What’s in your Pantry, could it explode?
Sometimes I find my morbid fascination with food products really gets the better of me. For example, when I was at a friend’s house years ago, after weekend binge of recreational hallucinogens. Brian handed me a small aluminum can with a blue label that read “Libby’s POTTED MEAT FOOD PRODUCT” I must have given him a pretty odd look because he smiled and said, “Read the ingredients.” I still to this day remember how the can rotated to the right bringing first the manufacturers propaganda and serving suggestions into view. The few lines of script reading “Libby’s potted meat is a delicately seasoned spread perfect for sandwiches and snacks. Stir in chopped onion, salsa, or pickle relish for variety” seemed innocuous enough as my eyes raced on and came to rest on the ingredients. So, what was in this stuff that was so interesting to my friend anyways? I soon found out, and am haunted to this day.
Mechanically Separated Chicken, Partially Defatted cooked pork fatty tissue, beef tripe, partially defatted cooked beef fatty tissue, vinegar, salt, spices, sugar, natural flavors, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate.
So what exactly is Mechanically Separated Chicken? I already had good conceptions about what the salt, vinegar, spices, sugar and natural flavors did. But, how in the world did you partially de-fat cooked fatty tissue and what was it? Why in gods name do food products have these kinds of ingredients listed and do people actually eat this stuff? All questions that simultaneously ripped into my mind and demanded answers from my recovering brain.
When I consider the term “Mechanically Separated Chicken” some colossal Rube Goldberg-ian device assembles itself in my head. A giant conveyor belt laden with chicken after chicken, being fed into the gaping maw of this mechanical monstrosity, accompanied screaming chickens, hideous squelches, grinding noises, vacuum pumps, and obscene piston noises. Yielding at the other end a pile of beaks, claws, feathers and other unnamable inedible carcass bits in a neat little pile and an extruded gelatinous paste coming out of the other nozzle. Turns out, the imagery my mind came up with wasn’t too far from the truth.
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) – Consumer Education and Information website. “Mechanically Separated Poultry (MSP) is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.”
Beef tripe is simply a portion of the cow’s stomach used in ethnic cooking around the world from Cambodia, to Japan, from France to the Deep South of the United States. According to the Food Tales Section of the Soupsong.com website “One thing is sure, this delectable, gelatinous, and blonde membrane--celebrated by Homer and by Rabelais--is tough to digest. Ideally it's cooked some 12 hours, and it should never be eaten by the dyspeptic or goutish.”
My mind boggles at the idea of partially de-fatting pork fatty tissue and I wonder if they have put the little pigs on treadmills prior to the slaughter. Is there some combination of acids and bases, some chemical, industrial process for getting rid of some of the fat but leaving some of it behind?
On the set of flashcards available on FSIS website, the process seems fairly bland and didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Partially Defatted Beef or Pork fatty tissue is defined as an “Emulsion-like byproduct derived from low temperature rendering (not exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit) of fatty trimmings containing less than 12% lean meat.” According to the site in order to utilize the term “Partially Defatted Beef or Pork fatty tissue” with their product. The statement “with variety meats” or “with byproducts” must be contiguous to the product name, Libby’s and its parent corporation Nestle Food Company seem to have found a way around this.
Moving on in the list, we come to sodium erythorbate, something I had never heard of. After doing a little research, I found on a website by French Agricultural Corporation - Roquette Freres with instructions for replacing and using this food color preservative, as a replacement reducer for photographic developer. It is also used elsewhere by PMP Fermentation, Inc as a corrosion inhibitor in the field of oil well drilling.
Sodium nitrate, a preservative used to counter the growth of botulism has many other industrial and agricultural uses. On the Data
sheet for sodium nitrate on the Hummel Croton Inc Website I learned that beyond the pickling of meats, it is used in glass and match manufacture, as a fertilizer, and in enamels in pottery. More disturbing was the handling cautions, which advise that Sodium Nitrate is a dangerous fire hazard and explosion risk when in contact with organic materials and reducing agents. The best part being “avoid ingestion and inhalation”
Wait a minute, let me get this straight, The sodium nitrate is an explosion risk when in contact with organic materials and reducing agents, and the sodium erythorbate is a reducing agent sometimes used in photographic development.
Now my morbid fascination makes me wonder what kind of a threat to National Security my knowledge of possibly explosive laden can’s of “Libby’s POTTED MEAT FOOD PRODUCT” makes me. Every time I walk down the aisle at the store all I see are little cans that could be functional replacements for la fragmentation grenade and a terrorist’s playground. This definitely does not seem to the best idea for a food product for the masses to be consuming. I have to suggest an immediate ban. for WR115. Its worth the read.