Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Skippy the Salmonella Please

The news that caught my eye today (9 March 2011) was about Unilever's Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy and Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spreads and the salmonella contamination in many US states. Please see the Chicago Tribune for the story or just Google it.

Apparently, in 2009, this little bacteria caused the mighty Peanut Corporation of America to go bankrupt and implicated the even mightier Conagra. Now it's got another corporation on the run while probably giving more consumers the runs. It could even kill one or more.

Not only is Unilever selling an inferior product in that the natural fat has been taken out (probably to sell on as peanut oil for more money because some countries use it as much as olive oil), but it has added something that used to be rare in food which is highly risky for young and old alike.

Skippy’s logo for it's peanut butter products is ‘Fuel the Fun.’ In my opinion, this is a strange way to have fun. As my readers may already know, I have fun looking at ingredients lists on labels. Rather than simply creamed peanuts, besides salmonella, here’s what's in Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy:
  • roasted peanuts (without skins which happen to be a  rich source of extractable procyanidins, an antioxidant that could rival that of grape seed polyphenols)
  • corn syrup (reduced fat, but lots of sugars)
  • sugar
  • soy protein (how do they know this goes well with peanuts I wonder)
  • salt (probably unnecessary for weight conscious people)
  • hydrogenated vegetable oils (cotton seed!, soybean and rapeseed) to prevent separation (God forbid that we would have to use a little effort and stir it)
  • mono and diglycerides (??)
  • minerals (magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, ferric orthophosphate, copper sulphate) no explanation for these additions
  • vitamins (niacin amide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid) obviously the more obscure ones you probably didn’t know needed to be added to peanut butter
Since this is in the US, the corn syrup, soy protein and hydrogenated vegetable oils are most likely from genetically modified plants.  I also like to analyse the nutrients list, but here the ingredients list really says it all.

Best bet is not to eat peanut butter. Roasted peanuts with the skin left on are a great snack and so easy to prepare. But if peanut butter is a must-have in your kitchen, for health’s sake, please skip the reduced fat versions and skippy the salmonella!