Cheap is Cheap: STPP Soaked Foods The Hidden Truth of Cheap Foods

by Nikolai Nikitenko March 15, 2016

Cheap is Cheap: STPP Soaked Foods The Hidden Truth of Cheap Foods


Cheap seafood in not always safe

It is a well-known fact that seafood is a very healthy, and possibly even an essential part of our diet. Due to this there is a very large demand for seafood, especially seafood from Alaska. But a major question that often comes up when we deal with our customers revolves around price. Now I understand that price is a major issue when purchasing something as we always are looking for the most bang for your buck. But you need to be extremely vigilant even today on what kind of food you purchase, how it is processed and where. It can often be seen in the grocery store that the façade of nice packaging and big letter labeling can still be very misleading, and maybe even hazardous to your health.
I often see in the frozen food section of supermarkets many types of bags of frozen fish fillets. Some of these can be legitimately good quality products, but many are deceiving you. Even though the bag reads in nice big letters, “Alaskan Pollock”, it doesn’t mean that it got to that store directly from Alaska. On the back you may notice in small letters the words “Product of China” or even “Produced in Vietnam”. Unfortunately most people will see that this product is $1 cheaper than the others per pound and buy it without thinking twice.
Every week I deal a great amount with people who use the comment “Why should I buy from you, I can get (Insert Product Name) from Walmart for an X amount cheaper”. This may be true but these people do not realize that not all products are made alike. If price is your only concern, then if you look hard enough you will always find someone to do it for cheaper, but do not be surprised when quality is also much cheaper. Worse off, the idea of cheaper in the food industry can be detrimental to your health. A McChicken sandwich off the dollar menu is cheaper than cooking chicken at home, but you will eventually find your health is going down the drain if you keep that diet. Sure these fillets of fish may look perfectly normal, but if you really start digging you can find out how these stores are not only tricking you out of your money, but also your health.
Have you ever bought any type of raw food and while cooking it noticed a large amount of water shows up in your frying pan? Sodium Triphosphate (STPP) is a chemical that has been used in the past mostly as an ingredient to detergents and fire retardants. Recently it has become a very popular chemical to use as a food additive. The main function of STPP is that it adds water weight to your food. But won’t that go away when I thaw it? The answer is no. When someone adds a thick glaze to a fish, then yes when it thaws the water will go away, but STPP doesn’t work that way. STPP binds with the cellular structure of the meat and soaks water into the actual flesh itself. The only way to drain it is with increased heat from cooking. STPP is often found in fish that has been imported in from China or other SE Asian nations. It is very common for frozen fish to be sent from Alaska, to China where it is processed, soaked and refrozen, and then shipped back to the US mainland. I have an Asian Food Mart in my area and I have always found their prices to be around 50 cents to $1 per pound cheaper than their competitors. But an STPP soak can add up to 30% water weight to the fillet. So imagine that you buy a fillet of cod for $2.50 per Pound instead of elsewhere for $3 per pound. With that STPP soak, you actually end up with 7/10 of a pound of fish instead, and with calculations you just paid $3.57 per pound for that fish. You just paid way more than the premium quality fish! Shockingly that is not the biggest concern.
STPP can not only leave you feeling ripped off, but also it can also ruin the quality of the fish. The soak changes the cellular structure of the fish to such a point that it ruins the quality. In addition to damage from being twice frozen, the STPP can cause fish like cod, which has stiff and flaky meat, to become mushy. The result of that is the fish will start falling apart and completely lose its aesthetic appeal, not to mention its texture and flavor. Another negative result of the water weight is how it ruins dishes. If you attempt to make a sauce with food that is STPP soaked, then the water as it runs out will ruin your sauce. If you even attempt to cook STPP soaked fish in a batter, then the water will fill the area and ruin the fry. Yet that is not the worst part about it. STPP can be very hazardous to your health. Firstly STPP is rated at a Blue 2 on the NFPA 704 diamond, which labels the possible hazards of a container. That means exposure can cause incapacitation and/or long term effects. Off the bat this is not something you want to be exposed to. STPP is naturally a skin, eye and lung irritant. It can cause irritation and illness if ingested or if you inhale too much of it while you are cooking. It has been attributed to cause stinging in the eyes, drying and redness of the skin, breathing problems and serious stomach discomfort in some cases. Does that sound appetizing? US food-labeling standards do not require STPP to be specially labeled on food packaging, but it usually will be labeled in the ingredients.
If you look hard enough you can always find someone who will sell you something for cheaper. The result though is something that you may want to avoid. It is very important that we look closely not only at where our food good are caught, but also where they are produced and with what. Not all US food goods have additives like STPP, but many of them do. In the long run, saving 50 cents on something will not be worth the price later down the road.

Nikolai Nikitenko
Nikolai Nikitenko


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