I was talking with my daughter Tarnea the other day, she had something in her pantry that had thaumatin and monk fruit in it. I shared my research about thaumatin with her and she got mad at me. I decided not to go on with telling her about my monk fruit discovery…Eeek!
It got me thinking; If my daughter gets mad at me, then who else gets mad when I tell them what I have discovered about an ingredient?
I called her an hour later and apologised to her, saying she could make up her own mind about what she ate. After all, she has a degree in nutrition.
But this was the clincher. She said, “Mum, it’s less than 1% of the ingredients”.
This is when I knew that I’m not being clear about why I don’t use these ingredients, nor do I support any companies that use them, including the company that had made this food supplement in my daughter’s pantry.
It’s not about it being only 1% or less of the food product, it’s about what it’s doing to the health of our planet, humans, animals and future generations. It’s about how the additive is made and whether I’m willing to support biotechnology companies creating these products that may become something that is dangerous to the planet and human and animal existence.
The thing is, it’s an unknown – we are playing with species of plants, animals and microbes, using cross-species contamination with genetic manipulation and modification.
Now you may think I’m being a little dramatic, but when you have researched ingredients for as long as I have and you see how this process is done, how it is changing dramatically and the lies and deception of the chemical companies involved, then you may feel the same as me. The sad thing is that food and supplement producers who use these ingredients may be none the wiser. Let me explain
My friend Kim showed me a new product that was given to her by a new enthusiastic local food manufacturer. I call them manufacturers as they are not the farmer of this food, but rather they buy the ingredients from an outside source.
As I read the ingredient list I saw: Emulsifiers (sunflour lectin, soy lectin). Commonly emulsifiers are called ‘lecithin’. ‘Lectins’ are proteins in plants, they are not emulsifiers.
Also I’ve never heard of ‘sunflour lecithin’ or ‘sunflour lectin’, but rather ‘sunflower lecithin’. This demonstrates a complete ignorance of the ingredients that they have used to produce their food product.
This is just one example of the knowledge lacking in the food manufacturing process. I have consulted with companies (big and small) that had no idea how their ingredients were made. You see, food manufacturers do not make the ingredients, they source them from all over the world from chemical companies (if they are additives) and large food companies (if they are real foods).
And if they don’t understand agricultural practices and synthetic biology then these food companies may have their heart in the right place and be passionate about their product, but they may unwittingly be producing something that will make people sick over the long term. In other words, it will create chronic disease.
I’ve started consulting with companies and individuals who want to make a difference and ensure they are using foods that are ethical and have no long-term ramifications for our health or that of the planet. Perhaps the young enthusiastic local food manufacturers mentioned above should have contacted me first before creating thousands of labels with the wrong ingredient names and using dubious ingredients like vegetable oil and soy lecithin.
I have written an article called ‘A Synthetic Route to Natural’ which explains how biotechnology companies are using synthetic biology (various modes of genetic modification) in order to make food additives. I have also produced the documentary What’s With Wheat? that explores the modern agriculture principles that are stealing our health. (By the way, Tarnea came up with the title of that documentary). These sources will give you the information that most food producers are unaware of.
So let’s talk now about thaumatin. I found out that thaumatin is made in various ways. The thaumatin that was on the ingredient list in my daughter’s pantry didn’t tell me where it came from or how it was made.
Thaumatin is used as a sweetening agent and/or a flavour modifier. One patent says that thaumatin is extracted from genetically modified barley which allows for the extraction of 2g of thaumatin from 1kg of barley.
Another patent says that thaumatin has a lingering after taste so in order to stop this they add flavouring agents (which could be up to 100 chemicals or could be made from a genetically modified micro-organism or extracted chemicals from a food).
Another way to modify the sweet thaumatin after taste is by mixing it with gymnemic acid, an anti-sweetening agent extracted from a leaf or made chemically. The natural leaf is used medicinally in Ayurvedic medicine. You then have to look up the patent of gymnemic acid in order to find how it is made chemically and the way it is extracted.
Gymnemic acids are glycosides of triterpene that suppress sweetness. They suppress the sweetness of most sweeteners, including intense artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and other sweeteners such as thaumatin, a sweet protein. The herb is traditionally used for the treatment of diabetes in India and gymnema extracts are sold in Japan for the control of obesity. It is thought that the gymnema extract reduces and/or blocks the activity of the sweet receptors on the tongue. So sugar water ends up tasting like water.
The synthetic biology industry also has a patent for thaumatin using a genetically modified yeast cell to produce it.
So there you have it. You really don’t know what you’re consuming when you see the word thaumatin in your ingredient list.
The next ingredient was monk fruit. Many monk fruits are 1% monk fruit and 99% erythritol. Johnson & Johnson, who marketed their monk fruit as Nectresse stating it was 100% natural but made from monk fruit with 99% erythritol, were sued for their false claims. Other claims from other brands (which include ‘pure fruit’, ‘fruit sweeteners’ and ‘monk fruit in the raw’) should also be scrutinised.
Recently I was at my favourite Sunshine Coast health food store Grub Organics when I saw a monk fruit product that said it was 100% dehydrated monk fruit juice. I purchased it as I was intrigued at what it would taste like. I opened the package, saw a fine white powder, plunged my finger into the pack and tasted a sickly artificial sweetener. So I did what any curious foodie would do, I called the company that had packed the product.
I asked the following questions:
What country is it from?
What is the patent of this product?
Is anything else added in the drying process like maltodexrose (which is often used in the drying of liquids like juices and broths)?
This particular food packing company is sizeable and I see them in many health food stores and grocery stores. I asked the question to customer care who then put me onto product procurement. I asked the questions again to the man in this department but he knew nothing. He even questioned if foods were patented.
Because the monk fruit I purchased was white and had an artificial taste about it, I decided the best thing to do with it was throw it out.
I also decided to look up the patent for 100% dehydrated monk fruit juice and found the following. The fruit is washed in a chlorine water solution, seeded, peeled and pulped, then the following happens in order: acidification, homgenisation, removal of flavour precursors, removal of volatiles and concentration, stabilisation. And then before the freeze-drying process they will add polydextrose or maltodextrose or sodium hydroxide.
No wonder the 100% dehydrated monk fruit juice I tasted was so artificial in flavour.
At Changing Habits, and no doubt other critically-thinking food companies, it sometimes takes us up to two years to find the right ingredients for our products. We question everything and if it doesn’t reach our standards then we keep looking. We have been doing this for the past decade, so we are getting really good at it. The process is getting easier as we know who we can trust in a world where food and additives are a big secret (with millions of patents that the user usually knows nothing about).
At Changing Habits we are influencing how our food is produced, classified and marketed and we are the ethical and trusted authority in the whole food market. As we learn, we teach and I can tell you that every day I learn something new.