Maggi samples found to contain ‘ash’ content. Is ash in packaged foods okay for your health, even within permissible limits?

Just when India’s favourite instant noodle brand Maggi made a comeback in 2015, the iconic brand is under pressure, again. Maggi noodles, which had earlier faced a lot of scrutiny over an alleged presence of lead and MSG, is now under scanner after FDA found a high level of ash content. So what is ash in food?

Ash refers to any inorganic materials such as minerals present in food. It is called ash because it is the residue that stays back after heating removes organic material such as fat and protein. Ash can include compounds with essential minerals, such as potassium and calcium as well as toxic materials such as mercury [1]. Scientists examine ash to better determine the food’s content. Just move over Maggi and try the other 2-minute healthy snacks. 

What are the effects of ash on body

The ash material in grains and animal products is acidic, while the ash in fruits and vegetables is alkaline. The claim is that eating ash in food can change the pH of your urine, but some also believe that consuming ash can change the pH of your blood [2] while doctors say that pH of blood does not change.

Is ash in packaged foods okay for your health even within permissible limits?

According to nutritionist Naini Setalvad ash in packaged foods is not okay even in permissible limits. So you should completely remove packaged foods from your diet if you do not want to be exposed to  environmental toxins?

Are other chemicals like  lead, mercury, chondrite okay to consume?

Exposure to lead and other chemicals like chondrite can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous and reproductive systems. And since packaged foods contain all of these you may just want to stop buying processed foods completely.

Foods that contain ash

According to FDA, flour like your fortified atta is one of the most common ingredients which are associated with ash. Cereal grains and pasta and breakfast cereals also contain ash. Processed meats like sausages and poultry products, sauces and ready-made gravies sometimes also contain ash. While many manufacturers in the US mention the amount of ash in the label, you will not find ash mentioned anywhere in the food products in India. Here are things Indian consumer should know about testing packaged foods like instant noodles. 


[1] Dwyer J, Foulkes E, Evans M, Ausman L. Acid/alkaline ash diets: time for assessment and change. J Am Diet Assoc. 1985 Jul;85(7):841-5. PubMed PMID: 4008836.

[2] Schwalfenberg, G. K. (2012). The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 727630.

Image source: Shutterstock Images

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