ETICHETTE FALZE – confezioni di alimenti che pur dicendo il vero possono ingannare
Hello guys and welcome again on the channel of your friendly neighbourhood chemist. Today we’ll talk about food labels. I am a labelogist, I am fixated on labels. Every time I go to the supermarket to do my shopping I always read the labels of what I buy and sometimes it happens that I find food products that have labels that, though they say the truth, are sneaky if not outright deceitful. Let’s start with salt. This is a a package of “unrefined salt” and as I have already explained in other videos “unrefined salt” according to law must contain at least 97 percent of sodium chloride. So it was subjected to refining, some purification in this case in a saltworks otherwise it wouldn’t be edible because it would contain too many elements, like magnesium and potassium etc., that would make it bitter and not really tasty. As you can see it’s white, it doesn’t have a grey tinge like some might imagine associating the “whole” label to a colour different from white, and due to a marketing choice it was not dried so you can see the water droplets inside the packaging since whole salt after being purified in the mine it is not subjected to the final refining, that is instead done on regular salt, i.e. the washing and subsequent drying The label says “sea salt”, ok, “100% Italian”, ok “extra-virgin”: extra-virgin sea salt. Now: extra-virgin means nothing for salt it is a word regulated by law that is applied, for instance, to olive oil there’s a difference between regular and extra-virgin olive oil. Not so for salt, there is no regulation, it’s just a marketing gimmick that perhaps tries to suggest that is better than other salts that are not extra-virgin but actually…I repeat it here: extra-virgin has zero meaning. Another funny thing you see on the package is on the nutritional table where it says: “Zero trace of fat, cholesterol and sugar”. It makes me smile because of course there is no table salt that contains sugar or cholesterol or even fat but, ok, I accept it, not everybody is an expert of chemical composition of food. But the best thing is the writing “With natural trace elements”, quite large so you might think it will contain a good amount of all those elements like magnesium or, say, iron, potassium that are required for our health and that we must consume daily. It’s something we already discussed regarding pink salt, if you remember so let’s see what’s inside it and where all these trace elements are found. Let’s talk about the percentage of sodium chloride: according to the label there’s 98.6% of sodium chloride as I told you the minimum is 97%: 98.6%, almost 99%, means it’s a really pure salt it was well purified and refined during the different phases in the salt mine exactly to eliminate all those trace elements like calcium, potassium or magnesium that would make it not really good for human consumption, as it would be too bitter. We’ll see that each 100 grams of this salt, contains 150 mg of magnesium. When we find this type of information we should always wonder: is this number a lot? What should it be compared to? One of the numbers we should compare it to is how much of this element like magnesium, we need in a regular day. So let’s go and read for instance on the tables of the Italian society of human nutrition and we discover that every day an adult needs at least 240mg of magnesium So: we should eat at most – at most – 5 grams of salt every day. Sadly on average most people eat a lot more, we should reduce it and a lot of this salt is consumed from other food: think about salami or cheese or potato chips and so on, but let’s assume we can take all of these 5 grams from this salt, then it means that each day we’ll be able to consume 7.5mg of magnesium but we need 240, so it’s going to take a while to get there! Think for instance that 100g of almonds contain at least 260 while 100g of raw beans contain at least 170 Long story short, it’s better not to consume magnesium from salt, with which we should be careful but take it from fruit, vegetables and so on. Same reasoning for potassium: it contains 10mg for each 100 grams and we need to take at least 3900mg, so almost 4 grams so the potassium we get by using this salt is totally negligible so the reasoning is the same as before. As I was saying these two elements, magnesium and potassium are exactly those that we try to eliminate during purification in the salt mine so it’s not surprising that there’s not a lot of them because we have, as I said, a very pure salt that is almost 99% of sodium chloride. But then what’s the purpose of highlighting the presence of natural trace elements? Let’s now look at parmesan cheese and lactose. Many people are lactose intolerant. Lactose is a sugar the sugar contained in milk and it’s the only sugar of animal derivation we eat. Many people are intolerant and therefore unable to digest it and they experience a series of issues, maybe if you’d like another time I can talk more in details about lactose intolerance how it is distributed according to geographical regions and so on. But let’s look at these two bags of grated parmesan cheese: this one reports in a large font: “parmesan cheese 100% natural” – I would expect so! – “lactose free”, on the other, nothing. If you don’t read the label carefully – because there’s an asterisk – you should always read beyond the asterisks on labels because they always hide pretty interesting stuff So I was saying, if you don’t read the fine print to follow the asterisk and are in a rush at the grocery store you might think that this parmesan is in some way different from the other beyond the organoleptic matters of aging, and you might even think that this parmesan has been treated in a special way or maybe the milk it was made from has been operated on in a certain way, so as to eliminate lactose and being therefore good for people who are intolerant. Indeed if we go and read the nutritional table – always look at the nutritional table to verify the claims made on the labels – we see that it contains no carbs and no sugars Lactose is a sugar, this is lactose free therefore it is fair that it is also sugar free. If we go read the other nutritional table we find that this parmesan contains… …no sugar either! This