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Look What They’ve Done To Our Food, Ma*

Processed Food

If you think that Mayonnaise was an Irish invention from County Mayo you wouldn’t be a million miles away.

But you’d be flat wrong. This creamy dressing originated at Port Mahon on the Mediterranean island of Menorca, which is 700 miles away (Mahonnaise, geddit?). Two centuries ago they had the idea of whisking olive oil with egg yolk. Those two natural ingredients were combined with what is now worldwide success.

Trouble is, Ma, that the stuff you buy in the supermarket is fake. Clever clever food scientists have found ways to replicate the creaminess, the appearance, the flavour and the mouthfeel and (here’s the clever bit!) the villains have cut out the olive oil and the egg. Will they one day simplify cheese-on-toast by cutting out the cheese and then the toast?!

Go now to your fridge, right now, hook out that bottle of mayo and read the ingredients. See that “xanthan gum”? This is made in a chemical factory by adding a bacterium (Xanthomonad campestris) to trainloads of high fructose corn syrup. Xanthan gum – the resulting white powder – is a “thickening agent”. Add it to water and – hey presto! – the water will turn into something resembling wallpaper paste. Magic!

The heinous, wicked counterfeiting of mayonnaise by Big Food is but one example of Ultra Processed Food (UPF) which may be a major factor in the widening waistlines of our citizenry.

If, having DYOR**, you find that you no longer have the stomach for dodgy mayo, maybe have a bash at making your own from primary ingredients but be aware: your first attempts may fail. It takes practice. Also, real mayo has a short “shelf life”.

Here’s another tip. The best investment you will ever make is £12 for a recent book called Ultra Processed People. Witty, entertaining and informative, it will help you distinguish between real food and fake food and, armed with this understanding, help you protect the health of yourself and your loved ones.

And if you currently buy a lot of ready meals you may be in for a pleasant surprise: real food from primary ingredients can cost less. If it instead costs more, look on the extra outlay as shrewd financial investment in your greatest asset: your health!

*The title alludes to an old Melanie song.

**DYOR = do your own research.