Tonight at 6pm in the Gallery Theatre, the Samek Art Gallery is pleased to present an interdisciplinary panel featuring artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Economics professor Nancy White, and professor of Chemical Engineering Margot Vigeant on a topic which concerns us all: what’s in the food we eat and the role that politics plays in governing industry standards. Following the talk will be the opportunity to view a Thanksgiving-inspired installation in the Conversations Gallery created by Hung and local artists Jessie Horning and Sanh Tran. The installation will reflect on the past, present, and future of this holiday feast. For more information on the artists involved, a preview of the menu for tonight, and related resources, please visit: “Excito! Excito!” – A Veritable Feast, the official website of this collaborative project.
In reflecting on the topic of this panel and the ideas addressed by its accompanying art installation, I began reading articles on GMOs, MSG, cellulose, and Semonyx, among other offending ingredients. This prompted me to take a look at the label of the packaged food item nearest to me, which happened to be a granola bar at my desk. I consider myself fairly health-conscious and I am typically aware of the nutrition information on the foods I am consuming, but less often do I take a peek at the ingredients–especially when they are sneakily hidden beneath the flap on the wrapper, as they were on the blueberry cereal bar in question. Here’s a look at 3 commonly found ingredients in processed foods, what they are, and what they do:
Soy lecithin: a byproduct of the soybean oil refining process; used as an emulsifier in many processed foods–or, it makes the bar stick together. Lecithin itself is actually a health supplement, so the questionable aspect here is the soy it’s derived from–often it is genetically modified and may contain herbicides or pesticides.
TBHQ: a synthetic antioxidant used in packaged foods to retain color. Much of the hype surrounding this additive stems from Michael Pollan’s 2007 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he stated that it is a form of butane. This is not quite true, but the FDA nonetheless limits the amount of TBHQ to 0.02 % of all oils contained within a food. It’s also used in products such as varnishes and cosmetics as a fixative.
BHT: another synethetic antioxidant which acts as a preservative; like TBHQ, used to prevent oxidation in fluids such as motor oil and perfume. While the FDA has also declared BHT safe in small amounts, it troubles me to think that food manufacturers consider both necessary to maintain the appearance and scent of my granola bar.
Join us this evening to hear more on food politics from our panel and to grapple with these issues in a unique way through the accompanying art installation presented by Hung, Horning, and Tran.