Ingredients in processed foods

Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of Additives and 25 Food Products by Dwight Eschliman and Steve Ettlinger is a visual exploration of what goes into our food. It focuses on 75 common food additives and 25 ordinary food products that contain them.

Behold the 34 ingredients that make up Doritos Cool Ranch tortilla chips, including three artificial colours, as well as 10 flavours and chemicals that make cheddar cheese.

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Here we have Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle Soup. Cooked chicken skin, chicken fat, monosodium glutamate, modified wheat starch, yeast extract and sugar. Yum.


The authors have been said to strongly oppose chemophobia- or the idea that difficult-to-pronouce chemicals are necessarily bad for human health. Di-hydrogen oxygen is after all, water.

However, how much do we really know about the food we eat? Apparently the “strawberries” in Quaker’s Strawberries & Cream instant oatmeal are actually dehydrated apples with artificial strawberry flavour and colouring.

My stance remains that we know very little in the realm of nutrition and what is truly good for us. As research progresses we sometimes realise that something we thought was good was actually not and vice versa. However, adulterated foods are generally no where near as good for us than whole, naturally occurring foods. You might look at Doritos and guess five ingredients that should be in there. But what about the rest? It might not kill you right away and it might have no impact to your health whatsoever. But how much do we actually know about these ingredients and how much are you willing to risk it? Think about all the additives you put into your body over the course of your lifetime. The ingredients that go into Campbell’s Chicken Soup are surely not what your Mom would put in her chicken soup.

I do not count calories but I do count ingredients. I avoid buying heavily processed foods but if I am buying something from a packet, I always read the ingredient list. There is always a healthier, whole-food alternative to whatever you are buying. (Looking at you Homemade Snickers Bars) Being healthy does not necessarily equate to weight loss and deprivation. It does however, involve taking charge of what goes into your body. I love a good burger but I would not go to Macdonalds. I am surrounded by good cafes that put so much more care and so much less preservatives into their burgers.

Think about what you put into your body and start reading ingredient lists today. “The real debate,” writes Ettlinger, “concerns whether a diet filled with highly processed foods is as likely to be as good for you as one that minimises them, and whether a food and agriculture system that relies extensively on artificial food ingredients, petroleum, and corporate, monoculture farming is sustainable and a good political and environmental policy.”

Photos by Dwight Eschilman, from Ingreidents (Regan Arts, September 2015)