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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Guy Hatchard
Guy Hatchardhttps://hatchardreport.com/
Guy Hatchard PhD is a statistician and former senior manager at Genetic ID, a global food safety testing and certification laboratory. Guy's book 'Your DNA Diet' is available on Amazon.com.

The black market in salt and what it means for all of us

Indian Volcanic Salt opinion

I had a shock this weekend which has turned into a wake up call.

For years I had been sprinkling Black Salt (Kala Namak) on my avocado toast with its unique sulphurous flavour reminiscent of eggs. The traditional texts of Ayurveda recommend it as an aid to digestion. Recently it has become something of a sensation among western cooks and chefs seeking new exciting flavours for their dishes. In the shops it is often labelled ‘Indian Volcanic Salt’ and I always imagined it was mined in some remote exotic place in the Himalayas.

But it is not volcanic at all, browsing the internet I discovered that it is manufactured by an ancient process using extreme heat to fuse a particular kind of mineral salt with a range of herbs and fruits. The shock came when I discovered that there are only a couple of places left preparing the highly prized salt using traditional methods. Instead industrial companies are making a look-alike salt that tastes somewhat similar but is in fact a blend of chemicals some of which such as fluoride are quite poisonous. Hence for years I have been unwittingly poisoning myself

You may comment that perhaps the lack of regulation in the diverse Indian market place is to blame, whereas here in the West we have stricter standards and labelling, but is this the case? Among New Zealand’s most prized export products is butter from mostly grass fed cows roaming on green pastures often within sight of snow capped mountains. So far so good, until you begin to ask how the butter is made. Numerous YouTube videos explain a very reassuring process of churning cream, however more than 90% of butter you find in the shops is no longer made that way.

Giant factories use secretive technologies that more closely resemble margarine manufacture. This involves separating out the different kinds of fat in cream and using only the softer fats to make spreadable butter. The essentials of this process were discovered in NZ in 1970, but only became widely used around 1990 by which time, after much research, a commercially viable industrial manufacturing process had been perfected. So what became of the harder fats? Yes, you guessed it, they were not thrown away, they just might have found their way into ordinary butter. 

Your grandmother might tell you that around 1990 butter no longer performed quite the way it used to in home baking. While those who make clarified butter (ghee) for cooking found that when heated, butter separated into strange layers of milky liquid and greenish fat unsuitable for ghee. No one even informed the public of the switch and the health implications of the hard separated fat content remains an open question, no doubt uninvestigated and swept under the carpet. Butter manufacture all over the world now uses these techniques aside from the few boutique creameries still traditionally churning.

This has happened despite the fact that traditional churning can be and has been a large scale simple process. It is also very easy to make butter at home. It is the work of just a few minutes to churn room temperature cream using a whisk or kitchen aid and then squeeze out the buttermilk (which can be used in other yummy dishes).

The global dairy industry didn’t stop there. As vegetarianism became more popular, the use of animal rennet in cheese became a marketing problem. Animal rennet is used to precipitate the curds from milk as the first stage of cheese making. The solution was ‘microbial rennet’. It was much cheaper, more readily available, and acceptable to animal loving vegetarians. Microbial rennet is made in a laboratory and it is so powerful that just a few drops precipitate the solids from the liquid milk. Today almost all cheese throughout the world is made using this so-called ‘ethical’ microbial rennet. That is progress, right?

Just think, when you eat cheese you are now ingesting a powerful agent designed in a laboratory to precipitate solids in solution. Well there are a lot of solids happily performing their functions in solution in our body. We are 60% water. If you have problems with constipation, haemorrhoids, blood clotting, varicose veins, menstrual pains, and other health problems involving congestion or coagulation, you might consider how much commercial cheese you are consuming.

However, you can create fresh cheese at home within ten minutes by heating whole milk (not homogenised milk) to a full rolling boil and then turn off the heat, add a little vinegar, lemon juice, or pure yoghurt. Stir and sieve to create a tasty fresh cheese that is healthy. If you crave the sharp tastes, cheeses like brie or camembert and some European cheeses are still made using traditional methods (but read the labels).

