Thursday, June 17, 2010
Sure you want to eat that?
By David Zinczenko
What's Really In …
NACHO CHEESE DORITOS (11 chips)
8 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
180 mg sodium
The concept is, well, sort of brilliant: Nachos and cheese without the hassle of a microwave. Or even a plate, for that matter. You just tear open the bag and start snarfing. And as a parting gift, Dorito's leave your fingers sticky with something that looks like radioactive bee pollen. Now here's the question: Do you have any clue what's in that stuff? Here you go:
To create each Dorito, the Frito-Lay food scientists draw from a well of 39 different ingredients. How many does it take to make a regular tortilla chip? About three. That means some 36 ingredients wind up in that weird cheese fuzz. Of those 36, only two are ingredients you'd use to make nachos at home: Romano and cheddar cheeses. Alongside those are a cache of empty carbohydrate fillers like dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, flour, and corn syrup solids. Then come a rotating cast of oils. Depending on what bag you get, you might find any combination of corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and sunflower oil. Some of those will be partially hydrogenated, meaning they give the chip a longer shelf life and spike your heart with a little shot of trans fat. (The reason you won't see this on the nutrition label is that FDA guidelines allow food manufacturers to "round down" to zero.)
And then, after the fats and nutritionally empty starches, there's a seasoning blend, which includes things like sugar, "artificial flavoring," and a rather worrisome compound called monosodium glutamate. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is the flavor enhancer largely responsible for the chip's addicting quality. The drawback is that it interferes with the production of an appetite-regulating hormone called leptin. A study of middle-aged Chinese people found a strong correlation between MSG consumption and body fat. What's more, the FDA receives new complaints every year from people who react violently to MSG, suffering symptoms like nausea, headaches, burning sensation, numbness, chest pains, dizziness, and so on. Talk about radioactive bee pollen.