Updated: Oct 26, 2021
A great reminder about the importance of reading labels.
Recently, we were almost out of ranch salad dressing and my husband picked some up on the way home. Publix was out of the one I usually get, so he stopped at another store. He's a ranch dressing kind of guy, and I have successfully swtiched him from Kraft or Hidden Valley. He did get one in a glass jar. The other night, he tried it on his salad and commented about the poor taste. When I looked at the label, I understood why. It was fat-free. Strike one! I read the ingredients. Strike two, three!
Some of the ingredients you would expect to see...water, organic white vinegar (the organic was a surprise), salt, xanthan gum, and the herbs and spices that were listed. What took me by total surprise was propylene glycol alginate. Knowing that propylene glycol is used as a deicing agent and found in antifreeze, I had to investigate further.
Propylene glycol alginate is an ester made from alginic acid and propylene glycol. Alginic acid is derived from algae - brown seaweed to be exact. This seaweed absorbs water 200-300 times its weight in water. Propylene glycol is used in medicine - have you read THOSE ingredients lately? You may not want to!
According to foodadditives.net, Propylene glycol alginate may be used in following food list as a stabilizer, emulsifier, thickener, defoaming agent, flavoring adjuvant, formulation aid, or surfactant with the authorized use levels(2):
Jams and jellies 0.4%
Frozen dairy desserts, fruit and water ices, confections and frostings 0.5%
Baked goods 0.5%
Gravies and in sweet sauces 0.5%
Gelatins and puddings 0.6%
Condiments and relishes 0.6%
Fats and oils 1.1%
Seasonings and flavors 1.7%
So from a scientific point of view, propylene glycol alginate is added to foods for its ability to absorb water, keeping the substance from separating, and to help make it more visually appealing to the consumer. From a nutritional standpoint, this is a synthetic substance that your body doesn't know how to process and may become stored as a toxin. Since it can be used in a variety of foods, this is one that bares watching out for. In short, read labels. If it sounds like a chemical, it probably is.