'm not sure which is worse.

MamaNeena: Well that's not my fault. You weren't having any peanut butter, were you? Or something with canola oil?

Half-Past Kissin' Time: I've always been grossed out by Jif. It's Extra Chunky Skippy or nothing, for me. I want them to make a Natural version of it, though, if that's possible, because the Natural Creamy isn't half bad.

Natalie: Now Smucker's will have to scrap its plans for "Simply Formaldehyde Jif".

Jozet at Halushki: It seems more appropriate to solemnly march through such a field. Otherwise you might look callous.

TerriRainer: But in reading labels, you find out how they're slowly killing you, rather than just blindly knowing they're doing it somehow.

And I meant what I said-- I would probably read that book. It was an intriguing setup. I just wouldn't allow myself to be seen public doing so. No offense.

Always Home and Uncool: Broccoli rape?? Is that a translation problem? Or is that a cruel warning to any florets who might be "forgetting their place"?

Momo Fali said...

My whole family only eats natural PB. Now, if I could just get them to give up Cheez-It's.

LiteralDan said...

Give up Cheez-Its? Whatever for? That's just madness!

Anonymous said...

hello, added you to the blogroll today. keep it up!

LiteralDan said...

Thank you, sir-- I checked out your site and liked what I saw. I'll be back tomorrow for sure.

Anonymous said...

::Nerd Comment Alert::

I think the issue with partially hydrogenated oils is the fact that they tend to result in trans fats. The label claims it has 0g of trans fat, I think that is due to it being fully hydrogenated instead of partially and if I remember my organic chemistry (shudder) that would make it a saturated fat (which of course has its own problems). So you may be getting a "healthier" peanut butter than you thought, assuming that trans fats are worse than saturated fats.

I think they started partially hydrogenating oils when it was discovered that saturated fats aren't the healthiest but they needed something that would be more on the solid side than regular unsaturated fats, thus the trans fat was born. I find it somewhat amusing that the solution to one potential health concern ended up being possibly worse than the original. Least that is what I gather from being surrounded by food scientists and having a food chemist as a boss (I do tend to tune them out a bit so I may be off).

The reason why mold doesn't really grow in peanut butter is that it doesn't have much water in it. That and they bake the hell out of it during its production.

One Crazy Chick! said...

Have you tried to make a pb&j with the organic stuff? I put in a valiant effort but have gone back to the regular old staple.

You actually made me get out of my chair and head to the cupboard...Choosy moms choose Jif...which happens to have to exact same ingredients (rapeseed and all) as your generic brand. BUT! No preservatives. That's a plus, right?

Trooper Thorn said...

It's one of those weirldy Canadian low-national-self-esteem facts that Canola was developed (and renamed from Rapeseed)on the Canadian Prairies.

Not surprisinly, we also changed Arsonberries to Strawberries, Manslaughterpeas to Apples and Burglars to the Common Potato.

LiteralDan said...

Karen: I love this comment, so strike the word Nerd and replace it with Awesome. That's a pretty good general rule around me, actually.

I find this very interesting, and what you say sounds 100% right-- let me know if those food scientists have any corrections or refinements to what you said.

Still, I'd rather they just use butter, or something more natural.

Kandace: I haven't ventured into peanut butter you have to stir, assuming that's the type of unwieldy stuff you're referring to. That would be a big frontier for me-- my sister uses it, and the sight of it in the fridge at my parents' house does not make me want a PBanything sandwich, which is quite an accomplishment.

I've only gotten as far as Skippy Natural Creamy, though I normally go with Crunchy, because that's how peanut butter was meant to be.

Trooper Thorn: I find it a shameful fact that Canada renamed rapeseed oil, just because it seems so un-Canadian. It sounds like a very American thing to do.

My hat's off to you for your skillful quip, sir-- I didn't detect the (well-crafted and fantastic) joke until I got to Manslaughterpeas. I was thinking, "Arsonberries?? How would I have never heard that before?" It wasn't my finest, nor clearest-thinking, hour. Bravo.

Andrea said...

I will have to check my PB jar! I casually skim labels, but don't want to get too freaked out.

In defense of rapeseed, it does make a lovely photo opportunity. I have encountered many huge fields of the yellow color in England and Germany. It never fails to "awe" me.

LiteralDan said...

It does have its merits-- you have to wonder how it ended up with that name, though.

I guess just don't turn your back on it, huh?