Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Goldfish, Allergies and Reading Labels

"The goldfish today probably aren't the same goldfish we were eating when we were growing up" is a favorite saying of mine. Interestingly, Pepperidge Farm, which manufactures goldfish, was created in 1937 by Margaret Rudkin, a Connecticut mother of three young children, who discovered one of her sons had an allergy to the preservatives and artificial ingredients in commercial breads. Pepperidge Farm was acquired by the Campbell's Soup Company in 1961 and Margaret Ruskin retired from Pepperidge Farm in 1967. Although my site is about our gluten free family, I feel compelled to write about goldfish because they are a hugely popular snack for children and I think it is fascinating that Pepperidge Farm was created by a mom with a child with allergies!

Today's plain goldfish, are NOT GLUTEN FREE, but curiously the ingredients are not to be found on the Pepperidge Farm website--looking at the ingredient labels on Zeer--it looks like there are several recipes depending on which package you choose. While goldfish look innocuous enough, I don't think that the mom who created the product used monocalcium phosphate and a generic "spices" in her original recipe. At the bottom of this post are the ingredients of the original goldfish next to the long list of ingredients for the Goldfish Cheddar Party Mix. All the ingredients that are questionable are highlighted. You can see how buying the original goldfish really saves you from consuming a lot of questionable additives and preservatives.

I am especially suspicious when I see "spices" on a label if it is listed next to an actual spice like onion powder, as it is in this product, because according to a Natural News article on Surprise Ingredients in Fast Food
six ingredients commonly used to hide free glutamate (MSG): calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed corn, yeast extract, soy protein isolate, spices, and natural flavors." And the Flavor Blasted Cheddar Cheese Snacks which are "Color Changing. Magically change color in your mouth." contain Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening, spices, yeast extract, Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40 and spice extract. Goldfish Bucket Cheese Crackers and Goldfish Party Mix contain partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening as well as an extensive list of chemicals and preservatives.

I bring this up to show how products produced by the same brand can look the same but have very different ingredients. The basic original product might be pretty clean in terms of preservatives and dyes and trans fats, but the more complicated flavors might have hydrogenated vegetable, additives, hydrogenated fat, dyes and preservatives. If you buy the simpler product you can totally avoid a lot of these ingredients.

Although potato chips are not a healthy food, they are often a gluten free snack you can find in mainstream markets. And LAY'S brand is actually more transparent than Pepperidge Farm about which products contain MSG--and their website lists product ingredients. Again, if you stick to the Lay's Classic Potato Chips, you have a pretty clean product with a short label that is gluten free. But if you venture off to more flavorful varieties, like Lay's Flamin Hot, the product is contains a lot of "added" ingredients like malted barley flour, dyes, msg, and preservatives--making the Flamin Hot chips not gluten free and even more unhealthy.

Because my children are gluten free and have allergies, I am forced to read every label on every product. In a way, their allergies protect them from the chemicals in most mainstream products marketed to children. I buy products that my grandmother (or Margaret Ruskin!), would have recognized as food--with simple ingredient lists: popcorn made with corn, oil and salt, chips with three ingredients (potatoes, oil, salt.) or
snack food with the shortest ingredient list possible.

And, by the way, if someone could come up with gluten free goldfish cracker, they would make a fortune!

Here are the ingredients of several goldfish products with questionable ingredients in red. You can see how choosing the original product really is a better option.

Goldfish Original Baked Snack Crackers
Made with Smiles and Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)Folic Acid]Vegetable Oils (Canola, Sunflower and/or Soybean)Nonfat Milk (Adds a Trivial Amount of Cholesterol)Salt, contains 2 Percent or Less of: Yeast, Leavening (Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate)Sugar, Spices and Onion Powder. Natural - no artificial preservatives. 0 g trans fat. Baked soup crackers. Cholesterol free. Product of USA.

Goldfish Bucket Cheese Crackers: Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour ( Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)Folic Acid)Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes)Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Canola and/or Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oils)2 Percent or Less Of: Salt, Yeast, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Leavening (Baking Soda, Cream Of Tartar)Spices, Annatto (Color)Onion Powder.