one is sugar free too, so it also has no lactose this is not odd, if you go read the fine print you find this: “100% natural” “parmesan reggiano” and even smaller “without additives or preservatives” “and naturally” this is the small writing “lactose free”. So it is naturally lactose free: parmesan, indeed, like many other aged cheeses, contain no longer lactose because it was all used up during the production and aging periods but at a first glance while shopping a label like this, that is totally true, you cannot contest it might make you think that one is different from the other that one is lactose free and the other, or any other, is not. This is one of many tricks that marketing tries to employ to direct our buying choices toward a product rather than another that are, at least from this point of view, completely equivalent Then personally I prefer not to buy grated parmesan cheese I bought these just to make this video I prefer to buy parmesan, possibly aged for three years or more, and then grate it on the moment when I season my pasta. So this is label, like the one before, completely truthful it doesn’t tell lies, but it’s a bit sneaky it’s like I go and write “cholesterol free” on mineral water. The third case I’ll show you is the one that leaves me perplexed you must know I love chinotto, the drink, I like it a lot. Chinotto as a drink really had its moment in Italy in the 50s and 60s when it was, let’s say, the trendy drink. Then slowly it was forgotten but it has been rediscovered in the last decade and we can even find some artisanal chinotto. Chinotto is a citrus fruit: “Citrus myrtifolia” that comes from China and was imported in Italy more or less around 1500. Here you can see some small fruits let me thank the lady from the farm company “Da casetta” of Borgio Verezzi that gave these to me, these were grown around Savona, but you can find more plantations around Italy for instance in Calabria or Sicily, they are grown to make jam, among other things. The juice is too bitter to squeeze it like you would do with grapefruits or oranges. So to make a drink you don’t squeeze the juice but you make a infusion or an extract from the skin like limoncello, but without alcohol. When you go to the supermarket look at the labels of the different chinotto bottles you see: some of them explicitly write “chinotto infusion” on the label and therefore obviously contain the fruit. This one for instance contains, according to the label, 1% of chinotto extract. If you think it weird that it’s not dark coloured like you are used to see in other brands remember that chinotto is a citrus, so inside it’s not dark: the dark colour we are used to is actually due to colouring added later, usually caramel, like it happens for many other drinks. This one, with a darker colour but it’s a marketing choice, contains 0.5% of infusion. But look at this one. Let’s read the ingredient list, int contains: water – ok – sugar, carbon dioxide, flavourings, colouring: E150D is the colouring I mentioned previously, acidifiers: citric acid, ortofosforic acid, salt, sweeteners: sodium cyclamate and sucralose, antioxidant: ascorbic acid. And the chinotto fruit? Where’s the fruit? There’s no fruit, or at least: in the label ti is not reported even if it’s sold as chinotto…to be precise, in a drink like this i.e. that is not light, zero, diet, whatever you want to call it, I don’t expect to find together with sugar more sweeteners like cyclamate, sucralose and so on, but no matter: there’s no chinotto here or it’s not reported, like in the other bottles, “infusion” is not written anywhere “extract” is not written anywhere, and so on: how’s that possible? Let’s be clear: I am not against drinks made with artificial or natural flavourings only: one of my favourite drinks since childhood is “spuma” a completely artificial drink and there are many other popular drinks that are not made from plants so as a chemist I have nothing against such drinks on principle, the point is that you are using the name of a plant, a fruit, but there’s no trace of this fruit inside the bottle and you even write “a sincere, all-Italian flavour that is transformed in an explosion of fizzing and happiness. The passionate flavour of CHINOTTO”. SINCERE? The flavour of chinotto…but how can it be sincere if there’s no chinotto flavour here? I guess it’s all totally legal, I have no idea how it might be possible we’ll need an expert of food legislation. So I went to look at the decree of the President of the Republic that regulates the market of such drinks. Article 5, after having regulated the so-called “juice drinks” – orange or grapefruit soda, lemonade – that is, drinks where the main ingredient is the extracted juice, regulates instead the non-juice drinks” as I was saying you don’t use the chinotto juice to make the chinotto drink like you don’t use citron juice to make “cedrata”. This article says: “Non-alcoholic drinks sold with the name of a “non-juice fruit” including citron and chinotto, or with the name of the related plant, must be prepared with substances extracted from the fruit or plant of which they bear the name.” First of all they don’t say how much should be used: they simply say that we must use some type of substance extracted from chinotto but they don’t say which, but you can find many others in the stores: if you go look you can find many I have no idea what’s the legal loophole that allows them to sell a drink that lacks – at least according to the ingredient table – any trace of chinotto, as infusion but from what I understand from the law they could have extracted some other substance: for instance, the citric acid, the sugar, a bit of saccharose used to make everything according to law. I repeat: I have no clue because I am no expert on food laws and I obviously don’t know the production processes. But let me see that if I see a label with “chinotto” written on it I demand to find inside, as a consumer, the chinotto fruit and that’s why, beside the legality aspect, I always read all the labels to make sure I find what the labels tells me. For today we are done, but I invite you to report in the comments weird, ambiguous or odd labels that you found so that we can perhaps dedicate a second episode to sneaky deceitful labels in the meantime I’ll drink a chinotto.