Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Coffee-mate – "may cause Mad Cow." What?

I found a bunch of Coffee-mate packages in my cupboard and thought I would bring them to work to use in the coffee I intend to make instead of buying all the time. (yes, I will …) I recently bought skim-milk powder and have used that once or twice, but it tastes quite lousy, really. Even if you put more in – it doesn’t make it taste better – just lousier. So the Coffee-mate  looked good. I got them from the hotel room when we went on vacation to Ganonoque and the Thousand Islands this summer. They last forever (I think).

Since I am trying to watch the fat intake, I thought I should check how much fat is in these little packages. I was willing to bet there must be some fat because I kind of like the taste (better than skim milk powder) and if I like the taste of something, it probably has fat in it. As I suspected the package does not tell you anything. It is probably all on the larger box, so they don’t have to put it on the individual packages – thus giving you an optimum excuse for going ahead and using it in blissful ignorance. Perhaps I should have at least used one before I figured out the ingredients.

So I looked up “Coffee-mate” in Wikipedia and I was a bit confused.
“Coffee-mate is a powdered non-dairy creamer manufactured by Nestlé…. Recently the European version of Coffee-mate is manufactured without the use of hydrogenated fat which is linked to heart disease.

“Aha! I thought, there it is - hydrogenated fat. I knew it. So I looked up the ingredients:
Coffee-mate Original
• corn syrup solids, vegetable oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, sodium aluminosilicate, artificial flavor, annatto color.

“Wait a minute,” I said to myself. “where is the hydrogenated fat in this list of ingredients?”

Nothing on this list looks like fat to me:

Corn syrup solids are sugar, not fat,
Vegetable oil is not “hyrdrogenated fat,”
Sodium caseinate … - discovered that it "breaks down to an opioid, is a histamine-releaser, is a milk-protein, is a carginogen, (yikes!) but other studies report that it protects against cancer, (un-yikes?)

“Right, so other than the “might-be-a-carcinogen” sodium caseinate, where is the hydrogenated fat? I thought I would check the mono and di-glycerides next, which I have seen listed in many ingredients throughout my life, but never thought to look up.

“Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) is a food additive.
These synthetic fats are produced from glycerol and natural fatty acids, from either plant or animal origin. E471 is generally a mixture of several products, and its composition is similar to partially digested natural fat.” Gross.

Concern for vegetarians and vegans
“E471 is mainly produced from vegetable oils, although animal fats are sometimes used and cannot be completely excluded as being present in the product. “

“The fatty acids from each source are chemically identical. However, vegetarians and vegans, not wishing to consume any animal products, generally avoid products containing E471 unless they are certain that it is derived from vegetable oils.”

“Also, because there is a risk of pork fat being present, Muslims and Jews will also avoid products containing E471 unless they know that it is made from vegetable oils.”

“ Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) disease may also be a concern"  Coffee-mate ?  Mad Cow?           Holy cow.          (bad pun, I know, but really appropriate, I'd say) 

So, I kind of lost my appetite for Coffee-mate after that. I casually put it in the general cupboard in the kitchen with all the other cast off items. Note to self – never eat or drink anything in the common kitchen at the office.

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