Sep 19, 2018

Dr Oetker's FunFoods Zero Fat Smokey Pineapple Dressing Review

I always come up with a bunch of blog ideas after a Chennai trip. The reasons are many - 
1) I get to watch TV (and the ads) 
2) I get to read newspaper 
3) I get valuable advice from family elders, who blindly believe whatever junk food brands claim - high calcium / high protein / high fibre and what not.
During the long weekend trip, I stumbled upon this ad of "Dr.Oetker's FunFoods Smokey Pineapple dressing". What grabbed my attention was, you guessed it right, "zero fat". If the brand just says "high taste, taste mein hero, super yum" and similar such phrases, my brain would selectively ignore it but the moment the health buzz words are thrown in, I become alert and watch the ad with interest.

Let's clarify a basic formula. Packaged foods are made addictive due to 3 elements - sugar, salt and oil. If you remove one of the 3 elements, then the brands compensate it by increasing the other 2. Yes, there are other artificial flavor enhancers too, but these 3 elements in various proportions are the key to any junk food formulation.

So now that FunFoods claims "zero fat", obviously they must have increased sugar and salt in their dressing. I wanted to confirm my hypothesis. As I searched for this brand in Big Basket, look what I found in their ingredients list:

So disappointed! This is exactly the reason why we need strong regulations in place where the e-commerce players are forced to list the ingredients of packaged foods. If we shop offline, atleast there is a chance that we might take a look at the pack and might read the details. I know not many of us do that but there is hope.

I then searched in Flipkart and found the details I was looking for.

Ingredients List:
Water, Pineapple (20%), 
Sugar, Liquid Glucose, Iodised Salt, 
Acidity Regulators (INS260, INS296, INS330),
Jaggery, Stabilizers (INS440, INS415),
Mixed Spices, Preservatives (INS211, INS202), Spice Extract

1) There are no fat related ingredients and so it is true about zero fat. But look at the sugar, along with liquid glucose. This dressing contains 19.4 gm of sugar per 100 gm. Pineapple is in itself a sweet tasting fruit, then why do we need 20% sugar?

2) The nutrition table doesn't list the quantity of sodium. It is high time that FSSAI puts forth a regulation to list sodium in ALL packaged foods. It is certainly not optional anymore.

3) It is important that we take a note of the various additives in the form of acidity regulators and stabilizers. One might argue that if we consume them occasionally, it may not be a concern. But these brands want consumers to include such dressings in our meals on a daily basis. They are pitching this dressing to be used NOT just for salads but also as dips or in wraps and subs. The more we consume, the more profits they make. But do we know the long term effects of consuming such additives on a daily basis?

4) The expiry date of this dressing is 6 months from manufacture date. This long shelf life is made feasible because of the preservatives:
INS 211 -  Sodium Benzoate. I wrote about this preservative in detail in my earlier post on Kissan tomato ketchup. Do check it out.
INS 202 - Potassium Sorbate. In a study, potassium sorbate is seen to be genotoxic to the human peripheral blood lymphocytes (white blood cells). In another study, potassium sorbate in combination with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) caused mutagenecity and DNA damaging activity.

Which dubakoor (meaning "fake") doctor comes up with such formulation? Or the Dr in the brand name plays a similar role to that of a doctor coat wearing lady in the ad promoting Pediasure for immunity?

We need to be quite cautious about these new products that are entering Indian supermarket shelves before we embrace them blindly as "cool, hip and modern". We deserve better food, not such chemical loaded dressings that cause DNA damage.


Sep 15, 2018

Restore ruminations

Last evening, I finally made time to visit the organic store "Restore" in Kottivaakkam, Chennai. It was such a beautiful sight to see organic dry groceries (traditional rice varieties, millets and pulses) stocked up in huge tins. There were also many kinds of cold-pressed oils. Customers are supposed to bring their own containers and pick up the required stuff. It brought back memories of my childhood where we used to visit a "Chettiyaar Kadai" every month for groceries. The annas would pack the groceries in newspapers and we would pick up chekku oils in oil cans. No plastic packaging whatsoever.

I didn't go to Restore with the intention of buying any groceries and so didn't carry any containers. I just bought a couple of items that were packed in plastic bags along with a few books. As we were driving back home, my mind started to wander, "Wish I had a similar store in Bangalore. Oh wait, if it is not there, why can't I start something with a similar promise - organic grocery store with no packaging? Seems like a good idea. Need to think about it".

We then went to Besant Nagar Beach - a mandatory visit that my daughter D loves. It was a Friday evening and the beach wasn't crowded. As we walked down the sand, D started to pick some plastic spoons and plastic lids from water bottles. As she sat down to play with her collection, I couldn't bear to see the sheer amount of plastic on the beach sand - plastic spoons, plastic straws, green lids from plastic bottles etc. I started picking handfuls of such plastic waste and was dumping them in the garbage bin nearby. It was anger, frustration and helplessness that pushed me to do a teeny tiny bit of cleanup. After a few times of collecting and dropping the plastic waste, I noticed a stray dog that was defecating on the sand. I stopped and asked myself, "What am I doing? I cannot do such impulsive cleanup acts. I need proper gloves, a bag to collect the waste and drop them in the garbage bin". I stopped and we proceeded to the beach. The beautiful waves, clear sky and the stunning sight of horizon calmed me a little bit but I was lost in my thoughts. 

The news about the hurricanes, the recent Kerala floods and many such calamities are a proof that mother earth is fighting back. How much we have taken her for granted? We are destroying our planet in all possible ways. Our heinous acts have led to a state where the air we breathe is toxic, the water we drink is contaminated and the food we eat is loaded with chemicals. 

A few days back, we went to a "health" restaurant in Bangalore - the food was good, the service was awesome but the price for a meal for 3 was around Rs.1500. If I want to switch to organic groceries at home, I have to pay double the price. I'm also quite suspicious about the claims made by various organic brands. I read somewhere that it would take between 4-5 years to convert the soil which had been previously cultivated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers into a soil fit for organic produce. How come we see a sudden proliferation of organic produce everywhere? How can I as a consumer validate organic claims? I might be able to afford organic but what about middle and lower income-group of people? Does that mean only if you have a high disposable income, you can eat good quality food?

It was also the day of 2.0 teaser launch. The underlying message that I interpret was that the birds are fighting against mobile phones. "The world is meant not only for humans" - how true! The atrocities towards orangutans because of rapid deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia just because our demand for palm oil has increased and we want to eat food out of a packet. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Every decision of ours has repercussions. We are constantly making trade-offs that impact not just our health and life but also the other species on the planet who have equal rights just like us. Why do we stand tall with that ego that we humans are superior? 

There are just too many questions running in my mind. I may or may not find the answers. I don't want to feel depressed about the state of the world. Hopefully these questions will lead me to someplace productive and impactful.

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