We like a slice of bread with our butter and cheese and here too the industrial chemists are hard at work. In 1961 the Chorleywood Bread Process was invented which enabled the continuous production of bread rather than the traditional batch process. This necessitated the introduction of hard fats and some mysterious bread improvers which has given modern packaged bread that rubbery springy quality which seems to last for weeks.

No problem though, you can buy an automatic bread maker and the machine will make it for you without hard fats. Bread lovers will know about sour doughs and have their favourite artisan shops.

You can see the problem can’t you? Industrial scale manufacturers are taking over our food supply and changing it without telling us. Government regulators work hand in glove with such companies. Medsafe lists over 3000 synthetic ingredients it has ‘approved’ often under a convention known as ‘substantial equivalence’. This does not generally involve testing but instead if something looks and tastes similar to a natural ingredient or has a chemical composition that is somewhat similar it is probably OK and therefore approved for general consumption, or is it OK? 

A 2019 study in the USA, the country leading the way towards industrial food production and processing entitled “Burden of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in the United States: Results of a Nationally Representative Survey of Over 71,000 Americans” records that there are over 100 million ambulance visits to ED each year in the US as a result of gastrointestinal (GI) problems. A survey of 71,000 individuals found that during the week prior (yes, just one representative week) symptoms included heartburn/reflux (30.9%), abdominal pain (24.8%), bloating (20.6%), diarrhea (20.2%), and constipation (19.7%). Less common symptoms were nausea/vomiting (9.5%), dysphagia (5.8%), and bowel incontinence (4.8%).

So our government-approved, highly-processed and adulterated diet might not be so safe after all. There are a number of factors for the wary consumer to consider here. The purity of ingredients (organic farming excludes pesticides), additives, synthetic substitutions, genetic modification, and changes to traditional processes. Lax regulations are allowing all of these to be altered without public discussion or labelling. 

Which brings me back to black salt. I was really disgusted, but then I should have been more alert and less naive. Supermarkets are now full of processed packaged food that is unhealthy and it is a long list. The Dutch have a saying “If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a year, get married. But if you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden.” If you haven’t already voted with your feet, you might start with a vegetable patch. If gardening is very new and intimidating, talk to neighbours and friends who can help you get started. Modern civilization began with agriculture, make sure it doesn’t end with biotech culture. 

Guy Hatchard PhD was formerly a senior manager at Genetic ID a global food testing and safety company (now known as FoodChain ID). You can subscribe to his websites HatchardReport.com and GLOBE.GLOBAL for regular updates by email.

He is the author of ‘Your DNA Diet: Leveraging the Power of Consciousness To Heal Ourselves and Our World. An Ayurvedic Blueprint For Health and Wellness’.

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  1. What a lovely article, and a bit of an eye opener! Home brewing, baking and preserving are together with gardening, perhaps the greatest skills to be able to cultivate and pass on to our children and grandchildren if we are to have any hope at all.
    To all those out protesting and glueing themselves to the road, it is worth remembering that those ‘useless boomer skills nobody needs any more’ (yep, I see that in my news feeds often) may be the very skills one needs to appreciate and share in times of stress and uncertainty.
    ‘Grown with love’ is not a label you can see in the supermarket and ‘shared with neighbours’ the antithesis of staying in one’s bubble.

  2. One of the problems I have encountered with foods and labelling is that ingredient lists change over time. One minute you read the label and consider it safe, but then read it months later to find the the oil used has changed to one of canola. Also of note is not just food but the cosmetics industry and toxic ingredients that are absorbed through the skin.

    We are all poisoning ourselves everyday,.

    I imagine one overlooked item is the very simple cotton tampon. Wait, what? I hear you say. Think of how cotton is grown and the treatments used, these include, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and defoliants, and then it comes into contact with the mucus membranes that very readily absorb residual toxins. And women use these every month for years.

    I am in total agreement that everyone should plant a garden, but they should also grab a copy of “The Chemical Maze”

  3. I live in Europe and though butter was made only from cream. I will check. Otherwise i will make it myself
    Bread, i buy only in artisan shop and buy only french salt from the atlantic. France still have good products ( compared to anglo saxon world) but the quality is less than it used to be.
    But the EU introduced a law making possible the introduction of insects ( flour) in processed food ( check E nr)


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