Bookmark and Share January 19, 2010 - Dave Mulder

Is this a flour tortilla?

Food scientists are a creative bunch. They can take almost any set of raw materials and create a product that resembles food in taste and appearance. We only know these products are not food by the ingredient listings on their label; these ingredient lists can be extravagantly long.

Take flour torillas, for example. Your standard flour tortilla recipe goes something like this: Flour, baking powder, salt, water, and lard (or shortening).

But these have a tendency to expire quickly. Grocery stores are not able to stock a product that is not good after a few days. So most ready-to-eat flour tortillas you find will be loaded with less-than-great ingredients designed to extend their shelf life.

That brings me to a recent stop at a Gordon Food Service. GFS sells food and cafeteria products in bulk. I was there to pick up non-food items, but after spotting some flour tortillas on the shelf I could not help but stop to examine them.

I was expecting something pretty bad, but this ingredient list was beyond my imagination.

Bleached enriched wheat flour, water, soybean oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil with mono- and diglycerides added, sugar, baking powder, salt, vital wheat gluten, potato starch, calcium propionate, monoglycerides and critic acid to preserve freshness, glycerine, fumaric acid, sodium bicarbonate, dextrose, dough conditioner, cellulose gum, potassium sorbate, enzyme complex, and dough relaxer.

For the sake of my wrists, I chose not to re-type several parenthetical expansions on these ingredients, including the enriched wheat flour, dough conditioner, and dough relaxer.

These guys take food science to a whole new level by going absolutely nuts with the minor ingredients. Figuring out what you are eating from the list of ingredients is a major challenge; I doubt many people would recognize that they were consuming a “tortilla”.

All I can say is that these tortillas were promptly set back on the shelf after the photos were taken.

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