Ever wonder what is REALLY in a twinkie?

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twinkieA new book ‘deconstructs’ a Twinkie and analyzes all 39 ingredients.

As Steve Ettlinger dropped down a Wyoming mine shaft, plummeting 1,600 feet in an open-mesh cage, he wondered how many other food writers had ever donned hard hats and emergency breathing equipment in pursuit of a story. But it was too late to turn back. He’d promised his editor a book tracing the ingredients in a Hostess Twinkie to their origins—and one of them was down this shaft. At the bottom, he and his hosts climbed into an open Jeep and hurtled for 30 terrifying minutes through pitch-black tunnels. Their destination: the site where a mineral called trona—the raw ingredient of baking soda—was being clawed out of a rock face by giant machines. “To say that this does not suggest Twinkies or any other food product would be an understatement,” observes Ettlinger. “There you are at an open rock face, wondering why they do all this for the sake of a little snack cake.”

It can be unsettling to learn just how closely the basic ingredients in processed foods resemble industrial materials. Corn dextrin, a common thickener, is also the glue on postage stamps and envelopes. Ferrous sulfate, the iron supplement in enriched flour and vitamin pills, is used as a disinfectant and weedkiller. Is this cause for concern? Ettlinger says no, though you wouldn’t want a diet that consists solely of Twinkies. Ultimately, all food, natural and otherwise, is composed of chemical compounds—and normal ingredients like salt have industrial applications, too. Still, it gives you pause when he describes calcium sulfate, a dough conditioner, as “food-grade plaster of Paris.”

In the end, you may learn more than you really wanted to about the Twinkie-Industrial Complex, as Ettlinger calls it. But you will never read a label the same way again.

Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats

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