Home Tags Posts tagged with "crisps"



According to a new book — Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us — the food industry has spent years mixing these three ingredients, salt, sugar and fat in an ideal combination to make crisps addictive.

Michael Moss, an award-winning investigative writer, who works at The New York Times, spent more than three years gathering information and interviewed food industry insiders to find out how and why manufacturers make products that could damage people’s health.

The author says that producers describe the levels of salt, sugar and fat in processed food that are so attractive they make us to want more as a “bliss point,” a perfect link between food and joy in consumers’ brains. Studies show that the “bliss point” for children can be 36 per cent sugar content in food, three times that of most adults.

Thousands of customers’ preferences are scientifically tested, and surveys are conducted in populations for cultural and demographic differences. MRI-scanning studies are used to investigate the sensory power of food (how sugar lights up the brain the same way it does after someone has taken cocaine, for example).

We’re not born liking salt. It doesn’t happen until we’re six months old. So, it looks like the processed food industry is controlling our cravings. And studies show that kids who are fed processed food from a very young age develop huge salt cravings,” says the author.

“Monosodium glutamate — an additive used to create the fifth taste, umami, which enhances our overall perception of a food — is also found in many crisps. The use of this additive in crisps, alongside salt and other flavor enhancers, is a stimulant for the taste buds, which makes us crave more of them. The concept that crisps are addictive is not yet proven but there are ongoing studies to look at whether overeating the sugars that form the carbohydrates in crisps triggers some of the neuronal pathways in the brain that have been associated with addiction,” says Ella Boger, a dietitian at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Asides from being potentially addictive, crisps can be dangerous to the teeth, Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, says.

According to Dr. Carter, crisps are not an obvious danger to oral health as they do not contain the same amount of sugar as chocolate bars and sweets. However, they can actually be even more problematic because they tend to stick to the surfaces of the teeth and can remain there for several hours. Dr Carter also said that eating crisps could potentially be harmful because people tend to look at labels for sugar content and ignore the carbohydrate content, which is broken down by the body into sugar. To promote good oral health you need to brush your teeth twice a day and avoid snacking on sugary or starchy foods between meals, he said.

Salt, sugar, and fat are the key ingredients, according to Michael Moss.

Producers have found it is cheaper to make salt, sugar and fat more alluring by modifying their chemical structure rather than make the product healthy. Moss persuaded three of the biggest food manufacturers to make him samples of their products with significantly reduced levels of the three ingredients.

Without any salt, the crackers lost their magic,” says the author.

The same happened with soups, meats and breads.

Take more than a little salt, or sugar, or fat out of processed food, these experiments showed, and there is nothing left. Or, even worse, what is left are the inexorable consequences of food processing; repulsive tastes that are bitter, metallic and astringent,” says Moss.

The food industry prefers not to speak of ‘addiction’ or ‘addictive’. ‘Crave-able’ is the acceptable term,” he says.

When producers have to reduce one of their three key ingredients, they often raise the levels of the other two, Moss says, to maintain their attractiveness. Products labeled “low salt” may have higher levels of fat and sugar.

It is one of the industry’s most devious moves. That is why we should all be very wary of products whose labels proclaim: ‘Now low in. . . ,” says Michael Moss.

Food scientists have developed enhancers to boost sugar’s sweetness up to 200 times, and one component, fructose, has been crystallized into an additive to boost the allure of foods naturally low in it.

The body does not process fructose syrup in the same way as natural sugar. The liver is overburdened, and that leads to raised levels of fat in the bloodstream, and cardiovascular disease. Over-consumption of salt has been linked with high blood pressure and heart disease. Excessive intake of fat is linked with obesity and related epidemics, diabetes, stroke.

Recent scientific reviews show there is no evidence to suggest food addiction exists in people, either to specific foods or to nutrients like sugar or fat. There is also no convincing evidence to show that people who are overweight display signs of addiction,” says Barbara Gallani, director of food safety, science and health at the Food and Drink Federation in the UK.

According to Moss, in the U.S. eleven heads of the largest food companies met in secret in 1999 to discuss how to reduce the emerging obesity epidemic by changing recipes and strategies, but no constructive action followed.

More over, most of the executives at the big food companies do not consume their own products, they prefer to eat fresh foods and take regular exercise, says Moss.

I found that many of the executives I talked to go out of their way to avoid their own products, especially if they have run into health problems,” he says.


Food companies in UK have been warned about the presence of acrylamide,  cancer-risk chemical, in everyday products ranging from crisps and chips to instant coffee and ginger biscuits.

A biscuit designed for babies and toddlers has also been caught up in the alert.

Experts are even warning families to only lightly toast their bread at home, as the chemical, called acrylamide, is more likely to form the longer and darker foods cook.

A study by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has identified 13 products containing raised levels of the chemical. In each case, officials at the local council where the supplier is based have been told to notify them.

Acrylamide, which is still being investigated by scientists, is a cooking by-product associated with frying, baking, roasting or toasting foods at very high temperatures, usually greater than 120 C.

The FSA insists its findings raise no immediate risk to the public and there is no need for people to change their diet.

The UK Food Standards Agency warns food companies that everyday products such as instant coffee could contain the cancer chemical acrylamide

The UK Food Standards Agency warns food companies that everyday products such as instant coffee could contain the cancer chemical acrylamide

However, it is putting pressure on all food companies to reduce acrylamide levels because long-term consumption could increase the risk of cancer. Its official advice is also that families should ensure bread and chips they eat are only toasted or baked to the “lightest color possible”.

The FSA said its study of levels of acrylamide and furan – another cancer-risk chemical – is used to identify which firms need to take action. Acrylamide is formed by a reaction between natural components in food as it cooks.

In reality it has probably been in the diet for as long as man has fried, roasted or toasted food. Manufacturers including Heinz and McVitie’s have already responded by changing their recipes.

But others, including Nestle, makers of Nescafe, say it is impossible to do so without harming the flavor and quality of their products. Nestle added: “There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest any particular product has any negative impact on health in the context of acrylamide exposure.”

The FSA is required by the EU and the European Food Safety Authority to carry out the annual tests. It looked at 248 samples, from chips sold by fast-food outlets to supermarket own-label and big brand ranges. In 13 cases levels were above the “indicative value” – a trigger point to tell the firm it should examine its production process.

European watchdogs have been putting pressure on food manufacturers to reduce acrylamide for almost a decade.

In 2002 Swedish studies revealed high levels formed during the frying or baking of potato or cereal products.

The FSA said: “This raised worldwide public concern because studies in laboratory animals suggest acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans by interacting with the DNA in cells.

“The Agency believes exposure to such chemicals should be as low as reasonably practicable.”

The latest survey found “an upward trend” in acrylamide levels in processed cereal-based baby foods, excluding rusks. Importantly however, the FSA said this did not mean parents should stop giving these products to youngsters.

The UK Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said members are “ensuring levels are as low as reasonably achievable”.

Heinz changed its Banana Biscotti recipe this year to reduce acrylamide to trace levels. United Biscuits, which makes McVitie’s Gingernuts, said it has cut acrylamide by 70%. The firm also pledged to cut levels in its McCoy’s crisps.