A double-double plus a pinch of MSG – Part 1

It’s come to my attention that there’s a rumor about Tim Hortons putting MSG in their coffee. According to snopes.com they don’t:

Tim Hortons coffee contains neither nicotine nor MSG. Indeed, it contains nothing other than coffee. Just as the USA has its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee the safety of commercially-sold ingestibles, so Canada has its Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Neither agency would permit the inclusion of a poison in a beverage vended to an unwary public.

The internet knows all. However, I sent the following email today:

Dear Tim Hortons,
I’ve been a happy Tim Hortons’ coffee drinker for over 20 years; however, I’ve recently heard a rumor that Tim Hortons puts MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) in their coffee, possibly to enhance the flavor.
Is there any truth to the rumor?
I look forward to your response.
jody cairns

Given their prompt response from my last email, I expect a reply by the end of the week.

Updates: See Part 2, their automated response, and Part 3, their formal reply.

Red 40

Today I had a blueberry flavored Oatmeal Crisp Fruit ‘n Cereal Bar. Among its 60 or so ingredients are Red 40 and Blue 1. Today’s lesson: how to do research on the internet. I’m limiting my research to Red 40, though.

  1. Search for "Red 40" at google.com.
  2. The first hit returned has lots of neat chemical formulas and pictures, stating:

    These dyes were originally manufactured from coal tar, but are now mostly made from petroleum.

    Nice. I don’t trust the first source of information I read, wanting to ensure it’s accurate.

  3. Scanning down the list of hits google returned, I look for URLs and titles that appear to come from legitimate, reliable sources. Further down the list are some hits from government (.gov) and education (.edu) sites.
  4. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that:

    FD&C Red No. 40 may be safely used for
    coloring foods (including dietary supplements) generally in amounts
    consistent with good manufacturing practice…

    I don’t like that "good" stuck in there; they don’t define it anywhere.

  5. I changed my search terms to "how is "red 40" manufactured" and found this explanation at one of the hits:

    …many American scientists feel that the safety of Red # 40 is far from established, particularly because all of the tests were conducted by the manufacturer. Therefore, the dye should not have receive a permanent safety rating. The National Cancer institute reported that p-credine, a chemical used in preparation of Red #40, was carcinogenic in animals. The FDA permanently listed Red #40 for use in foods and ingested drugs but only temporarily listed it for cosmetics and externally applied drugs.

    Carcinogenic. Great.

  6. This time we add our new word, searching for "carcinogenic red 40". This returns 39,500 hits. That’s enough for me.

So what did we learn about Red 40?

  1. It’s possibly carcinogenic.
  2. It’s the name of a band.

Jailed Cash

johnny cash mug shotA 1965 photo of Johnny Cash before spending a night in jail.

Johnny Cash was arrested in October 1965 at the El Paso International Airport after U.S. Customs agents found hundreds of pep pills and tranquilizers in his luggage as he returned from a trip to Juarez, Mexico. The Man in Black spent a night in the county jail and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count, for which he paid a $1000 fine and received a 30-day suspended sentence.

The Smoking Gun has lots of mug shots of notable people.

I have his new collection Unearthed, a 5 CD set of superb tunes, including the haunting Singer Of Songs.

Modified food starch

The bag of Baked! Lay’s Naturally Baked Potato Chips (what would be Unnaturally baked?) I bought today lists Modified Food Starch as its third ingredient. A couple of questions about that:

  1. Modified from what?
  2. What is meant by food? That’s a vague word in this context.

So, typing in modified food starch at google.com gives me about 88,700 hits. This definition seems the simplest:

Modified food starch is a starch that has been treated physically or chemically to modify one or more of its physical or chemical properties. The ‘starch’ could be from corn, wheat, potato, rice or tapioca–it depends on the manufacturer.

Next question: what the hell is tapioca? According to Yahoo!:

Tapioca is basically a root starch derived from the cassava, or yuca plant. It’s often used to thicken soups and sweeten the flavor of baked goods, and it makes a dandy pudding.

This is never going to end: what’s a cassava, or yuca plant? I found information and a picture of it; nothing special except the Bitter Cassava variety is toxic if eaten raw.

Thus ends today’s food research.