By Charleen Angle-Traegner, Guest Contributor
Has this happened to you?
I picked up some hummus at the grocery store the other day of a brand I had not yet tried. It was the grocer’s brand, Giant Eagle Market District. As I do instinctively with every item I pick up, I read the ingredients. “Cultured dextrose” appeared at the end of the list.
Dextrose is basically glucose (sugar) derived from plant starches. Personally, I’m not a fan of processed food additives like this, but I suppose, technically, it’s vegan-friendly. But, the “cultured” part of this is what really stood out.
So what is cultured dextrose?
A quick search on my phone revealed cultured dextrose to be a bit of a mystery. Preliminary results told me that it is dextrose that has been fermented using bacteria, and is used in the food industry as a “natural” preservative. I also noticed it is typically mentioned alongside things like “cultured skim milk.”
This search appeared to require some time. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to embark on any internet researching at the grocer, so I passed that hummus up.
Later, I investigated more. I found out that cultured dextrose is manufactured by Danisco under the name MicroGard, as a “patented natural, clean-label range for shelf life protection,” a.k.a.- a preservative. Some MicroGard products are skim milk based, some are dextrose based, but both bases are fermented using a dairy-based culture known as P. freudenreichii.
Now, I’m aware there will be people who will call me out as being extreme on this, but cultured dextrose is probably not vegan and is most certainly not “natural.” This food additive exists directly as a result of the dairy industry and is used mostly in non-vegan processed foods.
It has also been tested on animals.
Regardless of cultured dextrose’s origins, I had to sift through a lot of abstracts of scientific studies, government websites, and company produced product literature to find the information, of which much was ambiguous (purposely or legally so, one supposes). This alone makes me question the safety and ethics of a product.
Vegans believe that the institutionalized use of animals in our society is rampant and unequivocally wrong. Cultured dextrose appears to be yet another example of the depths of that institutionalism.
I’m no scientist, but as an ethical vegan trying to stay that way, I’ll be avoiding dubious ingredients such as “cultured dextrose.” I’d like to hear some other opinions on this, especially from the biologist community, so be sure to leave me a comment.
And since we’re on the subject, don’t forget to visit Commercial Street for more interactive info on the institutionalized use of animals in our society.
UPDATE #1: The manufacturer of cultured dextrose, Danisco, has removed its product literature from their website. Whether due to high volumes of traffic from this site to theirs it’s unclear, however, it makes me question this product even further. I have found information from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that explicitly states: “MicroGARD is an ingredient produced by the fermentation of either dextrose or skim milk with a standard dairy culture.” Therefore, this preservative is made using a dairy culture. This makes this (non-essential) ingredient, not vegan-friendly.
UPDATE #2: In my quest to determine exactly which cultures are used in producing cultured dextrose (with help from the community and Danisco themselves), I encountered additional information which prompted me to write more on the subject here -> Cultured Dextrose: Not Vegan