(Graphic: created by me in Photoshop.)
Though I am loathe to give up top billing to YellowWallFarm.com—about my favorite thing I get to do is shine light on the good and beautiful in the world…well, I've got a barrelful here for Hellman's® and their completely ludicrous and cynical misuse of the words "real ingredients" when listing what actually goes into their products.
I am aware that Hellman's and Best Foods are the most popular mayonnaises in this country. I am also aware that some people eat ground beef at Taco Bell and McDonald's, so clearly we are a nation who likes to play fast and loose with our food safety.
You might be lulled into a sense of food security with the sincerity of words like "real" and "natural," and even "organic" and "free-range" or "cage-free." Then, last evening another pro-food (real food, not corporate chemicals in boxes and jars) food blogger, "Genie," aka @egratto, tweeted this little nugget:
"So. Hellman's Mayo has an ad campaign claiming they're making it from real ingredients. Here's the nutritional info: http://bit.ly/bWPawC"
And that's when my insta-cynic knew I was about to launch out the gate for a horserace to be the first to find out…WTF, HELLMANN'S?
My first jab about the real ingredients to Genie was:
"They just mean 'molecules.' Those are real, right?"
(I am not unaware that our nation is currently swamped with people who don't believe in science, but they do think Jesus killed the gay dinosaurs.)
My next yuck, yuck at Hellman's expense?
"I cook with Calcium Disodium EDTA every single day! #HellmansRealIngredients http://is.gd/aZJyb"
Then I Googled "Calcium Disodium EDTA." Imagine the speedbump my brain ran over when I read these chilling words, from Oregon State's Food Resource website (emphasis mine, below):
A preservative and sequestrant, white, odorless, crystalline powder, with a faint, salty taste. Used in canned and carbonated soft drinks for flavor retention; in canned white potatoes and cooked canned clams for color retention; in crab meat to retard struvite (crystal) formation; in dressings as a preservative; in cooked and canned dried lima beans for color retention; in fermented malt beverages to prevent gushing; in mayonnaise and oleomargarine as a preservative; in processed dried pinto beans for color retention; and in sandwich spreads as a preservative. Used medically as a chelating agent to detoxify poisoning by lead and other heavy metals. May cause intestinal upsets, muscle cramps, kidney damage, and blood in urine. On the FDA priority list of food additives to be studied for mutagenic, teratogenic, subsacute, and reproductive effects.
Did I look up those three terms proceeding the immediately-damning "reproductive effects"? I did. Worse than I thought.
From Wikipedia: In biology, a mutagen (Latin, literally origin of change) is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the natural background level. As many mutations cause cancer, mutagens are typically also carcinogens. Not all mutations are caused by mutagens: so-called "spontaneous mutations" occur due to errors in DNA replication, repair and recombination.
Nice! (Can't you just hear the cackling evil scientist out to create a race of mutants bearing cancer? Yes, I exaggerate. So what?)
From Medicine.net, "Teratogenic" means "able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus." You may draw your own conclusions about the reaction that certain powerful political interest groups in America—many of whom currently enjoy Hellman's during their pregnancies—might have to this "side effect."
Because I am not a scientist, I am less clear on what a "subsacute effect" is, and honestly, nothing I Googled was written in laymen's terms. To wit. (I had to edit this paragraph, having taken the wrong definition from Google results.)
Lastly, everyone must know applications of the phrase "reproductive effects," and I won't belabor that point.
However, let's take a peek at the sentence preceding those frightening medical conditions that the ingredient (a.k.a. "additive") Calcium Disodium EDTA can create. Mind you, Hellman's blithely assumes you will accept without question, explanation of this unreal, unnatural substance: "(to protect quality)". Quality of what, exactly? Certainly not of your reproductive organs or anything resulting from a fertile egg developing into a healthy and normal (unmutated) baby.
No, they're placing that questionable additive into each jar of "real ingredients" to protect their investment: a jar of mayonnaise.
Also? "Intestinal upsets, muscle cramps, kidney damage, and blood in urine..."
It just cries out, "Mom, can I have some more?", doesn't it? [Poor Mom: "Sorry, honey, those are pre-existing conditions. Could you puke a little closer to the toilet? Mommy can't run that fast."]
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And now for the troublesome part, for me. Love him or hate him, Chef Bobby Flay has been a powerhouse for showing people how easy it can be to throw together REAL (like really really really REAL) ingredients from fresh proteins, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. He makes it look easy, and he makes it taste fabulous. I have two of his cookbooks that my younger sisters ("in-SISters," morelike) told me I could not live without. Great stuff. (Iron Chef? Cocky jumping on the Japanese cutting boards in a display of incredible disrespect? Not such great stuff.)
