THINK ON THESE: ARE YOU USING “FAKE” VINEGAR?

THINK ON THESE: Henrylito Tacio

Filipinos like vinegar, especially those who love to eat adobo.   When cooking paksiw, vinegar is the main ingredient.  Imagine a grilled fish or meat without the sawsawan, it won’t be the same.

Yes, we use vinegar in some ways or another when it comes to food preparation.  And there is a news that should make us anxious if not cautious.  Eight out of 10 vinegar products sold in the local markets contain “fake ingredients” and thus could be harmful to consumers. That’s according to a press release disseminated by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reported.

Researchers from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), a DOST line agency, use isotope-based analytical techniques to distinguish vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources from those which are derived from petroleum-based sources.

“Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products,” explained Raymond Sucgang, head of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section.

His research team was totally surprised by their findings.  “One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” pointed out Sucgang.

In producing these “fake” and adulterated vinegars, synthetic acetic acid is reportedly used.  Produced chemically by the reaction of methanol with carbon monoxide, it is used as a solvent for paints and resins. 

As acetic acid comes from fossil fuels and by-product in the production of diesel and oil, it is very dirty.  As such, products containing this inorganic type of acid are dangerous to human health.

“Synthetic acetic acid should not be used in food production or as condiment,” Sucgang said, adding that products containing synthetic materials have impurities “and these impurities, according to medical journals, can cause cancer and degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.”

Vinegar, defined as a liquid fit for human consumption and contains specified amount of acetic acid and water, has long been used around the world as a basic seasoning in the preparation of cooking of certain foods because its sharp taste makes it so useful and versatile.

Vinegar is one of the oldest fermentation products known to man as its history dates back to around 2000 BC, having been considered for a long time as the poor relative among fermented food products.  It was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

It was Louis Pasteur who first noted the formation of acetic acid from ethanol by acetic acid bacteria.  The reaction has been termed “acetic acid fermentation” and requires the presence of oxygen.

“(Vinegar) is produced from raw materials of different agricultural origin containing starch and sugars, that are subjected to a process of double fermentation, alcoholic, and acetous,” says the book, Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention.

Among the raw materials that can be used in producing vinegar are cider, grapes or wine, coconut wine or tuba, molasses, sorghum syrup, honey, fruits, maple syrup, sugarcane, palm, potatoes, malt, grain, and whey.

Vinegar is made through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol. “Bacteria are used to ferment (or break down) the ethanol into by-products including acetic acid,” wrote Bethany Moncel in an article. “This acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique, although it contains other substances including vitamins, minerals and flavor compounds.”

According to naturalfoodseries.com, 100 grams of vinegar contains the following nutrients: acetic acid, 5 grams; calcium, 7 milligrams; carbohydrates, 1 gram; energy, 21 kilo calories; iron, 0.2 milligrams; magnesium, 5 milligrams; phosphorus, 8 milligrams; sodium, 5 milligrams; and sugar, 0.4 grams.

Vinegar is one of the most useful products that can treat various health problems. “Vinegar amazing benefits includes treating allergies, balancing alkali, fighting microbial, treating hypertension, fighting cancer, fighting oral bacteria, promoting hair growth, maintaining skin elasticity, lowering high blood sugar, helps burn fat, helps reduce cholesterol level, relieves acid reflux, and improves gut health,” writes Michael Jessimy, author of “Amazing Health Benefits of Vinegar.”

As long as you are using real vinegar and not those “fake” and unadulterated ones, which until now are still unnamed by PNRI researchers.

A lot of people who read the report released by DOST are now worried.  What are the brands of those “fake” and unadulterated vinegars?  

There are several reasons why those brands could never be named.  For one, when the study was conducted, only a code of the 360 vinegar brands was written on each sample container.  This means the researchers never know the name of the brands of vinegar they are studying.

Only those who prepare the codes for each brand really knew the names.  But they still cannot release the names for the reason that it is against the law. 

But the good thing about the PNRI study is that it will be the basis of new, higher and stricter standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for vinegar.  “The implementation of the new standards will be complimented by an intensive consumer awareness and education program,” the FDA said.

“However, at this point, let me already tell the peddlers who will continue to sell vinegar products which will not pass the new FDA standards, there will be a major crackdown on these products followed by sustained regulatory enforcement action,” FDA said, adding the agency anticipates that the new, higher standards and law enforcement action “will be met with resistance from the market vendor sector.”