the seemingly benign white vinegar

I think it was my dad who said if you shop on the outer edges of the supermarket, instead of going up and down the aisles, you’re more apt to eat healthier. When you think of the way a supermarket is laid out, this makes sense. All of the whole foods – fresh fruit and veggies, meats, dairy – are on the perimeter of the store, as opposed to the processed foods stacked on shelves in the aisles.

But that simple rule doesn’t seem so simple anymore. It’s easy to become neurotic over food choices these days. Even Michael Pollan’s tome, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” deserves some caveats.

With genetically engineered and/or modified, chemically treated, and irradiated foods going unlabeled on supermarket shelves, and with all of the strange industrial food additives in packaged foods, it can be difficult to figure out which foods may have unintended long-term consequences on our bodies and on the planet.

One way to overcome this decision-making hurdle is to know the source of your food. I’m fortunate enough to live a couple of blocks away from one of NYC’s best greenmarkets, and so we buy most of our food there. But there are certain items that cannot be purchased at the greenmarket.

One food item that I like to buy at the supermarket is white vinegar. I don’t use it for cooking however. I use it to clean surfaces in our home. Vinegar has so many household uses (which I wrote about a while back). I got to thinking about how white vinegar was made when reading the label:

Heinz® All Natural Distilled White Vinegar is Always:

Sourced from sun-ripened corn.

Ultra-filtered to guarantee sparkling clarity.

Diluted to 5% acidity and bottled at peak freshness.

Naturally Good Since 1869!

Seems pretty wholesome and benign, right? Not when you know that at least 60% of corn grown in the US is genetically engineered (Source: USDA). Currently, it is up to the manufacturer to disclose whether their products contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). The only labeling you’re likely to see is a product label touting that it is non-GMO and not the other way around (no one seems to want to brag about their GMOs).

Why am I so anti-GMO? The answer is, we don’t really know enough about the consequences of GMOs to have unleashed them wholesale onto our complex ecosystems, our complex bodies.

And this recent study has just begun to unveil the potential outcome of the introduction of GMOs into the food web.

So what to do? I may have to splurge and buy organic white vinegar or use the pricier organic apple cider vinegar in lieu of the cheaper GMO variety. It’ll still be cheaper than buying chemically based cleaning solutions (which I wouldn’t do anyway) and I’ll be supporting agriculture that is less likely to have damaging effects on the planet or my body.

More info about GMOs in vinegar and other everyday products:


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9 Responses to “the seemingly benign white vinegar”

  1. duane marcus Says:

    It is worth noting that Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar is not apple cider vinegar at all. In small letters below the words “Apple Cider” it says “flavored” then in big letters again “Vinegar”. The ingredients are vinegar from grain (i.e. GMO corn) “natural flavors and caramel to give it the dark color.
    @leekfixer on twitter

  2. Leda Meredith Says:

    Or you can start making your own out of scraps like apple cores! See my first book, “Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch”, or Sandor Katz’ “Wild Fermentation” for recipes. And yes, you can test your homemade vinegar at home to make sure it has a high enough acetic acid content to do its job as a household cleanser and disinfectant.

  3. Tweets that mention the seemingly benign white vinegar -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Pollan News and raganella7, Duane Marcus. Duane Marcus said: RT @raganella7: Are there GMOs in your vinegar? the seemingly benign white vinegar –>yikes! […]

  4. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    Thanks for the link love!

    I didn’t know that about Heinz apple cider vinegar, Duane. I always buy Bragg’s organic — it’s the best:

  5. Kate Says:

    I’m forming a minor obsession with your dad 🙂

    Great info on using consumer dollars thoughtfully!

  6. Liz Says:

    Kate, he’s a great guy!

    Thanks for stopping by! 😉

  7. Ross Jurado Says:

    Sugar cane vinegar is an option. You don`t hear about GMO sugar cane.

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