I’ve been reading up on a lot of articles recently about how a company in Vietnam has “been caught” (they’ve actually come forward about it and haven’t denied a thing) injecting some sort of jelly substance in the shrimp they export. I’ve found articles that date back to 2013 about the same topic. You can watch the video here:
As you can imagine, people who don’t know what glucose, gelatin or carboxymethylcellulose (aka the oh-so-mysterious CMC chemical) is are outraged and fearful.
I won’t go into why doing so is ethically and morally incorrect, because I don’t agree with what it is they’re doing. I will simply explain the nutritional and health aspect of it all.
Let’s start by the easier ones.
Glucose is essentially sugar. You will find it in every single food and food product that is sweet in the world. Will the substance injected in shrimp kill you? Not more than all the sugar we eat. You can also find glucose in fruits, vegetables and syrups.
Gelatin is collagen (a protein) that has been exposed to high heat for a lengthy period of time. You yourself have gelatin in your body; in your bones and your tendons. You can also find it in animal products (skin, bones and connective tissue), which is why vegetarians and vegans avoid it in their diet. Collagen isn’t soluble in water, but gelatin is. That is how they turn the thick goop-like substance shown in the beginning into a more watery substance. Will it kill you? It will kill you as much as most marshmallows, gummy candy, jelly deserts (simili Jell-O), some ice cream and yogourt will, because you can find gelatin in those products too. Also, what do you think the gel coating some over-the-counter pills are made of? Gelatin!
Last but not least, the oh-so-scary CMC chemical.
Carboxymethylcellulose is derived from cellulose, which itself is derived from glucose (yes, the same glucose we saw earlier). Cellulose is a bunch of glucose molecules stuck together to form a chain, and it is fibre. Fibre helps with digestion, decreases constipation, reduced blood LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and helps regulate blood sugar levels when consumed in reasonable amounts. It can have certain side effects when not consumed enough, but also when it’s consumed in large amounts (essentially, when you eat too much for your body to handle) such as diarrhea and abdominal pains (look at that, same side effects as the “stuff” you found in your shrimp).
Industrially, carboxymethylcellulose is used as a thickener in some products, but is also used to stabilize emulsions (like ice cream! cake! high quality biscuits! chewing gum! some margarine brands!), because of its high viscosity (thickness), but also because it is non-toxic and hypoallergenic. Just because it is also used to thicken non-food products doesn’t mean it is in itself dangerous for you. I’m sure we’ve all accidentally swallowed toothpaste as a kid by accident. We haven’t died because of it, have we?
The term “carboxymethyl-” added in front of the cellulose just means that it’s soluble in water due to the -CO2 groups that is added to it (which, if you’re in reasonable health, your body can get rid of with no problem).
Besides, the human body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to digest fibres (which include cellulose, lignin, pectines, chitin or chitosan, beta-glucans and certains starches), so none of it goes “into” your body per-say. This is why we categorize them as fibres in the first place. It just goes out with your stool.
Lastly, we can find cellulose in nature: whole wheat cereal products (wheat, rice and corn), nuts and grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
All this to say, just because you don’t recognize certain names on food labels, doesn’t mean they’re dangerous. One quick internet search can answer all your questions. However, make sure you see both sides of a story, especially when on the internet, where anyone can post anything. None of these products in the shrimp will kill you, but the reasons why they’re there in the first place, to increase business, I don’t agree with. Using slave labor to produce them? I don’t agree with (and am repulsed by). There are plenty of layers to this controversy, but the substances they’re injecting shouldn’t be one of them. If you personally want to cut out any of these substances or products that contain them from your diet, that’s your decision.
Don’t hesitate to leave comments 😊 I love reading other opinions and point of views because that’s the beauty of nutrition, all bodies are different and not everyone responds to the same kind of regime.
Have a lovely day, everyone ♡