Author Daniel Tapper explores some myth and misconceptions about food.
If you live in the city (like much of the population) you probably only ever see your food in supermarket-ready form.
Unless you’re an avid Googler – or a fan of programs like TVNZ’ The ITM Fishing Show – there’s a chance you don’t know exactly how your food is produced, or where it comes from.
In his new book, Food Unwrapped:Lifting the Lid On How Our Food is Really Produced, Daniel Tapper explores the questions we have (or should have) about mass-produced foods.
“Most people swallow food facts hook, line and sinker, so this was a really interesting project to work on,” Tapper said in an interview with The Independent.
“I wanted to write an accessible guide for everyone – not just foodies – on how our food is produced.”
Tapper said the book wasn’t meant to scare people off particular foods, but was more about dispelling myths and uncovering where it actually comes from.
“I thought I knew a lot about food – but I was certainly shocked by a couple of things I discovered,” said Tapper.
“But if anything, it only made me want to eat things more – I think it’s so much more interesting knowing where foods come from. A lot of people are alienated by modern production methods – this takes the mystery out of it.”
While he took the mystery out of many foods, some are certainly more appetising than others.
If you think all ham is ‘off the bone’, you’re very wrong
If you thought your champagne ham came from one pig, you’d be wrong, unfortunately.
The formed ham you buy from the supermarket is made from pork that’s been separated from the bone, washed, then injected with a saline solution which preserves the meat, and adds to the overall weight.
Potassium nitrate (a chemical compound found in gunpowder), sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are also added to maintain the pink colour and keep it edible.
The meat is then churned in a giant drum to produce a meaty soup, and flavourings can be added.
The ham is put into plastic bags and cooked, which glues all the individual pieces together. Delicious.
Black olives aren’t ripened the way you think
Black and green olives aren’t different varieties. Green olives are the more unripe version of black olives.
Olives can age on the tree, and will shrink and become darker, however commercially produced olives are not harvested like that.
Instead they’re picked green, treated with caustic soda and spun in oxidised water to speed ripening. Once they’re shiny and black, a black substance called ferrous gluconate is added to make sure they stay that way.
Artificial flavours might not be the devil
While we’ve been taught that anything artificial in food is bad, Tapper said that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“A lot of the things we think are unnatural – made with ‘man-made’ additives – are not actually that bad for you,” he said.
Whether that pineapple flavour and aroma came from nature or a lab made no difference, because they were both made with the same base chemicals.
Tapper also said artificial flavourings have tough regulations to ensure there aren’t any toxins in our food.