Why was I shocked to see his face on the Hellman's website as one of the spokespeople for this so-called "Real Food Project." (Or perhaps Real Food Projectile Vomiting, see "intestinal upsets," above.) Chef? Are you going to continue this farce? I'm mad at you right now. Maybe you didn't do your homework, or maybe you yourself fell sway to the music. Well, now you know.
Mayonnaise is not intended to last forever. I don't know how much the suspicious additive, Calcium Disodium EDTA, contributes to the longevity of a jar of Hellman's, but personally I'm never going to buy the stuff again. (Not that I'm thinking—at my age—of getting pregnant.) I typically buy organic, but did this year resort to Hellman's on Super Bowl Sunday when the organic stuff was gone—my devilled eggs are a requirement, and I was too rushed for a second store run.
One more quick point before "the good news is…" Hellmann's claims that 100% of its eggs are from "cage-free chickens" means nothing. The chickens could still be packed like a New York subway, indoors, in filthy living conditions. There simply are not industry standard terms that are in effect. "Cage-free" is as meaningless as "natural." Asbestos is natural—occurring in nature. This is healthy cynicism.
Some alternatives to mutant babies or reproductive "effects"? These brands may be more expensive, and they're more trustworthy.
THE GOOD NEWS IS…ORGANIC MAYONNAISE BRANDS
Best of all, they're Hellmann's-Free, which is an industry standard term. It means "no Hellmann's is contained in this jar."
Wilderness Family Naturals: Certified Organic (Raw) Centrifuged Extra Virgin Olive Oil • Certified Organic (Raw) Unrefined Sesame Seed Oil • Certified Organic (Raw) Centrifuged Extra Virgin Coconut Oil • Certified Organic Eggs • Certified Organic Vinegar • Certified Organic Spices (Ground Mustard, Garlic, Onion & Paprika) • Certified Organic Evaporated Cane Juice • Sea Salt
Hain Safflower Mayonnaise: Expeller Pressed Safflower Oil, Whole Eggs, Grain Vinegar, Water, Egg Yolks, Sea Salt, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Spice, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Honey, d-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Rosemary Extractives, Natural Flavor, Paprika Extractives (for color).
Trader Joe's has organic mayonnaise, but I can't get their ingredient list online. Their standard mayonnaise has NO preservatives, but of course, we can't speak to the quality of the eggs and other ingredients. [EDIT: 7:00 PM on Friday: no preservatives or anything suspicious, a.k.a. "natural flavoring" on their ingredients.]
[EDIT: I removed one of the brands on the list at the advice of a nutritionist I know who was unimpressed with both the company and the product.]
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- I truly would rather spend my time photographing farms and food and babies.
- I cannot resist ranting if it might strip of opportunities a corporation using outright LIES to redefine the word "real" in hopes of lulling millions of unsuspecting consumers into falsely putting their trust in chemically dangerous edibles. Saddle me up, boys.
- This is a willful deceit on the part of Hellman's and their officials. They knew this crap is a lie, and do NOT give a rat's reproductive system for the consequences.
- I hope there are repercussions for Hellmann's and its parent company, Unilever. I hope that people are outraged at the misappropriation of the word "real" when an additive on the FDA's hot-list (for its serious and potential dangers) is slipped into the list of ingredients on a jar of mayonnaise.
- All of this could be much, much worse. We could be talking about the true Anti-Christ, sent to earth from Beelzebub's underground laboratory—Miracle Whip.
Cue the theremin.
And stay tuned for a response from Hellman's, whom I contacted via their website.
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FINALLY, to take that bad ol' Hell-Mann taste out of your mouths: here is a photo of Logan on his powerful steed, "Bright."
Yesterday when I picked up Logan at school, a little late, he sat on my lap at a kiddie table with his teacher, and read me an entire book. One marker-stained finger at a time pressed at each word as he slowly gained speed in his sight-reading. A most gratifying, heart-swelling event. We just got done with a 12 days and nights visit with him all to ourselves. It was just like a family vacation.
Thanks for visiting. More soon—lots of exciting new things coming to fruition. And special thanks to @egratto, @kitchenmage, and @seattlehorn for playing and goading, and for your most excellent company on Twitter.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "It takes too much energy to be against something unless it's really important."—Madeleine L'Engle
(She doesn't mean protesting HCR with poorly-spelled signs and racial epithets. Sit down. Hush.)