It’s official – processed food is designed to be addictive!

1 December 2011 - 11:27pm -- Gerry Danby
Givaudan - trying to create an addictive taste

Givaudan - trying to create an addictive taste

The American news and current affairs programme 60 Minutes on CBS News recently broadcast a programme about one of the biggest global players in the food industry you have probably never heard about. It may be American but its reach is worldwide. Givaudan is the largest flavouring company in the world and employs 9,000 people in 45 countries. The flavouring industry is the enabler of food processing.

The simple act of eating is not normally associated with science but the Holy Grail of any processed food manufacturer is to create products that we all crave and want to eat time and time again. A critical way of achieving this is to get the flavour right.

There are, of course, other contributors to this deception. The use of fats, salt and sugars on cheap nutritionally poor ingredients can give the appearance of desirable food. The fact is that flavour is what gives food its immediate appeal, the sensory impact that first bite has as it hits taste receptors in your mouth counts for so much, but may lead you astray. Dawn Streich of Givaudan puts it like this:

“In our fruit flavours we’re talking about, we want a burst in the beginning. And maybe a finish that doesn’t linger too much so that you want more of it.’

Streich’s colleague, Jim Hassel, then adds:

“And you don’t want a longer linger, because you’re not going to eat more if it lingers.”

The interviewer then asks the pair whether they are trying to create an addictive taste? Hassel responds: “That’s a good word.”

Givaudan make flavours for everything imaginable. Chicken cooked in any way you can think of is reduced to an endless brown liquid and pumped into trays to be vacuum dried before being made into a fine powder and added to who knows what processed foods. Almost every product on the shelves of your local supermarket has been enhanced with so-called natural flavouring … even chicken for vegetarians.

David Kessler, former head of the FDA, commented:

“We’re eating fat on fat on sugar on fat with flavour. And much of what we are eating with these flavors, you have to ask yourself, is it really food?”

Make no mistake, if you eat this stuff you are being conned and your health and wellbeing will suffer as a consequence. Yes, we do want to experience good taste in our food, but there are much simpler and far more rewarding ways in which we can enjoy this experience. In the words of Michael Pollan:

“Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.”

You can view the programme for yourself: 60 Minutes – The Flavourists, simply click here.

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