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17 December, 2004

That kettle's not so white

Speaking of marketing, I was distracted by the claims of one company a while ago.  I've mentioned before that I like Kettle Chips, which are sold under the slogan and ethos of "Real ingredients.  Real taste" (and "No science. No fiction. Real.", whatever that means).
I have no reason to doubt their claims that they use all-natural ingredients*, without flavour enhancers (apart from salt and sunflower oil), and that the cooking vats are stirred and monitored by humans rather than machines (not necessarily a selling point, as far as I'm concerned.  Why is automation a problem?).
The declared nutritional information on each packet reports that they contain significantly less salt and fat (especially saturated) than other types of crisps (US: chips).

However, these merits obscure a less favourable aspect. The Guardian reports that the US Food and Drugs Administration ranks them amongst the highest 1% of 700 foodstuffs tested for acrylamide.
Animal testing has shown acrylamide to be carcinogenic and able to cause nerve damage (at high concentrations - let's not panic. The article also mentions that an acrylamide derivitive is used in cosmetics, packaging materials, plastics, and grouting agents, but the same can be said of dihydrogen monoxide aka water).
The point is that acrylamide probably isn't A Good Thing to consume, and Kettle Chips contain 1,265 parts per billion, compared to 117-155 ppbn for chips (US: fries) from big-name fast-food restaurants.
The Kettle Chips marketing strongly emphasises health aspects, but that's not the full story. I have to confess it fooled me.

I tend to spurn mass-media news coverage for much the same reason: it's not necessarily untruthful (though I think it often is), but a partial story can be misleading too.

*: 'all natural' is a claim which deserves an entry to itself some time (I covered it broadly here), but to summarise, I regard it as over-emotive double-talk. Many harmful substances are natural, and many favourable natural ingredients can be synthesised; 'natural' isn't a synonym of 'good', and the converse.

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