Is Gelatin Hiding in Your Food?
Gelatin, from the Latin "gelatus," is produced by boiling skin, bones, and connective tissue of animals. The resulting product is collagen, a protein present in animal and human connective tissue. Because gelatin is made from those animal parts suspect of harboring dangerous prions, consumers should be aware of products that contain this item.
The Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America has compiled the following list of products with this ingredient:
Their enumeration may not be completely up-to-date because some of the items they list no longer contain gelatin.
Gelatin has a long history
In 1895 Cooper sold his patent to Pearl B. Wait, a cough syrup manufacturer, who teamed with his wife May David to add sugar, flavoring, and food color to Cooper's concoction to create a dessert called Jell-o. Jell-o is still found on grocery shelves 200 years later, but the company is now a division of Kraft Foods Corporation.
Although Cooper held a patent on gelatin, Charles Knox decided to produce his own unflavored gelatin. In 1894 Knox introduced "Sparkling Granulated Calves Foot Gelatine" along with a recipe booklet explaining the difference between food gelatin and glue used for carpentry. Gelatine is the British spelling of gelatin.
Producers make health claims
Of course, the researchers in the study found that supplements helped to keep the joints of the athletes more flexible and helped to reduce pain. The product used in the study was Knox NutraJoint.
"We cannot exist without protein, therefore edible gelatin--a pure and easily digestible protein--is a particularly important part of our diet," states the Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America on their website. "Other nutrients, such as fats and carbohydrates, can often substitute each other in human metabolism, but protein can rarely, if ever, be substituted and a regular intake is essential for our health and well being."
The Gelatin Manufacturers Association of the Pacific extols the virtues of their product by declaring, "Gelatin is a pure, unique, nutritional protein providing many of the essential amino acids. It is not chemically modified, nor produced from genetically modified materials, and, as such, is entirely natural."
Countering the health claims for gelatin is Professor David Klurfeld, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science of Wayne State University. "Gelatin is a poor source of protein, and it is essentially low in essential amino acids. It was the basis for the liquid diets in the 1970's that caused the deaths of dozens of people from lack of essential minerals," says Klurfeld.
The AMA speaks
The JAMA article is quite clear about the lack of nutritional and therapeutic values of gelatin by making the following statement:
"Gelatin is an albuminoid substance obtained by boiling skin, connective tissues and bones of animals in water. When taken alone it has but little value as a food. Animals fed upon it exclusively rapidly lose strength and weight and finally die from starvation. If it is added to other foods, it possesses the property of limiting the consumption of non-nitrogenous materials and saving the waste of albuminous tissues. It takes no part in the repair and growth of tissues and must be considered solely as an 'albumin sparer.' Consequently, gelatin must always be combined with other proper foods. It does not replace albumin, and the destruction of albumin takes place to some extent even when gelatin is taken in large amount."
The story states that gelatin is easily dissolved and absorbed by the stomach and can be flavored with fruit juices, coffee, sherry wine and other additions and made more palatable by the addition of a meat extract.
The medical profession still relies on gelatin for pharmaceuticals packaged in gelatin capsules (gelcaps) or pills coated with this substance. Surprisingly, gelatin is still being injected into patients today in some vaccines for rubella, mumps, measles, influenza, varicella, and rabies. This gelatin, used to stabilize vaccines so they remain effective after manufacture, is obtained from pigs.
The FDA takes action
In July 2003 the FDA researched the safety of beef gelatin in oral and topical drugs, food, and cosmetics. They concluded there was no basis for objecting to gelatin use in cosmetics or products for human consumption. Their recommendation was based on gelatin derived from bones obtained from cattle from BSE-free herds or from countries that have no reported cases of BSE. The animals used must be properly processed to remove the parts in the animals' heads, spines, and spinal cords directly after slaughter. As of December 2003 the United States is classified by the rest of the world as a BSE country and does not meet OIE standards.
Gelatin used in many products
Manufacturers of energy bars also embrace gelatin, but they are not always forthcoming about its presence. Carb Solutions High Protein Bars list hydrolyzed collagen as one of the ingredients. Odyssey Triple Layer Protein Bars honestly calls that ingredient hydrolyzed gelatin, while Advantage Carb Control Nutrition Bars just lists gelatin.
Many people may be surprised to learn that some juices and wines are clarified with gelatin. There is no indication on the label to indicate that gelatin is used in the processing. Similarly, labels on packages of sugar do not have to mention that the sugar was processed over animal bone char.
Vegetarians seeking to avoid gelatin can find ingredients that have similar properties. Agar-agar, carageenan, guar gum, and xantham gum are all plant-based and are used as thickeners, emulsifiers, and for gelling.
VIP surveys market shelves
Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats
Kellogg's Cinnamon Marshmallow Scooby-Doo
Trader Joe's Frosted Mini-Wheats
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Carb Solutions High Protein Bar
Odyssey Triple Layer Protein Bar
Cookies, Cakes, and Pies
Nabisco Devil's Food SnackWells
Snak Club Apple and Peach Rings
Creme Savers Soft Candy
Brach's Fruit Ripples
Jello Pudding Bars
Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows