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If You’ve Ever Eaten Pizza Before, This Will Blow Your Mind (Maybe Literally)

I love pizza! It’s one of my top favorite foods next to kale and cake. And I know I’m not the only one that loves it, either. Recently, the USDA conducted a study which revealed the enormous amount of pizza we consume in the United States. American consumption of cheese increased by nearly 30% in 10 years because the dairy industry is spending big bucks to promote pizza and partner with big chains like Dominos. Congress even voted to declare pizza a vegetable in the school lunch program. The government wants us to eat pizza – a lot of it. But there’s a lot going on behind closed doors that nobody wants us to know or talk about, and it all starts with the ingredients. 

When I started researching pizza ingredients, one thing became abundantly clear. Pizza restaurants did not like the questions I was asking.

Pizza Vani Food Babe

The only way to find out what may be lurking in your pizza is to review its complete ingredient list, which is often concealed from the public. I began calling the top pizza chains and easily found a couple ingredient lists online. But, when I called most pizza restaurants and began asking questions, they blatantly refused to share ingredient lists and their customer service reps were oblivious to what their ingredients were – they had no clue.  

Little Caesars, California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) and Mellow Mushroom have all refused to answer my questions about their ingredients. I was told by Mellow Mushroom’s corporate offices that they will only comply with minimal government regulations, which require them to publish an allergen list.  

After sending me their dough ingredients, CPK suddenly claimed that due to “proprietary restrictions” they can’t disclose their full ingredient lists. They went on to tell me that they “don’t have an easy way to perform a search by individual ingredient” and would need to call each vendor first. While traveling, I stopped into a CPK in an airport to ask questions face to face. Both the manager and store clerk had zero access to ingredients. I even asked to look at the packages of their dough and other ingredients that got shipped to the store in and they said they did not have them. 

I called many local pizza restaurants and was informed that it’s their policy to NOT disclose ingredients to their customers. Little Caesars literally told me that if I was concerned about what was in it, I “just shouldn’t eat there…” Ha! Don’t worry, I won’t!

Papa John’s also has repeatedly refused to release their ingredient list, which really caused a stir last year with my friend Melanie Warner, author of the processed food exposing book “Pandora’s Lunchbox“. How can Papa John’s claim to have “Better Ingredients… Better Pizza” without telling us what’s really in it? While they say their lack of transparency is due to the proprietary nature of their recipes, they could be hiding some seriously harmful ingredients.  After repeated calls to corporate offices and some helpful photos sent to me by Melanie Warner, I was finally able to uncover some details about what is really in their pizzas.

Why are the ingredients so hard to find?  Why are they refusing to share their ingredients? What is it that these pizza restaurants don’t want us to know? 

Well, I’ll tell you what they’re hiding: Lots and lots of hidden MSG!

Restaurants don’t want to get a bad rap by putting monosodium glutamate (MSG) on their ingredient or allergen statements, so they have found another way to secretly add this potent flavor enhancer to your food, without the average customer realizing it. Instead of letting you know that they are putting MSG in your food, they are using an FDA loophole to sneak processed free glutamic acid into your food, which has the same effect as MSG – all without warning you. They simply use other forms of free glutamic acid (such as Hydrolyzed Soy Protein), which is the main component of MSG. This allows them to have “clean labels” and deceive us into believing their product contains no MSG – when it actually does!

While it’s true that tomatoes and cheese are naturally high in glutamates, they do not have the same effect on the brain as added manufactured free glutamic acid additives. When I talked to Papa John’s, they admitted that these additives are used as a replacement for MSG by the food industry.

It will blow your mind – literally

MSG tricks your brain into believing that what you are eating tastes so great that you want more of it. Your taste buds sense that there is more protein in the food than there really is – which is great for food manufacturers that want to save money by using less or lower quality meat. These ingredients also promote an addiction to pizza so that you keep coming back to order more. Repeat business keeps their pockets lined with lots of cash. Ever wonder why you can’t stop at one slice? This is why.

MSG and hidden MSG additives are known to commonly cause headaches, obesity and depression – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. As an excitotoxin, its effect on the brain is so toxic that it has been linked to learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Board certified neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D. warns that, “Excitotoxins have been found to dramatically promote cancer growth… It also causes a cancer cell to become more mobile, and that enhances metastasis, or spread… When you increase the glutamate level, cancer just grows like wildfire”. 

This is serious stuff. But the industry will tell you it’s harmless and that you are crazy for being concerned. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is okay to eat this stuff occasionally, because these ingredients can stick around in your body for a long time, leach nutrients from your system, and can make you really sick.  As put by my pal Kristen Michaelis at FoodRenegade.com, “Not only is MSG not a traditional food, not only are many people immediately sensitive to it, but it can also interrupt the hormonal and biological development of children!  Lest you think this is all fanciful, it’s important to remember that a number of studies have found that the effects of MSG can occur cumulatively over time with subsequent exposure. 

Hidden MSG in Pizza

Toxic hidden MSG ingredients buried in popular pizza menu items:

  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract (Hidden MSG)
  • Textured or Hydrolyzed Proteins (Hidden MSG and GMO)
  • Hydrolyzed Corn (Hidden MSG and GMO)
  • Modified Starches (Hidden MSG or Possible GMO)
  • Natural Flavors (Possible Hidden MSG)
  • Disodium Inosinate or Disodium Guanylate (MSG enhancers)

The additives Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate are not added to a product that doesn’t contain MSG because they are considered expensive additives that are ineffective without MSG ingredients.  The presence of Disodium Guanylate or Disodium Inosinate in a product is a strong indication that a product contains hidden MSG.

I’m talking about more than MSG here

The ingredient lists that I could get my hands on are riddled with artificial colors, artificial and natural flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, cellulose (wood pulp) to keep the already shredded cheese from clumping, and GMO soybean oil.

Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Trans-fat) – There is absolutely no reason for anyone to still be using this. These oils are so bad that even our FDA has woken up and warns that it’s not safe to eat this in any food.  Partially hydrogenated oils block arteries and the CDC estimates that they could cause up to 20,000 heart attacks every year!  I found these dangerous oils in Pizza Hut’s hand-tossed crust, Round Table’s Creamy Garlic sauce, Papa John’s dipping sauces and Dominos Philly Steak pizza. Partially hydrogenated oils are found in 21 menu items at Cici’s Pizza – it’s even added to their cheese!

Soybean Oil (likely GMO) You’d hope to see just olive oil in there, but soybean oil is the oil of choice for most pizza restaurants.  It’s in the dough and pizza sauces, so it basically makes its way into every pizza. This genetically engineered inflammation causing oil is being used at these restaurants:

  • Papa John’s
  • Domino’s
  • Pizza Hut
  • Uno Pizzeria 
  • Papa Murphy’s
  • Little Caesars
  • Cici’s
  • Mellow Mushroom – “Soybean oil is a major ingredient in our pizzas
  • California Pizza Kitchen – “our Ciabatta Bread and our Wheat Dough do contain Soybean Oil”
  • Round Table Pizza – Creamy Garlic sauce

BHT/BHA (Butylated Hydroxytoluene.Butylated Hydroxyanisole) BHT is used in embalming fluid and to fuel jets.  BHA is toxic to your organs and linked to cancer. These were found in the pepperoni on every ingredient list I looked at from Uno’s to Dominos.

Sodium Nitrite – Whenever this is added to a meat, there is a really good chance that it contains cancer-causing Nitrosamines. Nitrites are often found in the pepperoni, ham, bacon and sausage toppings.

Enriched Flour This is a dead food that has had some vitamins and minerals artificially replaced. It’s absorbed by your body as a starch, rather than a whole grain. This flour is used in pizza dough, except the gluten-free versions.

Artificial Colors – These are petroleum-based colorings linked to asthma, allergies and hyperactivity. I found them in the banana pepper toppings, the cheese at Cici’s, and specifically in the garlic oil used by Domino’s.

Caramel Coloring – This is often made by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure which creates carcinogenic compounds. You’ll find this very controversial coloring in the bacon at Pizza Hut, the Italian sausage at Round Table, the beef at Little Caesars, the zesty pizza sauce at Cici’s and in the BBQ Chicken pizza at Uno’s.

BPA (Bisphenol A)You won’t find this on any ingredient label, but BPA leaches from the cans that hold pizza sauce in some restaurants. Many fast food pizza chains use canned tomato sauce that could have BPA. This substance exposure increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and a slew of other medical problems. 

How these pizza restaurants stack up

Papa John’s – They add a lot to their “Better Ingredients”.  For instance, their “100% Beef” topping is a lot more than just beef! It contains corn syrup, maltodextrin, natural flavor, natural smoke grill flavor, beef flavor and seasonings. Also, so much for believing that there is 100% real cheese topping their pizzas, as they add modified food starch (hidden MSG), preservatives and powdered wood pulp (cellulose) to their cheese blend. They also add natural flavors to their thin crust, pepperoni, and chicken topping, as well as hidden MSG (autolyzed yeast extract) to their garlic ranch and spinach alfredo pizza sauces. Those little dipping sauces that come with your pizza are loaded with partially hydrogenated oil, GMOs and (you guessed it) more hidden MSG.

Update: In June 2015 Papa Johns announced they’re removing 14 ingredients by the end of 2016, including artificial colors, caramel color, the preservative sodium benzoate, and hidden MSG ingredients like autolyzed yeast extract and hydrolyzed proteins. They have also listed ingredients on their website (however this list is not entirely complete as they don’t publish the ingredients in some of their seasonings, such as in their beef topping). 

Papa Johns Ingredients

Domino’s – One of the few pizza restaurants that openly publishes their ingredients online – and their ingredient list has hidden MSG written all over it. It’s almost impossible to avoid at Dominos, as it’s in their cheese, marinara sauce, white sauces, BBQ sauce and a slew of toppings (chicken, beef, Italian sausage and Philly steak). They also add “flavors” to their pan crust, cheese, pepperoni and shake-on seasoning. The garlic oil used on nearly every pizza is NOT what you’d expect (garlic & oil).  It’s actually a toxic combo of over 20 ingredients including artificial colors, artificial flavors and TBHQ.

Pizza Hut – You get a lot more than “100% Real Beef” in this topping loaded natural and artificial flavors. Their sausage and bacon toppings have hidden MSG (autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed proteins), and you are eating modified starches in their cheese, chicken and cream sauce (starches usually derived from GMO corn).  The garlic sauce and seasoning used on every hand-tossed pizza is loaded with natural flavors, artificial flavors and partially-hydrogenated GMO oils.  Pizza Hut recently reformulated their hand-tossed crust by replacing the high fructose corn syrup with sucralose (Splenda) – an artificial sweetener that has been shown to cause DNA damage to the gastrointestinal tract, reduces beneficial gut bacteria, and is linked to inflammatory bowel disease. Recent research indicates that sucralose is linked to leukemia

Round Table – “The Last Honest Pizza” honestly adds straight “Glutamic Acid” to their creamy garlic sauce. They add hidden MSG ingredients to their pizza sauces, chicken and sausage toppings. Their cheese is far from “100% real” with “Natural Smoke Flavoring” and cellulose.

Little Caesars – Although their corporate office told me that their ingredients are top secret, the first gal I talked with admitted that there is yeast extract in their beef topping. I also called a local store and found that their super-secret ingredients were listed right there on the package for anyone in the kitchen to read. According to my local restaurant, their sauce contains natural flavors and the cheese contains wood pulp (cellulose). They also rattled off the beef topping ingredients to confirm it contains yeast extract, beef flavorings and caramel coloring.

Mellow Mushroom – One of the most tight-lipped restaurants I talked to would only admit to the use of soybean oil, which is likely GMO – “Soybean oil is a major ingredient in our pizzas” they wrote to me in an email. Furthermore, when I asked about hidden MSG ingredients, they told me that they weren’t required to tell me since they are not one of the 7 major allergens designated by the FDA and don’t list them on their allergen list. So I decided to go use their allergen tool to see what they do list and found something shocking. The tool gives misleading, inaccurate and potentially dangerous information if you have a soy allergy. For example, I confirmed their crust uses soy, but when you use the tool, it says there are plenty of pizzas without soy. The information doesn’t add up and regardless of whether if you have an allergy, I would not trust Mellow Mushroom until they release the full ingredient lists for their menu. 

Uno Pizzeria – They are not much better than the rest with hidden MSG in their BBQ Chicken pizza, Harvest Vegetable pizza, sausage topping and gluten-free crust. I was a bit surprised to see that they also add caramel color, artificial flavors, and a large amount of natural flavors to their BBQ Chicken pizza – it’s totally unnecessary.

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) – As they were being very difficult in sharing ingredients, I was only able to confirm that the Thai sauce, tomato pizza sauce, pepperoni, salami, bacon, romano cheese, and chipotle sauce do not contain any of the hidden MSG ingredients that I listed. Because they refuse to share an ingredient list, I have no way of knowing whether they contain other additives or hidden MSG that I didn’t ask about – so don’t be convinced that these menu items are clean! I also inquired about hidden MSG ingredients in their other cheeses, BBQ sauce, chicken, sausage and ham toppings – and they have not responded at all regarding those items. Again, I will take their lack of a response as an indication that they do contain hidden MSG until they inform us otherwise.

Papa Murphy’s – It’s all about the sauces at Papa Murphy’s, where there’s yeast extract in their basil pesto sauce and modified food starch in their BBQ sauce, buffalo sauce, creamy garlic sauce and sweet chili sauce. They also add “flavors” to nearly every meat topping available and to their cheese. 

Cici’s – They don’t really hide it by adding straight MSG to 10 menu items including their “Zesty” pizza sauce. Cici’s further adds hidden MSG to their buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, bacon cheddar sauce, sausage topping and beef topping. Quite frankly, I can’t believe how bad their “cheese” is – modified food starch, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, (added) casein, aluminum, natural flavors and artificial color! I was also astounded to find high fructose corn syrup in their BBQ sauce and dessert pizzas, as well as carrageenan and propylene glycol in several of their sauces, including the Alfredo.

Cicis

Are you wondering about your favorite pizza place?

The good news is that you can do the exact same thing I did at your favorite pizza place, and please share the outcome with me!

To get the best results, plan to visit your pizza place during a slow time and not during their dinner rush.  This way their employees won’t be rushed and will have time to answer your questions.  Right off the bat, ask them if they have an ingredient list to share with you.  Most likely they won’t, but it’s worth a try.  If their ingredients are not readily available, here’s my game plan for navigating the menu and asking the right questions:

  • Typically the safest bet is to stick with a veggie pizza without cheese. This is dependent on what they have lurking in their sauce and crust, so it’s really important to find out what is in those items!  Ask them to read you the complete ingredients in the sauce and dough.
  • Hidden MSG is most often found in meat toppings, seasoning mixes and creamy sauces – so if you plan to order those things I would ask specifically about hidden MSG ingredients.  Ask them if monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed proteins, modified starches, or natural flavors are in any of those menu items. Which ones?
  • GMO soybean oil is usually found in the crust and the sauces.  Ask them if they use soybean oil – and in what menu items.  Is soybean oil used in their pans?  Can they make you a pizza without it?
  • Ask them directly if any of their ingredients are GMO. You may be surprised as they may have no clue what you are talking about.  Use this as an opportunity to briefly share with them what a GMO is and why you don’t eat GMOs. Let them know that most soy is GMO so if they use soy in any products, it is probably GMO. Their allergen statement should also be able to tell you if soy is used in any product.
  • Remember that “garlic oils” and “shake-on seasonings” may contain a bunch of questionable ingredients and MSG. Ask them if there are any specialty oils, butter sauces, or seasoning mixes used on their pizzas. If they can’t tell you the ingredients in those, ask them not to use it on yours.
  • Do they use high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners in their sauces or dough? These sweeteners are probably derived from GMO sources – including “sugar”.
  • Most vegetables will not be GMO, unless they have corn, tofu, zucchini or yellow squash toppings. I would avoid those.
  • What about cellulose in their cheese? Are flavorings and preservatives added to the cheese as well?

Beware that often times the restaurant employees truly do not know the answers to your questions, and will give you incorrect answers.  For instance, they may tell you that their cheese is “100% real cheese”, without realizing that the pre-shredded bag of cheese in the back contains an ingredient list.  On that ingredient list, they will likely find cellulose, some preservatives, and possibly some flavors and colors.  It’s good to remember that it’s not all that it seems on the surface, and in order to find out what is really in their food they will need to read the ingredient list on the box, bag or can that the menu item comes in. The bottom line – If they won’t tell you what is in their food, don’t eat there.

They don’t expect the average customer to demand answers about their food!

Only four of the restaurants I investigated publish their current ingredient lists online – Dominos, Uno’s, Papa Murphy’s, Cici’s. (Pizza Hut publishes them online, but they admitted to me they aren’t current in an email). As in my Chipotle investigation, I had to be extremely persistent over several months to get the limited information that I did from the other restaurants. This took multiple phone calls, voicemails, emails, and website contact forms – which often went unanswered. I had to ask specific questions about obscure ingredients. They are counting on the average customer to not do this! 

On Papa John’s website, they say that their cheese is “crafted from 100% mozzarella and high-quality milk by one of America’s finest cheese producers” – But the ingredients tell the real story. Now we know their cheese also contains wood pulp and modified food starch… and that IT’S NOT 100% CHEESE. When Papa John’s claims in all of their advertising that they have “Better Ingredients”, yet they won’t openly tell us what they are, it’s a safe bet they’re hiding something.

I wonder if any of these restaurants will have the courage to discuss this issue. Will they do the right thing now that we are calling them out, like Chipotle did when they finally released their full ingredient list online for everyone to see? These companies do not deserve our business, until they publish their ingredients online and make them easily accessible to the average customer.

What to eat instead:

Okay, this is the good part! I’m thrilled to say that I’ve found some pizza places that are doing it right! 

Pizza Fusion – I called up a Pizza Fusion restaurant and they freely answered every question I had about their ingredients – a big WIN in my book!  Their sauce is super simple: organic tomatoes, olive oil, water – and no nasty additives or hidden MSG. They only use olive oil in the restaurant, so you won’t find any GMO soybean or canola oil here. They confirmed with me that their gluten-free crust no longer contains canola oil and that they are diligent about preventing cross-contamination with gluten. I was really happy to find out that all of their meat toppings are antibiotic-free! Their chickens are also fed a non-GMO diet. Many of their veggie toppings are organic and local, and all are non-GMO. This varies and depends on what is seasonally available, so simply ask them which veggies are organic when you order. They have about 12 locations right now, and I really hope they grow into a larger chain so that more of us have access to pizza places like this!

Pure Pizza – I simply love this place. If you are ever in Charlotte, this is the place to go. They have an amazing organic sprouted grain crust, and source their toppings locally.

Truly Organic Pizza – This pizza chain in Florida is USDA certified organic. Because of this, none of their ingredients can be GMO, and all of their meats are antibiotic-free and not injected with hormones. I called them up and asked specifically about hidden MSG ingredients. They told me that they do not use any flavor enhancers such as autolyzed yeast extract or hydrolyzed proteins to season their food. They cook their meatballs and chicken from scratch and only season them with basic seasonings like what we would use at home! This is another great option if you are in Florida.

My Favorite Homemade Pizza Recipe – If you don’t have pizza restaurants like these in your neck of the woods, my homemade pizza recipe is super simple and will be ready in less time than it would take you to order and have it delivered – I promise! This recipe cures my pizza craving in no time! 

If you know someone who is ordering or eating pizza with these terrible ingredients, help them make the switch by sharing this very important information with them!

Together we are changing the world, one company at a time, by sharing the truth. 

Xo,

Vani 

 

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1,131 responses to “If You’ve Ever Eaten Pizza Before, This Will Blow Your Mind (Maybe Literally)

  1. Funny how little understanding these companies have of handling people. From your description of Pizza Fusion I take that their showing willingness to tell you all has satisfied you. THere is hardly any way for you to actually confirm what they tell you, so as long as they tell “us customers” what we want to hear, it’s good.
    Especially the restaurants that refused show they have something to hide, making them obviously suspicious. Plain lying would have solved everything for them…

    Anyway, well done. Keep rattling cages and stirring things up. It’ll be a very, very, VERY long way, but maybe one day we can actually start to trust what we get fed…

      1. Eh. I find Pizza Fusion overpriced and very salty.

        We got small pizza’s on paper thin crust with only tiny bits of toppings, and it was so salty I could hardly eat it.

        Just because someone may not agree with you doesn’t mean they are trying to be contradictory. Other people may have a different opinion.

    1. Not a reply. Couldn’t find where else to comment.

      Anyway, I wanted to ask what about frozen pizzas? I eat Amy’s. Most of the time the reason I eat pizza is for a simple meal on a Saturday night.

      Thanks!

  2. Thank Goodness my children and I have never eaten at any of the restaurants listed , don’t buy at grocery chains because %80 of the things on the shelf are banned in other countries around the world, and don’t eat fast food . Support your local farms or grow a small garden in your yard. Know what your putting into your bodies because intelligence and education will give independence of spirit . The people with negative comments are probably upset because they eat or feed their families that crap. Be upset with yourselves, Ignorance is not always bliss.

    1. How wonderful for you and your children, but you make it sound like the rest of us are purposefully feeding crap to our loved ones. I’d be thrilled to hear how you would manage up here in Canada when all you have per month is $1400.00, your rent is $725.00 plus utilities $150.00, prescriptions come to $200.00 gas for the car is about $100.00 per month. That leaves you a food budget of $225.00 Local apples here are $1.79 per pound, chicken is $3.47 a lb. tomatoes are $2.97 per lb. melons are $4.97 each., and you have 30 or 31 days to fill. Heaven forbid you scrimp and save so the family can actually have a treat of going out once in a very blue moon. Lucky you.

      1. Prescriptions really?? why don’t you try dropping that first. Everyone knows BIG PHARMA is the number one cause of all our problems.

        Your response will probably be that you “have to” or that you will die if you don’t take them because that’s what the “doc” said but you might want to research homeopathic medicine, essential oils, natural cures and more.

        I’m sure you’ve heard it before but “Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine” so if you spent that 200 on healthy food instead of manmade bottled crap maybe you would be healthier in a few years. People just want prescriptions because they solve all your problems now but with a little patience you will see our bodies can heal themselves.

      2. Stop the drugs and you’ll have $200 more to devote to food. Spend $170 on food and $30 to buy as much fulvic acid as you can get for it. The fulvic acid will increase your nutrient absorption from your food as much as tenfold.

        Then you wont need the drugs!

      3. Food babe’s point is that these companies should make the change and get rid of questionable ingredients — so that everyone — not just well-off people — can eat well and enjoy eating out.

      4. Right, because you all know what prescriptions Deb needs. Better nutrient absorption means you won’t need prescriptions? Since when are nutrients prescribed? Does better nutrient absorption solve genetic high blood pressure? Eczema? Diabetes? Sometimes people need prescriptions to stay alive, and better food does nothing to help them. All Deb said was “prescriptions come to $200” and you claim to know that her family’s prescriptions are unnecessary?

      5. The response to Deb citing medicine is “essential oils” and “fulvic acid” , some idiots dwell on this blog.

  3. Protect your health and help starve the beast by avoiding products distributed by these companies and their subsidiaries:

    Campbell’s – $250,000.00

    Healthy Request
    Wolfgang Puck Soups
    Pace Foods
    Pepperidge Farms
    V-8
    Cargill, Inc – $202,229.36

    Truvia Natural Sweetener
    Shady Brooks Farms
    Diamond Crystal Salt
    Liza
    Nature Fresh
    Peter’s Chocolate
    Wilbur Chocolate
    Honeysuckle White
    Rumba Meats
    Good Nature

    Coca Cola –  $1,164,400.00

    Vitamin Water
    Smart Water
    Dasani
    Nestea
    Minute Maid
    Honest Tea
    Odwalla
    Vitaminenergy
    Con-Agra – $1,076,700.00

    Orville Redenbacher’s Organic
    Hunt’s Organic
    Lightlife
    Alexia
    Healthy Choice
    Hebrew National
    Dean Foods –  $253,950.00

    Horizon
    Silk
    White Wave
    General Mills – $908,200.00

    Nature Valley
    Fiber One
    Cheerios
    Cascadian Farm
    Muir Glen
    Lärabar
    Gold Medal Organic
    Food Should Taste Good
    Heinz- $500,000.00

    ABC
    Bagel Bites
    Complan
    Daddies
    Delimex
    Farex
    Greenseas
    HP Sauce
    Heinz
    Lea & Perrins
    Ore-Ida
    Smart Ones
    Tater Tots
    TGI Friday’s
    Wattie’s
    Weight Watchers
    Wylers
    Hain-Celestial

    UPDATED TO ADD:  Heinz has divested itself of Hain-Celestial stock over the past couple of years.  Two sources report that the primary investors for Hain-Celestial are companies of extremely dubious consideration for our health:  Phillip Morris, Monsanto, Citigroup, Exxon-Mobil, Wal-Mart and Lockheed Martin.  (Farmwars and Home for Health)

    Earth’s Best
    Spectrum Organics
    Garden of Eatin’
    Casbah
    Rice Dream
    Soy Dream
    WestSoy
    TofuTown
    MaraNatha
    Mountain Sun
    Walnut Acres
    Fruiti di Bosco
    Health Valley
    Bearitos
    Bread Shop
    Celestial Seasonings
    Kellogg’s – $632,500.00

    Kashi
    Muslix
    Nutrigrain
    Bear Naked
    Morningstar Farms
    Gardenburger
    Kraft – $551,148.25

    Snapple
    ReaLemon
    Triscuit
    SnackWell’s
    South Beach
    Boca
    Back to Nature
    Nabisco
    Nestle –   $1,169,400.00

    Pure Life
    Pelligrino
    Perrier
    Poland Spring
    Gerber
    California Pizza Kitchen
    Tribe Mediterranean
    Sweet Leaf Tea
    PepsiCo $2,249,661.61

    Miss Vickie’s
    Sun Chips
    Aquafina
    SoBe
    Harvest Crunch
    Dole
    Ocean Spray
    Tropicana
    Miranda
    Tazo
    Quaker
    Naked Juice
    Mother’s
    Unilever – $467,000 (source)

    Salada
    Knorr
    Ben & Jerry’s Ben & Jerry’s Go GMO Free

    A little bit of good news…
    It isn’t all bad news.  There are a few companies you can still count on – keep in mind that corporate mergers take place every day.  When businesses change hands, there is no obligation to notify the public.  One such cautionary tale took place with the company Dean’s, which acquired Horizon Foods.  They quietly phased out the use of organic products without making any changes to the label and used non-organic milk produced under factory farm conditions.  As well, they dropped the quality of their organic soy and began purchasing cheaper harvests from Asia.  Meanwhile, unwitting retailers had no idea that the company had ceased producing the items organically, and continued to promote the products as they had previous to the acquisition.

    1. If we can’t trust these companies with manufacturing our foods and food products who else is there? I have switched to an 80% organic diet, 15% all natural, and 5% other. Now you’re telling me all the healthier options aren’t what there supposed to be? This is a timely effort and now we have to watch over the organic industry??? FEEDBACK is much welcomed!!!!

      1. Ellen,

        Do not worry. This is just the case of people being either strictly anti-capitalism and/or overly health conscious. The positives for them are much smaller than the negatives that surround them. And they hack at the limbs rather than the root since most of society eats garbage, and when someone takes small steps, like you are alluding to, the purist chimes in “corporations”! Let’s face it, Silk non-dairy milk would not have reach so many people (it’s in friggin’ Wal-Mart and everywhere most people shop) if it wasn’t acquired by Dean. I’d rather have more people drinking Silk non-dairy milk and having it at a familiar grocery store than Silk being only sold in healthfood stores, etc. Ellen, you and others like you are just fine!

  4. Why would they give their ingredients out? If I had an amazing recipe that was making me millions, would I just give it up? Perhaps Mellow Mushroom isn’t hiding anything at all except their recipe. And your telling me Soybean Oil is bad?

      1. There is nothing inherently wrong or unsafe about GMOs…people need to stop the stigma and educate themselves about GMOS

    1. I was thinking the same thing. I don’t hove my secrets out in my job lol. I don’t understand how this person just believes what some people are saying over the phone to be truths. But yet just has to beleve everything bad about the other places. It is very ignorant. But if we didn’t have people picking everything apart then we would probably be bored. My children eat very clean meals but once in a blue moon I let them eat out! It was way worse years ago.

  5. Crazy how people argue she is not qualified. By that same logic, are people qualified to comment ? I don’t see any arguments (cited stats) countering her arguments.

    Ignorance is definitely bliss. After my brother in law beat cancer, guess what the doctors and nurses were telling him? Change your diet. Admittedly not organic, but to eat fruits and vegetables. Drink water. Exercise. Instead of criticizing her, which is the lazy persons way of not thinking, why don’t you add well thought out solutions?

    Pizza, along with most fast foods, are devastating to your system and to a healthy diet.

    Quit critizing her and please provide some useful thoughts other than wasting space and time.

    Great article and thank you for taking the time to write this article.

  6. It’s called investigative reporting. Science is simple. Applying inorganic genetically modified organisms to an organic ecosystem will have catastrophic effects in the future.

  7. The chemistry is way off on the “hidden msg” stuff. Especially glutamic Acid. That’s one of the 23 basic amino acids used to build proteins. MSG is a sodium salt, meaning it has extra sodium ions that chemically change the molecule. The excess sodium is the part that could possibly be dangerous, but your “hidden msg” glutamic acid has none.

    1. There is a big difference between protein bound L-glutamic acid and manufactured (free) D-glutamic acid. The latter is a dangerous neurotoxin that can flood the blood stream with toxic levels of glutamic acid. The naturally-occurring protein-bound L-glutamic acid, on the other hand, is processed by the body slowly as it breaks down the long chains, and any excess is flushed harmlessly.

      That’s the difference. It’s important. D-glutamic acid (I’m quite certain that’s what’s being added, since it’s a separate, and manufactured, ingredient) is so much like MSG as do be indistinguishable in the human body.

      1. That’s not true. Only the L-glutamate enantiomer has flavor-enhancing properties. There would be literally no point in adding significant amounts of D-glutamate. In fact, the manufactured stuff has about a tenth of the D-glutamate as fermented products. That being said, I’ll usually grab the product that says no MSG when there’s a choice. But they aren’t the same thing.

    2. Glutamate is 1 of the 23 amino acids, but that doesn’t make it harmless. The problem is in the amount of glutamate (or the rate) which your body absorbs. Protein-bound glutamate takes a while to be dissociated into free glutamate, so the level of glutamate in the blood doesn’t spike. With MSG, glutamate is bound to a sodium ion which can dissociate rather quickly. Thus the MSG entering a person’s stomach gets absorbed rapidly as free glutamate. MSG is only an excitotoxin at high levels in the blood. At lower levels, it just stimulates neurons in the brain.

      Think about it like blood sugar with diabetes. You don’t want the level in the blood to be super high, but there needs to be some.

      Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

    3. Incorrect at best, they also separate the natural glutemates from their protein bond which does not happen in nature, making a more addictive substance. This substance in the state it is in is an excitotoxin. While boiling down kelp and adding monosodium to it creates a natural and healthy MSG, the kind used in fast food chains and processed American foods is a chemically altered one that is in no way safe or natural. It’s not the salt that’s getting people sick, it’s this chemically processed industrial kind that’s been banned almost everywhere else.

      1. You say “chemically altered”, but C5H8NO4Na is C5H8NO4Na. Now, there may be other issues with how they are produced (environmental, working conditions, etc), but chemically identical things are chemically identical, no matter how they are produced. And if you want to take it all the way down to chirality, only the L enantiomer provides any flavor difference, so it would be uneconomical to use the D version. And as far as glutamate a separated from a protein bond not happening in nature, that’s absolutely certifiably false (see: kelp, seaweed, Roquefort and Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, green tea, sardines, grape juice, clam, scallop, squid, oyster, mussel, tomato, potato, egg, chicken, beef, et al).

  8. If you don’t like what the Food Babe says, then by all means feel free to disagree, not read, go away, etc. It’s your choice to read or not. I’m tired of people jumping onto blogs looking for a fight. If you disagree, fine. If you keep flogging people with your opinion, in my book that makes you a troll. Crawl back under your bridge and go away!

    1. What is the point of posting an article like this if not to incite discussion. Nothing will ever happen anywhere if we all just read what we want to hear and pretend that no other opinion exists. That’s why we’re in this whole mess in the first place- people following blindly just because somebody claims something to be fact. It’s helpful to stand in the shoes of the opposition from time to time- who knows, you might just learn something.

      1. I do enjoy discussing or debating various points on different blogs. I’m just tired of the all the name calling, ugly language, and intolerance for a different opinion. I can disagree with someone without being vile about it.

  9. WOW! You should win a Pulitzer for this eye-opening expose’ into pizza! Made me think twice about where I eat! I’ll start going to ‘mom and pop’ restaurants for now on! Keep up the great work, babe!

  10. I really appreciate this article. I have a severe “intolerance/allergy” to any form of free gleutamic acid. I have a rare migraine condition that causes me to become paralyzed and look like I have had a stroke when I eat MSG or any form of free gleutamic acid. So yes, being transparent with the ingredients that are in the food your restaurant provides is critical. We need to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies. For some of us it is the difference between being able to function or sitting slumped over in a restaurant paralyzed.

    1. Dawn W.,
      How did you find out that was the intolerance? I started having hemiplegic migraines…some periods of time are worse than others, and trying to eliminate foods may have helped, but it’s strange that i can eat some now that I couldn’t this summer. Please do share that—it would be helpful! thank you 🙂

  11. It’s a major corporation, seeking to increase profit by cutting costs in production. Corporations that churn out pizza like Little Caesar’s, Cici’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, et al., is no different. It’s just like any other major franchise, like Mickey D’s and Coca-Cola. And you’re actually surprised by this revelation by reading this article? What rock have you been living under for the past thirty years?

  12. I was a manager at little caesars. The ingredients are posted on each package. Their sauce isnt natural, the spices come from a package that you mix in with water. They won’t release ingredients, because they dont want competitors using any of their recipies.

  13. Fairly compelling article on MSG here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/jul/10/foodanddrink.features3

    The partially hydro fats are my greatest concern. The reason for all the additives is for shelf life, enhanced taste and money savings. I guess as companies get bigger they need consistency across the stores’ products, so “fresh” is hard to accomplish for all ingredients. It is an unfortunate excuse but fortunately we have a choice what to put in our bodies. But a lot of it does taste so good though right?! 🙂

  14. An easy way to figure out if your favorite Pizza or Chinese restaurant is loaded with MSG…….eat lunch there and see if you are thirsty the rest of the day……..it sucks the water right out of you……I haven’t touched Pizza Hut for years for that reason….just to add to this a bit…..why is Campbells Soup so popular? Like all of my lifetime and I am 68 years old…..look at the can…it’s right on the label ….sodium……a lot of salt or MSG adds flavor that people like but it is not good for you……I can’t eat pizza without cheese…it wouldn’t be pizza but buy the right ingredients and make your own!

  15. I understand the point but if you’re trying to eat healthy and “clean” and trying to avoid processed foods then why would one even consider pizza or put it one this page? If you’re so concerned about MSG, GMO, etc. then why are you even looking at fast food pizza chains? Duh. Seems like a no brainer and waste of time.

    1. One small voice under the mountain of corporations can cause an avalanche that can topple their very foundation.

    2. to add…it also an eye opener for others who have no idea that they are feeding their families this toxic meal. There are some people in communities that are not proactive in searching what is healthy to eat by disecting ingredients and understanding what it all means. They may not know where to start or what to look for….not everyone is educated on this. I know I was not until I had GERD and became proactive in researching how to get well without meds and eat the right foods. Food babes is a platform for some to get them thinking and act on what they are consuming. Of course she is only human so you can take what she offers as her investigation as a stepping stone and then further your investigation. I eat healthy but also like many like to indulge from time to time. This article is very informative but it does not have to stop here in all that she says..I can be proactive and search further. We all learn from somewhere as a 1st step..continue to find evidence.

  16. reality is.. all food we eat right now have ingredients that can cause cancer growth.. this is the reason why generation today have a little life span compare to so many years ago.. there were no pizza by that time, no fast foods, no burgers.. etc..

  17. I am now 82 years old ,I am a European Butcher& Sausage Maker.In my line of Work we use Nitrate all the time,but we only used good Meats to make Sausage,clean and simple,but now it is almost impossible to find this anymore .So what do I do, I make my own at Home.We are healthy and in good spirit.Never buy prepared food,if you are to lazy to make your own then do not complain if you are getting sick. We also have a little Garden where we grow our veggies,all natural.But you have to work a little to stay healthy.
    We used to work 48 & more hours a week,but never complained.We Travel every Year .We do not & never use a cellphone,we use the Money for good things like good and healthy living.

  18. In Yuba City, CA, there is another pizza place doing it right! Gluten-free organic pizzas at Rolling Stone Pizza are AMAZING and I don’t even need to worry about those issues. They are so good and healthy though-if you’re ever in the area, you have to try one!

  19. While all those companies listed produce bad pizza, I being a Celiac patient cannot eat those anyways!! YEAH – That’s good news. I do love Against The Grain made in Vermont and all products are NON-GMO, local eggs, milk, cheese, etc. with no antibiotics or any other tampering and, of course, Gluten Free. It is by far the best pizza I have had, absolutely love it. It only comes frozen (Whole Foods, Earth Fare and Deep Roots Market carry it). You can buy the shell and make your own pizza, it is cheaper. I do buy the ready made pizza just to keep one on hand for an emergency. But the best thing is, I am eating a great pizza and it is good for me compared to what most of America eats. 🙂

  20. Wow. MSG seems to pop up in everything but I never really thought too hard about what goes into pizza. Fortunately my family makes most of our pizzas homemade. Great article!

  21. First off… if you’re of Italian decent, or from New York or New Jersey, you already know that Little Caesars, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and all other chains and franchises are not real pizza. L&B’s Spumoni Gardens, New Park Pizza, the little hole in the wall place on the corner, that’s real, fresh pizza, that tastes good is is much better for you.

  22. What about Naked Pizza? http://www.nakedpizza.biz They claim to have all natural ingredients and it’s my favorite. I’m hoping they aren’t misleading too. We don’t have any of the places listed except for the “don’t eat here” ones.

  23. MSG is dangerous for pregnant women. How do they not feel a moral obligation to at the very least make that information known? I am so appalled right now as I am 23 weeks pregnant and pizza is my favorite indulgence.

  24. The simplest solution is to make your own! And better still, plant a garden from which to harvest ingredients for your sauce and for toppings. Two key pieces of equipment for restaurant-quality home pizza: a pizza stone, and a pizza peel. Making pizza at home with home-grown ingredients: easy, fun, economical, healthy and above all DELICIOUS. The crust is of course the most challenging part, but Trader Joe’s and others make reasonably simple (i.e. relatively few unnecessary and/or artificial ingredients) options for fresh dough.

  25. I make my own pizza dough with my bread machine and my own sauce – buy organic mozz and make delicious pizza

  26. Your article really bummed me out. Pizza is my deathbed favorite food. Thank God for Grimaldi’s. And I’d like to thank Vani’s parents for the obvious 😉

  27. Could you please investigate fast food in Costco and Target food court. I believe many people will appreciate not just food court in these store but also other food they are selling from shelves there.
    Thank you very much,
    Tom

  28. I’m a diagnosed celiac, and vegan by choice so I will usually make my own GF/V pizza at home.
    I must say, however, that I will have ZPizza’s GF/V options. Check out their ingredients 🙂

  29. Earth Pizza in Red Bank, NJ uses organic ingredients for their pizzas also!! If you’re looking for the best gluten-free and organic pizzas, sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts, this is the place to go! Call 732 345-1600 for delivery now! Order online at http://www.earthpizzarb.com

  30. That’s why I stick with local pizzaria’s. In Buffalo, NY, you can’t beat them. Chains are horrible….

  31. So glad I found this article. I was certain something was very wrong with pizzas. Last week I had two slices of takeaway Margherita around 7pm . At 3 am I was still awake unable to sleep because my heart was beating so fast and I had shortage of breath. Measured my blood pressure it was 130/95 and the heart beat 125 . Thats worrying sign after resting for 4 h my heart should be significantly slower.. I then realised that pizza caused this and chemicals in it.

  32. is it really all about the products? how about getting rid of harmful and possible harmful ingredients and improve customer service and getting better than competitors?

    harmful flavorings = glutony of customer = increase profit = grinning companies 😀

  33. I think most families and people would choose to eat healthy meals and food. The problem we’re faced with is the availability of these foods and also the premium price to purchase. I know most new-age hippies, single yuppies, and hipster couples have the time and the money to search out and procure these uber-natural foods. However for working families with children, or just busy professionals in general, we don’t have the time to prepare 100% organic, natural meals constantly. Nor do most families have the extra cash to buy organic foods that cost anywhere from 50-200% more than non-organic foods. It’s been a point of discussion and contention for some time, but why should products that are completely natural cost twice as much as products that have “chemicals” and additives in them? It would appear that adding additional ingredients increases the cost, no? Little Ceasars has these 5 dollar “pizzas” but you go to a place with “natural pizza” and you’re paying 20 bucks more. Do the large manufacturers need to be more responsible? Absolutely. But the small independents and the organic, natural industry need to be more responsible with their pricing and stop taking advantage of a niche market by price gouging. If you naturalists really want to stick it to the big boys, you need to take over the market. You can’t do that by pricing out the vast majority of consumers. And I know they’ll be people who have way too much time on their hands who will respond about planting gardens, and picking this and that, and eating grilled mud-pies for snacks, but most people have limited time, so eating quick cheap meals is a must sometimes.

  34. I just picked a large pizza from Dominos and it tasted great, but I had Food Babe in my head, but still fell for their $7.99 deal. I guess I’ll leave the rest for the squirrels!

  35. Greetings Vani,
    Love your work!!!
    Pizzas, YES! I love ’em too. Ever since reading your work I’ve taken to making my own scratch pizzas. “Artisan Pizza & Flatbread in 5 Minutes a Day” great book. I now get all the pizza I want from my own healthy products: homemade tomato sauce (freezes well), organic cheese, topped with organic veg of the season. OK, I sneak a little meat in there on occasion. It’s the best and freshest from my own oven.
    Looking forward to your new book!

  36. I’ve been working as a waitress at Ledo pizza for a couple years now and it was pretty amazing to see the amount of secrecy among other pizza joints. I know almost all the ingredients for everything in our foods since we have a lot of regulars that have allergies, and i didn’t really think our company would stack up so well in comparison to others. Now don’t get me wrong, i only have one of the gluten free pizza’s if i forgot to eat completely that day, but comparatively it’s a pretty good company. Dough is made fresh every 2 hours from water, flour, yeast and soy oil (yes sadly it is soy oil), but compared to the other ingredients in a typical pizza crust it’s pretty awesome. Since i do the orders for our store i know where all the food comes from and at least our store we get all our tomatoes, spinach and a few other things fresh from a local farmers depot. the meats are all pretty questionable though. So i’d say if you really NEEDED a pizza for whatever reason that Ledo’s is a better choice for fellow food nuts.

  37. Good basic info. However, I’d add, don’t eat ANY cheese since dairy products are ALL bad for your health. The Journal of Public Health published a study of 70,000 women that compared those who drank one glass of milk or less per week vs those that drank 2 glasses per day or more. The surprising results was the more milk you drank the more hip Fractures you had. In fact in the higher dairy usage group they had 45% more hip fractures. This one study proves the dairy industry has been lying to us for 50 years, telling us milk builds strong bones, when in fact it weakens your bones ! ! !

    Also, a lot of people have the distorted idea that eating meat that is raised eating grass instead of corn meal, and is given no antibiotics and no growth hormones makes it safe and good for you. Wrong! All meat is bad for you except in very small percentages in your diet, because the saturated fat is just as bad as the “trans-fats” that everyone is worrying about and condemning. In fact, a major study showed that trans-fats are only about 4% worse for you than regular saturated fats from animal products.
    More proof of this is one of the biggest studies ever done. They studied the entire Nation of Norway after World War II and followed it from several years before the war to several years after the war. The results? They found that because the Nazi’s took away all the cattle, milk, sheep, pigs, chickens, eggs, etc. to feed the German army, during the war, the Heart Attack and Stroke Rates Drastically declined ! ! Then after the war, when they got back their meat and animal products, the Heart Attack and Stroke Rates SOARED back up to where they had been. Remember, this was in the 1950’s before ANY cattle or sheep or pigs of chickens were fed antibiotics and hormones, so the disease rates were due purely to the excess animal protein and saturated fats, not to added chemicals etc.
    Many worldwide dietary studies have been done on so-called Blue Zones where people routinely live beyond 100, and do so in a healthy way, without strokes, heart attacks, dementia, or living in nursing homes. They remain healthy up until shortly before they die. What they have in common is: 1) minimal amounts of animal products of any kind, 2) LOTS of veggies and 3) lots of variety in veggies, and 4) also fruits, nuts, berries, beans, onions, mushrooms, seeds, etc., and 5) getting healthy exercise everyday.
    Back to the article: IF you want healthy pizza, make your own with whole grain crust, Vegan Gourmet cheese (which has no dairy products in it), organic tomato sauce, and organic tomatoes, organic garlic, organic broccoli, etc.

    And lastly, you probably Can get off your $200 worth of medications per month if you read Eat To Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD. His book has over 1,000 scientific peer reviewed research sources for what he says, and I have met hundreds of his patients who got off all their diabetic meds and all their high blood pressure meds, and several of whom cured their auto-immune diseases by eating that way.

  38. Very good article. This is an example of corporate business only thinking of the dollar. As you see the short cuts take many forms. There is no excuse for ignorance on the part of people selling anything to another person. The fact is these places are not ignorant because the information is not available but its just a lie.

  39. Asking companies to reveal trade secrets then acting surprised when they don’t strikes me as insincere or ignorant. Calling a local restaurant and throwing up their, “just shouldn’t eat there” quote like it’s Watergate is ridiculous as well. You frustrated some minimum wage teenager into saying something unprofessional; give me a break.

  40. I am an employee for papa johns and took the liberty to find out about the companies and farms providing our produce. Our green and black olives are most like gmo. The green olives are grown in Spain which is the highest GMO growing country in the EU. Our black olives are no longer grown in Spain and I am unable to find out where they are now grown. The pineapple tidbits are in “light syrup” or GMO high fructose corn syrup. And most alarmingly our green peppers are coated in “paraffin wax and petroleum blend as lubricant.” Paraffin wax is extremely harmful and comes from the bottom of the petroleum barrel. I have pictures proving these statements.

  41. If there were criminal charges that could be brought against those responsible for making such decisions that knowingly put our children in harms way by giving them diabetes, childhood obesity, ADHD, countless autoimmune disorders, bi-polar, depression and CANCER then we would see them think twice before doing this. If this were done to our children by another country or terrorist group, people would be all up in arms screaming to go to war, but I guess it is a different story when it is coming from a domestic source. But the sad thing is nobody can hold them responsible, only hope for mankind is to be rescued by someone who cannot be corrupted, bribed or intimidated. And we have a promise that soon he will put to ruin those ruining the earth. Rev 11:18 Because obviously Mankind cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

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