Goldfish Cheddar Party Mix: Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)Folic Acid]Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Canola, Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Sunflower Oils)Rice Flour, Salt, Unbleached Wheat Flour, Cheddar Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes)Water, Salt]Sesame Seeds, Soybean Oil, contains 2 Percent or Less of: Cheese Powder [Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures, Enzymes)Whey, Buttermilk, Disodium Phosphate]Bulgur Wheat, Brown Sugar, Sugar, Defatted Wheat Germ, Whey, Unbromated Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat Flour, Yeast, Dehydrated Pasteurized Process Cheddar Cheese [Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes)Disodium Phosphate, Salt, Lactic Acid]Leavening [Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate)Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate]Yellow Corn Flour, Dehydrated Blue Cheese [Blue Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes)Disodium Phosphate, Salt]Autolyzed Yeast, Malted Barley, Onion Powder, Wheat Gluten, Honey, Yeast Extract, Natural Butter Flavor, Beet Powder (Color)Extractives of Turmeric (Color)Nonfat Milk, Enzyme Modified Cheddar Cheese [Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes)Water, Disodium Phosphate, Enzymes, Xanthan Gum)Dehydrated Pasteurized Process Romano Cheese [Romano Cheese (Cultured Part Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes)Disodium Phosphate, Salt]Citric Acid, Garlic Powder, Bicarbonate and Carbonates of Sodium, Spices, Canola Oil, Extractives of Paprika (Color)Lactic Acid, Spice Extract and Annatto (Color)May contain Peanuts and Nuts.


Anne said...

I have always wondered what the original goldfish recipe was. Thank you for sharing!

Our 3rd child, now 18 months old, was allergic to pretty much everything until we started treating her allergies with acupressure. She can now eat anything, even goldfish!! For a few months we were told she had celiac disease, but it turns out it was just food allergies and severe eczema. Her eczema and food allergies are gone now b/c of the acupressure.

I would highly recommend looking into acupressure for food allergies. It has been a huge miracle for us and has changed our lives. I tell everyone about it:)

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Our Family Is His said...

Sigh, labels. We now shop almost labeless. That means we shop the outside of the store, get our meat from a local farmer that has grass fed/finished meats, buy organic milk (yeah, it has a label), and only go to the inside of the store for a very small handful of items. I am tired of being tricked with items that CLAIM to be one thing and you find out that your child reacts (so they lie somewhere or hide it). Funny, my son won't eat a cookie very often, but give him a bowl full of cut up fruit and he's all over it. I am good with that, and it's gluten, casein, soy, corn, and oil free.

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Benbarton1 said...

I really, really liked this post, especially the historical stuff on Pepperidge Farms. The industrial food stuff is so creepy and they just keep adding more and more artificial and chemical ingredients. Love the blog overall, BTW.

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Lisa Fielding said...

This was really helpful Kirsten. We only buy the plain anyway but now I have extra ammunition to tell my kids why!

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Peggy said...

Reading ingredient labels is one of the benefits of having allergic kids!!! If you start reading the labels, you can get pretty grossed out pretty quickly and start eating much healthier! I for one am not surprised at the jump in immune system related sicknesses in the US or the jump in allergies.

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Laurie said...

My son also has a sensitivity to dyes, preservatives, additives, etc. Original Goldfish has been an easy go-to snack. But today I noticed that the package says, "Now! Tastes even Better!" and I was suspicious about HOW they had accomplished that. By adding autolyzed yeast, aka MSG, apparently. Ugh. It just makes me sick--especially in light of your story at the beginning about the founder of Pepperidge Farm. I am going to contact Pepperidge Farm about how disappointed I am.

(BTW, I found this blog post because I was searching for the list of ingredients in original goldfish, because I was sure autolyzed yeast hadn't been in there before!)

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Anonymous said...

I am outraged! I just spent hours of fruitless searching online to find a gluten free version of the beloved Goldfish for my 2 1/2 year old son. Now that he is in nursery school, all his friends are bringing them and that is all he wants. The true outrage is that when I went to the Pepperidge Farm website, I discovered that the company was actually founded by a woman who was trying to bake healthy, wholesome food for her son who had such extreme allergies. I proceeded to send a letter to PF pointing out the irony and my disappointment with the direction of the company. It would serve them better, I pointed out as it is their 75th anniversary, to go back to their roots and look at providing healthy snacks for all kids-especially those with allergies!

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Anonymous said...

I would like to thank lauie for that info i have bad headaches from msg, did not know that autolyzed yeast was aka msg,that would explane when i eat them i get headaches, thank you.

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