Microwave ready dinners have gained greater traction over the years due in part to the convenience they offer amid the bustling lifestyle of today’s generation. In fact, data from the National Food Survey revealed that reliance on ready-made meals significantly increased since 1970s in the U.K. alone. Another survey from Statista.com showed that the amount spent by U.K. households on chilled ready-meals rose by 50 percent since 2007.
Latest statistics also showed that the country spends as much as three billion euros annually on ready-made meals, with an average household consuming about three shop-bought microwaveable dinners per week. However, an increased reliance on ready-made meals coincided with greater scrutiny about the safety and palatability of these convenient food fares. An article published in Dailymail.co.uk has listed some questionable ingredients found in these ready-made meals including meat glue, hair-based additives, and other toxic chemicals.
You might want to think before you dig in
According to the article, basic ready-made meals provide customers with cheap, low-quality meat cuts that were bulked up in two ways. The first one was through the addition of transglutaminase, commonly known as meat glue. This extra strong enzyme bonded pieces of raw meat together in order to form one uniform joint, the article stated. The second process involved the use of collagen, the article noted. According to experts, collagen is a protein extracted from butchered animal carcasses and could be processed into powder. The powdered form, when combined with water, can take on a bouncy and glutinous appearance, just like authentic meat.
Ready-made meals were also found to contain high levels of sugar, salt, and saturated fat. In fact, a study conducted in 2015 revealed that microwave meals labeled “finest” or “extra special” contained twice as much saturated fat, salt and sugar compared with “basic” or value” meals. High-end microwave meals such as Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference lasagne contained 83 percent of the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat and 34.5 percent of recommended daily salt intake. In comparison, basic ready-made meals contained only 36 percent saturated fat and 28.8 percent salt, researchers said. In addition, Sainsbury’s sweet and sour chicken with rice contain 33 grams of sugar, just a few grams short compared with a can of soda.
The article also cautioned that some ready-made meals use artificial ingredients to increase their shelf life. According to the experts, some meals use synthetic cheese powder made from whey protein, which may last up to 18 months. Some ready-made meals also used potato protein isolate as a substitute for dairy products. “Don’t be fooled, either, if you see any food with a label boasting “made with butter.” The product could include a much cheaper, pale yellow powder that is made using a technique called “spray-drying”, during which nearly all the water is removed from a mixture of butter, milk proteins and starch,” book author Joanna Blythman warned.
Another revolting ingredient found in many ready meals is the amino acid L-cysteine, a naturally-occurring compound commonly seen in feathers, pig bristles, and human hair. The article also cautioned that some microwave-ready chicken nuggets contain dimethylpolysiloxane. The compound is commonly used in the production of silicone breast implants. The article also listed a plethora of other preservatives and flavorings such as glucose corn syrup and maltodextrin, lactose, and artificial vitamin E. The synthetic vitamin is commonly derived from petrol.
Health experts also warned of the plastic containers used in manufacturing ready-made meals. According to the experts, these containers may enable toxic chemicals such as phthalates to seep into the food. Previous studies showed that phthalates were associated with a host of adverse medical conditions such as low IQ, reduced fertility and libido, and birth defects. (Related: Learn how microwave meals trigger cancer onset)