Do you ever read the ingredients panel on your food labels and feel confused about what is actually in your food?
Last week my boyfriend was getting ready to make dinner and asked me to look up an ingredient that was on the package of frozen fish. I had to ask him to repeat the name at least five times. Luckily he’s one of those people who researches all the ingredients on the label that I usually don’t even want to think about.
What is it?
So, after quickly searching for…are you ready for this?... SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE. I found a few contradicting opinions about this chemical (also known as STPP), but the reasons why it is used on fish are clear: this chemical is used all too frequently on flaky fishes to enhance their appearance by making the fish appear glossier and to act as a binding agent. I also read that some sellers put STPP on fish to increase fish weight - and because fish is sold by weight, this becomes a questionable way to earn more money.
Why is it bad?
Unfortunately for consumers, most experts claim that there is no nutritional value or health benefit to adding STPP to fish. In fact, some research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health hints to the fact that sodium tripolyphosphate may be a neurotoxin. A Food&Water fact sheet states that, “Food-grade STPP may cause acute skin irritation, and prolonged contact with skin should be avoided. STPP is listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act as a registered pesticide, and it is also registered as an air contaminant under California’s Occupational and Safety Health Act.”
Meanwhile there is other research concluding that in normally ingested amounts STPP is thought to be okay. In my opinion as a consumer, I would rather avoid eating something that should be avoided in prolonged exposure to skin.
What are the label regulations regarding STPP?
Like many other label regulations this varies by country. Although some countries do have restrictions on the presence of STPP in seafood products, the United States does not. Whereas countries such as Canada and the European Union only allow minimal percentages of STPP to be present, the United States has a very broad definition of allowance. In the U.S., STPP is legal in amounts “generally recognized as safe” when companies follow “good manufacturing practice.” Although we found this ingredient listed on a frozen seafood product, buyers must beware when it comes to fresh seafood as well.
How to avoid Sodium Tripolyphosphate
One easy way to avoid this chemical is to check the labels on prepackaged food products. Since it is also a concern in fresh seafood, you can ask the market if the fish product you are buying is “dry.” Any server at a specialty seafood restaurant may also be able to tell you if menu items are “dry.”
The Good News
The good news is that you can avoid this chemical now that you know about it, which you may want to do if you are a seafood lover. I’ve pinned some of our favorite fish recipes on QuickLabel pinterest for you to follow and re-pin. My personal tried and true favorite is the salmon with mango kiwi relish. YUM!