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Ketchup – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
“Pass the ketchup, please.”
“Would you like some ketchup with your fries?”
“Ketchup on your burger, ma’am?”
Yes, it’s true. We Americans like to put ketchup on everything – meat, vegetables, fruit…well, I haven’t seen that one yet, but I bet someone can tell me a recipe that calls for ketchup in fruit.
Now, I am right there with you. I love my sauces and condiments! They can turn a mediocre meal into a stunning meal worth remembering. That said, I think that today we should take a closer look at America’s favorite condiment (up there with mustard, I’m sure) – ketchup. Knowledge is power, right?
Here is a picture of the back of a ketchup bottle that’s been in my refrigerator, well…probably for too long. (Sorry for the blurry picture).
Let’s now dig into the good, the bad, and the ugly of ketchup.
- Ketchup comes from tomatoes, and tomatoes are good for you, right? Okay, on the surface, I’m with you on this one.
- Ketchup makes kids eat food they might not otherwise eat. Really, you know it’s true.
- It’s easy, plain and simple! Just grab the bottle out of the refrigerator, or the little packets that
restaurantsfast food joints (another post for another day) so freely hand out. We all like easy.
- Well, it just tastes good!
Let’s take a closer look at those ingredients listed above-
High fructose corn syrup
Tomato concentrate– This is basically taking tomatoes and cooking them down, straining them to remove seeds and skin, and cooking them again. This takes place over several hours at very high heat…essentially removing many of the good vitamins and minerals that tomatoes naturally contain.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)– This little booger of an ingredient is found in just about everything: soft drinks, salad dressing, cereal, the list goes on and on. “They” want us to believe that it’s really not that bad for us. I think I’ve even seen commercials on TV touting that very message! In fact, a quick Google search provided me with a link where “They” try to tell me that it’s actually good for me. Ahem…thank you, but I’ve done my homework.
HFCS is sugar, nothing more and nothing less. Well, that’s not exactly true. HFCS has a higher amount of fructose, which is bad. Fructose tells a part of our brains that we are hungry. So, the more HFCS we eat, the more we want to eat. HFCS popping up in pretty much every boxed item at the grocery store is being directly correlated with increasing rates of obesity and type II diabetes.
And this is the second ingredient on my bottle of ketchup, which means the amount in my ketchup is second only to tomatoes. Hmm.
Vinegar– I don’t have a lot to say about this ingredient (yet). Vinegar is actually good for a lot of things that ail you. Let’s move on.
Corn syrup– Wait a minute! Didn’t we just talk about corn syrup!? Yes, we did. This is not HFCS, but is a cousin of HFCS. So, yes…more corn syrup.
Salt– Again, a no brainer. Too much salt (most of us know) is bad for us.
Onion powder– I like onions and I like onion powder. I don’t have a (major) problem with this ingredient either (keep reading).
Spice and natural flavor– I think it’s okay to lump these together. Spice, what spice? Natural flavor? What does that mean? Honestly, I don’t know! Another quick Google search led me to the FDA where I found the following:
The term spice means any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed.
Natural flavors? According to the US Federal Code of Regulations:
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.
For most people, these two ingredients are not a big issue; their introduction in our foods just leaves questions, and I like to know EXACTLY what is in my food. For those with food allergies this is a HUGE problem! The number of people with food allergies is radically increasing (again, this is another post on its own).
Whew! Okay, so that was the bad…now into…
Do you know what a GMO is? GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms. A what, a who!?? I am not going to bore you with all of this information right now, as you came here to learn about ketchup (I will save that for another post; meanwhile, go here to learn more now). Let’s just say that GMOs are scary, Frankenstein foods. We need to avoid them as much as we can. According to the Non-GMO Project,
Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.
So, how about the USA? GMOs are completely legal here and are actually considered “safe” by our government.
At least 70% and up to 85% (there are conflicting reports) of ALL corn grown in the USA is GMO. So, how many of the 8 ingredients in my ketchup contain corn? I can say with 99% certainty that at least 5 ingredients come from corn.
- Tomato concentrate (not only are the tomatoes themselves are likely GMOs, this concentrate almost certainly contains citric acid meant to preserve the ketchup, which is derived from corn, because it is cheap)
- Vinegar (almost always made from rye and corn, because they are cheap)
- Corn syrup
- Salt (standard table salt is iodized, which means it contains dextrose, which means it is derived from corn)
I am willing to bet that onion powder also contains corn (calcium silicate is the typical anti-caking agent found in many spices, which is derived from corn) and there’s a possibility (we just don’t know!) that spices and natural flavors also contain corn.
Remember, up to 80% of our corn is GMO corn. That is why I say this is the ugly part about ketchup. It is very likely that out of the 8 ingredients in my ketchup, 8 contain corn, therefore containing GMOs.
So, how is that bottle of ketchup (err corn, sugar, & GMOs) treating you (& your family)???
Alright, I just went all doomsday there on you…explaining that our good old “friend” ketchup is basically a bottle of sugar and GMO corn.
Never Fear! I have solutions!
I am working on a homemade ketchup. It is not ready yet, but it will be easy, tasty, and good for you. I’ll share the recipe just as soon as it is ready. If you are ready to go home and throw your store-bought ketchup away (like me!), then read on. Below are two tried and true ketchup recipes from two of my favorite fellow foodie bloggers.I will keep you posted regarding when my homemade ketchup recipe is ready.
Until next time…keep reading those labels!
Jess, aka Scratch Mommy
Founder + Publisher + Chief Scientist + Handcrafter behind Scratch Mommy and Scratch Mommy Organic Skincare. Loves her loyal customers, whipping up a batch of body butter, playing in the sandbox with her son, and tickling feet with her husband, oh and a good organic wine or beer. Favorite Scratch Mommy Post: DIY Smooth Finish Foundation With Sunscreen.