Buying Food

6 Crazy Things That Happen to Your Food Before You Buy It


The process of getting that apple on your plate sounds simple enough: farmer picks apple, apple gets loaded on a truck and shipped off to the grocery store where it lands in your cart. Well, not quite. In fact, your food goes through a lot to make it to you, from being treated with antibiotics to getting a chlorine bath and a wax coating. Many of these steps are no big deal (and we want to silence any fears you may have about them), but some are bad for your health and others huge money wasters. Here are a dozen things that are happening to your healthy food before you take a bite.


To prevent bruising, mold growth, and dehydration in storage, some fruit and veggies (apples, cucumbers) are coated with a drop or two of food-grade wax. Your body doesn't digest them, and there's no reason to avoid eating them, says Luke LaBorde, PhD, associate professor of food science at Penn State University. If you want to avoid waxed foods anyway, the FDA doesn't require them to be labeled as such, so look for signs that say they've been coated (a suspicious shine is your first clue). To do so, don't peel your produce—much of the fiber and phytonutrients are located in or just underneath the skin, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, nutrition professor at Boston University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead, wash with a bit of soap and water.


The salmon you see at the fish counter almost always sports a bright pinkish-orange hue, but in fact, salmon is naturally a greyer shade. The swimmers take on their classic coloring in one of two ways: wild-caught salmon eat krill, while farm-raised salmon are fed pigment pellets. But don't let that stop you from buying farmed fish. Though wild-caught salmon is technically better for you than farmed—it naturally contains half the fat, and is slightly higher in zinc, iron, and potassium—it's three to four times pricier. "Whether farm-raised or wild, there are so many benefits of eating salmon, namely its rich source of omega 3 fatty acids that we don't get enough of," says Blake. Buy whatever is on sale and aim for two servings of fatty fish a week.


The journey a chicken takes from the farm to your kitchen table is not pretty. After slaughter, warm chickens need to be cooled down, so they're placed in a big tank of cold water and a sanitizer, like chlorine, to control harmful bacteria and contamination, explains Don Schaffner, PhD, of the department of food science at Rutgers University. The FDA and USDA say this process is safe, Schaffner says, but you can avoid chickens that have been treated this way by choosing air-chilled poultry. One not-so-healthy thing some manufacturers do to your chicken: inject saltwater into raw meat to enhance its flavor. Considering most Americans consume far more sodium than they should, you'll want to read nutrition labels carefully—unaltered chicken contains 40 to 70 milligrams of sodium per 4-ounce serving, while injected chickens pack in 300 milligrams or more.


You might be swayed to buy meat that's labeled " antibiotic free," but the truth is, "technically, all meat must be free of all traces of antibiotics before it's sold," says Cohn. Translation: "antibiotic free" is mostly a marketing ploy, and doesn't guarantee that the meat wasn't raised without antibiotics. Similarly, you might see the label on chicken or pork that says "hormone free." Again, it's a marketing tactic given hormones are not allowed to be used on these two animals anyway. Look for terms like "raised without antibiotics" and "raised without added hormones."


"Organic" doesn't always mean pesticide-free. Pears, berries, apples, and some veggies may be doused with a naturally occurring mineral clay powder to ward off insects, which may leave a powdery residue behind. Similarly, since 2002, the National Organic Standards Board has allowed the antibiotics Tetracycline and Streptomycin to be used in the production of organic apples and pears to fight a bacterial disease called "fire blight." This serves as a good reminder to wash all your produce, organic or not. Rinse under running water to remove any residue, dirt, and bacteria, and use a scrub brush on produce with harder skins.


Along with milk, bottled juice, and canned goods, almonds are pasteurized in order to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks, and can be achieved by roasting, blanching, steam treating, or spraying with a Propylene Oxide Treatment (PPO). You should know that PPO is considered safe by the EPA, but is also sometimes added to engine oil or used to make mattress foam—something you probably didn't bargain for when you sat down for a nutty snack. If you want to avoid PPO, look for brands that say they've been "steam pasteurized" or dry roasted.

****If you ever need more weight loss tips, never hesitate to send me an email ( I'm a personal trainer in Chicago and I've been serving weight loss personal training clients since 2005.

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Author: (Adapted from the article 12 Crazy Things That Happen to Your Food Before You Buy It)
6 Crazy Things That Happen to Your Food Before You Buy It
Learning about nutrition from a weight loss personal trainer in Chicago.