While grocery shopping the other day, we came across a bouillon that claims to be “Sodium Free.” The nutrition label even backs it up. There are exactly 0 mg of sodium per serving. Amazing! However, upon closer inspection of the ingredients list, we noticed that it contains “disodium inosinate” and “disodium gunaylate.” FoodFacts found this to be intriguing enough to share with everyone we know (and some that we don’t).
These ingredients are added to the bouillon in such tiny amounts (parts per million) that it could be considered negligible for most normal people. However, if you are sensitive to sodium, and/or monosodium glutamate, aka MSG (see how to spot MSG here: http://blog.foodfacts.com/index.php/2011/07/07/msg-is-sometimes-hidden-in-food-with-labels-that-say-no-added-msg-no-msg-added-and-no-msg/) this might be something of interest to you. Further still, if you happen to look up those two ingredients on foodfacts.com, you’ll see that they are used as flavor enhancers, used in conjunction with MSG. Meaning, just because you don’t see the words “monosodium glutamate” anywhere on the ingredients list, it could be hidden as something else, somewhere else on that list.
Many different sodium food additives exist in the food world. They have a range of uses as stabilizers, preservatives and/or flavor enhancers. However, if, for whatever reason, you are watching your sodium intake, you might want to not only look at the nutrition label, but keep reading the ingredients list. Keep an eye out for any ingredient that has sodium in it. For instance, sodium caseinate, sodium nitrate (nitrite), disodium EDTA, sodium benzoate, sodium bisulfite and disodium 5′ guanylate (a combination of disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate).
These are also ingredients we have listed as “controversial” on foodfacts.com, as they could have potentially harmful effects. For example, sodium benzoate, when mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can create benzene – a known carcinogen. Effects of another sodium additive, Disodium 5′ Guanylate is not safe for babies under twelve weeks and should generally be avoided by asthmatics and people with gout, as the guanylates are metabolized to purines. However, with both of these ingredients, the typical amounts found in food are generally too low to produce significant side effects or cause serious damage.
Food science has found many great uses for sodium (which is both a naturally occurring and necessary mineral in our bodies). Without some additives, we could have spoiled food and gray deli meats (ew). In small amounts they may not cause any side effects, but what if you add up all the sodium additives in your diet? A little in your lunch meat, a little in your dairy, a little in your beverages. The amount of additives could add up. If you are watching your sodium intake, it could be something to be mindful of.