03 June, 2008

Since when is it okay to eat TITANIUM?!

Location: my coffee
Mood: poisoned?

As I think I mentioned elsewhere, I have only been drinking coffee for about 2 years. And one of the things that I like to drink, is Vanilla Latte. And there are all sorts of tangents I could take here. For instance, I could tell you about how 3 years ago, I could not have told you what the difference even was between an espresso and a cappucino (I still can't even spell that word - and even with Wikipedia to help me, I am not sure I got it correct). And now, just a short few years later, my coffee order sounds like that of an expert:

double tall nonfat vanilla latte with half the vanilla.

It seems like there was a time when it took fewer than 9 words to order a coffee. But whatever, that's not the point here.

The point here is that at some time, Denise decided to surprise me and purchase "vanilla half and half" so that if I had coffee over there, it could be "similar to" a vanilla latte. Of course, without an espresso machine, it's not identical. But it was a very nice gesture. The other day, I was at Trader Joe's, going grocery shopping for the first time since November (which I consider to be some type of great personal accomplishment, whereas the rest of you go every week). And in my shopping frenzy, I happened to notice they had vanilla half and half. So I decided to buy some, because I was buying everything in the store.

The idea of "nonfat vanilla half and half" seems to me like it should qualify as an oxymoron, because I always thought that half of the half and half was cream, which would by definition not be nonfat. And as these little wheels turn inside the mouse wheel in my brain, I am momentarily concerned, thinking "How the hell do they do that?" and assuming there's probably all sorts of nasty stuff in there.

So I have used it a couple of times now. And it's not that great. It is not as good as a vanilla latte, and maybe I bought the wrong stuff, or maybe I am not using enough of it. But either way, I decided to look at the label today.

Before we start talking about the label, let me just give you some reference data points. A can of Coca Cola has about 35 grams of sugar. And that is 35 grams in 12 ounces. And for those of you who do not know your conversions, a tablespoon is half an ounce. So there are, in effect, 24 tablespoons of Coke in a can. Thus, it works out to about 1.5 grams of sugar per tablespoon.

So, I read the label.

There are lots of asterisks, and double asterisks on the ingredients list, which I never consider to be a good thing. The single asterisk was next to the word "Milk" which was 2nd on the list of ingredients, behind "Nonfat Milk". The reason they need an asterisk after "Milk" is so they can tell you that there is a negligible amount of fat contributed by the milk. However, it does mean that the title "nonfat" is inaccurate. This raises all sorts of questions, regarding FDA requirements on what the constraints need to be to give certain titles such as "fat free", "all natural", "sugar free", "organic", etc. And given that "Milk" is the 2nd most abundant ingredient in this (based on order, because unless I am mistaken, they still must list the ingredients in order of abundance) there must be more milk than there is sugar, since sugar is lower on the list. And that brings us to the next topic.

Carbohydrates, which in the context of this product, I assume to mean "sugar". I read the label, nutritional facts, and I saw "Total Carbohydrates - 10 grams", "Sugars - 10 grams", and the initial thought was, "well, it's less than soda, anyway...".

Um... rewind.

What's the serving size?


So. Recall our little background information on Coke, which is not exactly what I would call "lacking in sweetness". Two tablespoons of Coca Cola would have about 3 grams of sugar. This shit has 10 grams.

If we start thinking about how much more "Milk" there must be than sugar, in order for milk to be above sugar on the list of ingredients, it's probably a fair bet that there's at least half as much fat in this stuff as there is in 1% milk. Maybe you just need less than 1% of anything and you don't have to acknowledge it! No. I realize that is silly.

So, I continue down the list to the feared double asterisk (I should note that I dated a girl in college who, I kid you not, referred to this symbol *, not as an "asterisk" but as an "askee". She was a computer science major, and I would like to think she might have meant ASCII, which would have still made no sense, but I am pretty certain this was just a phonetic misnomer of our good friend, the asterisk).

The double asterisk.

Titanium Dioxide.

And the explanation that followed was unfortunately not "may cause cancer if ingested daily". The explanation next to the asterisks was "not found in regular half and half".

No. It's not found there. I agree with that. Perhaps the reason it is not found there is because it is busy forming a thin layer of corrosion on the wings of the airplane that flew this shit here from Arizona!

Seriously. What the hell is TiO2, or whatever it's called, doing in half and half? Maybe it has vanilla flavor? Actually, nevermind why it's there. I want to know how the hell someone formulated the goal of either:

a) What could we use to achieve such-and-such a texture/flavor/shelf-life/color? I know! Titanium Dioxide!

b) We've got all this Titanium Dioxide that we made, and it is a lot more than we need for our airplanes, and it's just sitting around. What else could we possibly use it for? I know! Vanilla Half & Half!

Here are the culprits:

Shamrock Farms. According to their website, they have their "very own" ten thousand cows. How quaint. It's great to support the little guy.

I think the use of phrases like "very own" should be reserved for quantities of less than, say, fifty? For instance, you never heard Leonid Brezhnev saying "We have our very own armory of 11,000 thermonuclear warheads pointed at targets throughout the western world".


  1. Titanium dioxide is the white stuff the life guards put on their noses to keep the skin from peeling off due to sun exposure. Similarly, putting TiO2 in your coffee will keep the little tab of skin behind your upper incisors from getting burned off and flapping about in an irritating and distracting manner. You would think they would put in in pizza as well, wouldn't you?

    Actually, it reflects light so the creamer is so nice and white, like the pure bovine goodness that it is mixed with, and the carbohydrates that are really just high-fructose corn syrup.

  2. and one piece of interesting info that i learned from the "south beach diet" fad was that whenever you see "fat free" or "low fat," you should check the sugar content; it's usually significantly higher than it's higher fat partner because for some reason that helps to mask the loss in taste or consistency or something...

    and that extra sugar probably ends up making you hungry again faster than if you had eaten a gram of fat or two, (which may keep you feeling full a little longer...) so you probably end up craving more of the "fat free" snacks than you would of the regular varities...

    so most of the time i just go with real milk and cream :)

  3. As absurd as you acknowledged in your blog, it is in fact true that <1% of an ingredient by weight is considered negligible; so yes, if it's <1% fat it's considered 'nonfat'. This is also why things like Pam cooking spray are considered 'nonfat' because it's actually mostly alcohol & propellant with a little bit of oil in there too.

    Frankly, as a color-enhancing food additive, I think titanium dioxide is safer than lead, which would be another whitening option.

    More scary shit: http://www.codexalimentarius.net/gsfaonline/additives/details.html?id=184

    ps: vanilla lattes are disgusting anyway. A coffee abomination.