This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Attune Foods blog.
It was the day before Passover, and I was scrambling from grocery store to grocery store to collect all the ingredients we needed for our Seder dinner the next night. Horseradish was among the items on my shopping list; I had hoped to pick up some actual horseradish roots for our dinner.
Unfortunately, there had been a run on horseradish earlier in the day (guess I’m not the only procrastinator in town), so I had to turn to “prepared horseradish” in the glass jars. Not ideal, but it would have to do. Thankfully, Whole Foods actually had one option that had a simple ingredient list.
Last year around this time, I was in a similar predicament and unfortunately couldn’t find a jarred horseradish that didn’t have a ton of extra, non-horseradish-related ingredients. (In fact, the jar on the right side of the photo above was still in the back of our fridge from last year… oops.)
Compare this year’s find (pictured on the left) with last year’s horseradish…
This year’s: Horseradish, Passover vinegar, salt.
Last year’s: Distilled vinegar, water, grated horseradish roots, salt, soybean oil, modified food starch, citric acid, potassium sorbate (preservative), sodium bisulfate (retains product color), flavoring, titanium dioxide, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality).
Sure, all those extra ingredients may have helped last year’s jar keep in our fridge for a year without turning brown – but it’s not like we wanted to eat it a year later, anyway. And some of those preservatives are pretty scary: A quick search on calcium disodium EDTA, for example, turned up a wealth of information, none of which made me want to put it in my body. And on top of the preservatives, they add “flavoring” which is very likely code for MSG. (Why would horseradish, of all things, need a flavor enhancer?!)
If one brand can figure out how to properly pickle horseradish with a bit of vinegar, why can’t they all?
So, let this be a call for a return to simplicity in our ingredient lists! We all know that making our foods from scratch is the best way to go. But we also live in the real world, where it’s not always possible to make that a priority. So the next best thing is to find prepared foods that are made as simply as possible. A great place to start is choosing foods that have only ingredients that you recognize as food. And the more often we all make this choice, the more often companies will respond and make more products with real, simple ingredients.