Thursday, January 3, 2008

Odd ingredients

Inscribed on the ingredient list for the bag of chips I munched this morning was this oddity:

Disodium guanylate.

Since guany- sounds disturbingly close to the word for the stinky stuff that bird colonies deposit on tropical nesting grounds, I felt compelled to do some research.

No connection.

DG is the disodium salt of guanosine monophosphate.

Wikipedia informs me that it: Is also known as 5'-guanidylic acid or guanylic acid and abbreviated GMP, is a nucleotide that is found in RNA. It is an ester of phosphoric acid with the nucleoside guanosine.

GMP consists of the phosphate group, the pentose sugar ribose, and the nucleobase guanine. Guanosine monophosphate is produced from dried fish or dried seaweed.[citation needed]

Guanosine monophosphate in the form of its sodium salt disodium guanylate (E627) is a food additive used as a flavor enhancer to provide the umami [savory] taste.

I wonder how "they" discover stuff like this. Do scientists in gleaming labs boil bits of fish and seaweed down to the bare molecules and then taste the distillates?

9 comments:

Rebecca said...

I wish I knew the answer to that, ECD! But I gotta tell you, in my line of work I have access to 2 publications that have completely changed my opinion of food: Food Engineering and Prepared Foods. Holy Smokes. There are definitely some things one does not want to know about. Makes me want to make sure I grow and consume my own sustenance, though being a resident of the City of New York, it is out of the question. Thank God for the growing popularity of sustainable agriculture and organic foods!

eastcoastdweller said...

Supposedly, Rebecca, in some city between Your Gotham and my Richmond, is a certain factory that actually produces most of the "natural" flavors that make our modern, processed food edible once the original taste has been bleached or cooked out of it.

NPR did a fascinating piece a while ago on that disturbing subject.

I am blessed to have a garden and now is about the time of year when I begin to dream about its potential.

Janice Thomson said...

I found out a couple years ago that the gelatin in Jello comes from cows or pig's hooves. I was so grossed out I dumped them all in the garbage and have never touched the stuff since.
If people only knew how much the food they eat was genetically modified they would be terrified to eat anything. Even seeds now have been modified so much they are good for one year and that's it - a wonderful way to corner the market. Many would like their own gardens but can't seem to find the time to keep one up. The chemicals our bodies ingest these days is phenomenal and it is no wonder so many new and strange diseases are occurring.

eastcoastdweller said...

Hello, lovely Janice. You are right as usual -- even in our tap water, which is of course recycled toilet water from everyone who lives upstream, secondhand hormones and prescriptions are causing havoc.

I promised to add You, Janice, and I've just been slow this week.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

You were not far wrong, ECD. If scientists want to determine what it is that gives food a certain flavor, they can boil it down to its chemical components and then separate them according to size or electric charge. Samples are then collected and tasted. One sample will contain the taste. That is then analyzed to determine what is the chemical compound. Hence the birth of flavoring and food additives.

...amarpreet said...

OMG - you ate what again? Chips was it?

Rebecca said...

Is the the company of which you were speaking Ottens Flavors? Located in the city of brotherly love? Just came across their ad in Prepared Foods as I was approving the digital version! They have office all over the world. ARGH. Enough to make me want to purchase only the rawest of organic ingredients and ensure that I prepare everything myself. Gah. My husband would think that very extremist of me, but I don't think he sees what I see. Think I'll bring home a few issues of these publications for his edification.

eastcoastdweller said...

Rebecca, I don't remember the name of the company -- I was driving when I heard the newscast.

It was just fascinating to hear that these scientists are able, in a test tube, to create chemical mixtures that taste exactly like chicken or corn or strawberries.

It's not necessarily all bad or a sign of the Apocalypse. The characteristic flavor of an apple comes from malic acid, for example. Malic acid, seems to me, is malic acid, whether it is squeezed out of a Golden Delicious, or synthesized in a lab.

Rebecca said...

Indeed no indication of the apocalypse. But sheesh, when one actually sits down to think about what goes into feeding the masses, it can be a little scary.