The Dihydrogen Monoxide Conspiracy

Nutrition labels are getting more attention these days. Sometimes we’re befuddled by what we see on the ingredient list. It’s hard to pronounce a lot of what we read. But are the words deceiving? How do we know if an unapproachable ingredient is bad?

Dihydrogen Monoxide and More

You may have heard about the Dihydrogen monoxide hoax. On April Fool’s Day, 1983, a prank newspaper article warned homeowners of an element in every city pipe tested. It claimed burns and breakdown of metals. What they didn’t say was without Dihydrogen monoxide, we would die. Dihydrogen Monoxide’s common name is water: H2O.

As everyday consumers, it’s hard to accurately guess what’s what. We just know big scientific names don’t feel right.

Food from Around the World in Your Local Grocery Store

Food on the shelves of your grocery store comes from everywhere. Freezer trucks and ice baths on ships help get it there. However, sometimes cold isn’t enough. In order for that food to be fresh and safe for consumption, preservatives are added. Many of those big chemical-sounding names on the ingredient list are preservatives.

What Food is Made from These Ingredients?

Below are several sets of ingredients. Based on the names and percentages, can you identify what food it is? Does it come in a package, from nature, or out of a beaker? Answers at the bottom of the post!

  1. Ingredients: Aqua (75.8%), Amino Acids (12.6%) (Glutamic acid (14%), Aspartic acid (11%), Valine (9%), Arginine (8%), Leucine (8%), Lysine (7%), Serine (7%), Phenylalanine (6%), Alanine (5%), Isoleucine (5%), Proline (4%), Tyrosine (3%), Threonine (3%), Glycine (3%), Histidine (2%), Methionine (3%), Cystine (2%), Tryptophan (1%)); Fatty Acids (9.9%) (Octadecenoic acid (45%), Hexadecanoic acid (32%), Octadecanoic acid (12%), Eicosatetraenoic acid (3%), Eicosanoic acid (2%), Docosanoic acid (1%), Tetracosanoic acid (1%), Octanoic acid (<1%), Decanoic acid (<1%), Dodecanoic acid (<1%), Tetradecanoic acid (<1%), Pentadecanoic acid (<1%), Heptadecanoic acid (<1%), Tetradecenoic acid (<1%), Hexadecenoic acid (<1%), Eicosenoic acid (<1%), Docosenoic acid (<1%), Omega-6 Fatty acid: Octadecadienoic acid (12%), Omega-3 Fatty acid: Octadecatrienoic acid (<1%), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (<1%), Omega-3 Fatty acid: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (<1%)); Sugars (0.8%) (Glucose (30%), Sucrose (15%), Fructose (15%), Lactose (15%), Maltose (15%), Galactose (15%)); Color (E160c, E160a), E306, E101; Flavors (Phenylacetaldehyde, Dodeca-2-enal, Hepta-2-enal, Hexadecanal, Octadecanal, Pentan-2-one, Butan-2-one, Acetaldehyde, Formaldehyde, Acetone); Shell (E170), Also contains Benzene & Benzene derivatives, Esters, Furans, Sulfur-containing compounds and Terpenes.
  2. Ingredients: Water (75%), Sugars (12%) (Glucose (48%), Fructose (40%), Sucrose (2%), Maltose (<1%)); Starch (5%), Fiber (3%) (E460, E461, E462, E464, E466, E467); Amino acids (Glutamic acid (19%), Aspartic acid (16%), Histidine (11%), Leucine (7%), Lysine (5%), Phenylalanine (4%), Arginine (4%), Valine (4%), Alanine (4%), Serine (4%), Glycine (3%), Threonine (3%), Isoleucine (3%), Proline (3%), Tryptophan (1%), Cystine (1%), Tyrosine (1%), Methionine (1%)); Fatty acids (1%) (Palmitic acid (30%), Omega-6 fatty acid: Linoleic acid (14%), Omega-3 Fatty acid: Linolenic acid (8%), Oleic acid (7%), Palmitoleic acid (3%), Stearic acid (2%), Lauric acid (1%), Myristic acid (1%), Capric acid (<1%)), Ash (<1%), Phytosterols, E515, Oxalic acid, E300, E306 (Tocopherol), Phylloquinone, Thiamin, Colors (Yellow-Orange E101 (Riboflavin), Yellow-Brown E160a), Flavors (Ethyl hexanoate, Ethyl butanoate, 3-Methylbut-1ylethanoate, Pentyl acetate), E1510, Natural ripening agent (Ethene gas).
  3. Ingredients: Aqua (84%), Sugars (10%) (Fructose (48%), Glucose (40%), Sucrose (2%)), Fiber (2.4%) (E460, E461, E462, E464, E466, E467); Amino acids (Glutamic acid (23%), Aspartic acid (18%), Leucine (17%), Arginine (8%), Alanine (4%), Valine (4%), Glycine (4%), Proline (4%), Isoleucine (3%), Serine (3%), Threonine (3%), Phenylalanine (2%), Lysine (2%), Methionine (2%), Tyrosine (1%), Histidine (1%), Cystine (1%), Tryptophan (<1%)); Fatty acids (<1%) (Omega-6 Fatty acid: Linoleic acid (30%), Omega-3 Fatty acid: Linolenic acid (19%), Oleic acid (18%), Palmitic acid (6%), Stearic acid (2%), Palmitoleic acid (<1%)); Ash (<1%), Phytosterols, Oxalic acid, E300, E306 (Tocopherol), Thiamin, Colors (E163a, E163b, E163e, E163f, E160a), Flavors (Ethyl ethanoate, 3-Methyl butyraldehyde, 2-Methyl butyraldehyde, Pentanal, Methylbutyrate, Octene, Hexanal, Styrene, Nonane, Non-1-ene, Linalool, Citral, Benzaldehyde, Butylated hydroxytoluene (E321)); Methylparaben, E1510, E300, E440, E421, and Fresh air (E941, E948, E290).

Are you stumped yet?

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They are:

1. The egg

2. Bananas

3. Blueberries

That’s right. They are natural foods found in nature. A chemistry teacher in Australia created a poster to prove that nature is much more complicated than we think, and that we shouldn’t be afraid of foods that may or may not have been produced in a lab. - The Dihydrogen Monoxide Conspiracy

James Kennedy aims to educate people on how chemistry is everywhere around them: “This poster series breaks down all the major ingredients in popular natural foods—using E-numbers and IUPAC names instead of common names where they exist. Anthocynanins, for example, which are said to give blueberries their ‘superfood’ status, are also known as E163”.

You can buy his very cool posters and other educational items here, some of which make excellent holiday gifts for the geek in your life.

Educating the Public That Isolation Isn’t Always Bad

Many food companies are aware of the danger people have of chemicals and are lobbying the government to allow more descriptive names in their ingredients lists, such as “Hexadecanoic acid, from eggs”. Opponents argue that even when such natural sources are used, you’re still separating individual parts. They say mixing them with other single components makes them harder for the body to recognize, digest and obtain nutritional value from.

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