Dr. ApexCS, the Detective


The Curious Case of the Hidden Peril



Whoever thought that it would take a chemical dictionary and good reading skills to shop at the local food  market? There are so many labels to read on a package. Which label do you believe? Is it the Mm!Mm!..good label, or “All Natural”, or “Healthy Benefits” or “Natural Goodness”? Let’s take the Mm! label from the can. This version is Split Pea with Ham & Bacon. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?


First we have, of course, Cooked Split Peas; that seems logical. The next item should be either water or the ham and bacon.

Water… we got that right!

Cooked Ham… we are right again, but wait, let’s see what’s in the ham: water added (cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium ascorbate, sodium nitrite). Got your dictionary out yet?

Bacon is next, BUT (cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite).

The label continues with:

Carrots, Wheat Flour, Salt (again), Potato Starch, Sugar (again), Celery, Flavoring (I have no idea what that is), Natural Smoke Flavoring (and again, no idea what that is).


The serving size is ½ cup. What happened to the cup of soup? Well, it would not look good on the label if it was for a cup of soup.

½ cup = 180 calories      1 cup would be 360 calories

½ cup = 35% sodium      1 cup would be 70% DV of sodium


Let’s look at something that should be straight forward, like table salt.

MORTEN Iodized Salt:

Salt – to be expected

Calcium Silicate - interesting…...

Dextrose – sugar… really, why?

Potassium Iodine – expect that

And you thought you were getting just plain salt.


Here is another product called “Mashed Potatoes” from Idaho.

Idaho Potatoes

Mono & Diglycerides

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate

Sodium Metabisulfites

Citric Acid

Mixed Tocopherols


I think I remember my Mother just putting some peeled cooked potatoes in a bowl and getting the hand mixer then telling me to start mashing. Well, she did add a pinch of salt.

Have you grabbed your dictionary yet?


Here are some important clues in reading labels:


 Clue# 1 REMEMBER -The front of the package is for marketing, not for nutrition or health. The ingredient list is the first place we look for clues on nutrition. Always read before selecting a product.


 Clue# 2  The first substance listed, by percentage, is the biggest ingredient.


 Clue# 3  Find and identify harmful ingredients. Some really “Bad Boys”

¨ Hydrogenated oils ( margarine, Crisco)

¨ Artificial colors (#6 Blue, Red, Yellow) & Artificial Flavors

¨ Nitrites and Nitrates – can be carcinogenic

¨ Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, high fructose corn syrup) - real heart stoppers!

¨ Preservatives (BHT, BHA, EDTA, etc.)

¨ MSG (monosodium glutamate) kills brain cells

¨ Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast extract (MSG)

¨ Potassium bromate – is carcinogenic , found in bread

¨ Propyl GallateA recent study found that propyl gallate acts as an estrogen antagonist³

¨ Propylene Glycol¹

¨ Sulfites ( Sulfur dioxide, metabisulfites)

¨ Sodium nitrates (hot dogs, deli meats)

¨ Sodium benzoate or benzoic acid – damage DNA

¨ Anything you need to look up in a dictionary


 Clue# 4  Shorter the ingredient list the better – if the ingredient list is a really long

    one with words that you cannot pronounce or recognize, then you probably

    don’t want it in your body.



 Clue# 5  Check for Sodium and Sugar content – These two are big contributors to a

    multitude of major health problems today. Diabetes, Heart problems, cancer


So what’s the bottom line to all of this? Read the labels and do your research. Remember, you are what you eat.


¹ Propylene glycol is a component in newer automotive antifreezes and de-icers used at airports. Like ethylene glycol, the freezing point of propylene glycol is depressed when mixed with water due to disruption of hydrogen bonding. Unlike ethylene glycol, propylene glycol is much lower in toxicity. Children can OD on it and it is poison to cats. Veterinary data indicates that propylene glycol is toxic to dogs with a 50% chance of being lethal at doses of 9mL/kg².


                 ² Peterson, Michael; Talcott, Patricia A. (2006). Small animal toxicology. St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier. pp. 997. ISBN 0-7216-0639-3.

                 ³ Alessio Amadasi, Andrea Mozzarelli, Clara Meda, Adriana Maggi and Pietro Cozzini (2009). "Identification of Xenoestrogens in Food Additives by an Integrated in Silico and in Vitro Approach". Chem. Res. Toxicol. 22 (1): 52–63. doi:10.1021/tx800048m