Fake vinegar and the taste of sour

By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

“ …. what I tried is just place overripe bananas, peeled, in a glass container, close it well and let it stay there for 3 months or more and viola, you have the best-tasting vinegar! ”

The news of fake vinegar grabbed the limelight a few months back when a study of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) showed that 8 out of 10 vinegar brands are made out of synthetic acetic acid. Thus the term “fake” because it is not the natural acetic acid that is used to make the vinegar. Acetic acid is naturally produced by the natural fermentation of sugars by acetic acid bacteria. (Isn’t it amusing that even our bacteria have specialties!). Vinegar is defined by Wikipedia as an “aqueous solution of acetic acid and trace chemicals that may include flavorings. Vinegar typically contains 5-20% acetic acid by volume.” Now the issue is that this acetic acid can now be synthesized in the factory from petrochemicals (chemicals from petroleum). Well, petrochemicals maybe good for your car but would you want these inside your body? Department of Health Dr. Eric Domingo said in CNN Philippines “Yun kasing synthetic acetic acid, pagginamit sa vinegar, then we consider it as adulterated product. It’s not necessarily unsafe, kaya lang ang vinegar na for human consumption sa ating batas, nakadefine siya as acetic acid from natural fermentation. “There you are, it may not be unsafe but it can be unsafe. Are you willing to take the risk?
Dr. Eric Domingo further states that “At the correct concentration, wala naman tayong alam na masamang effect ng acetic acid whether natural siya or synthetic siya. Kaya lang, hindi lang siya ang dapat component ng pagkain.” Now who will say what is the “correct concentration”? 5%? 20%? How much? One tablespoon a day? One teaspoon a day? One cup a day? DOH is not saying, DOST is not saying, DTI is not saying. Again, are you going to risk a guess?
PNRI Director Carlo Arcilla raised another issue. “Ang problema doon ay kung anong kahalo niya. When you manufacture synthetic acetic acid, there will be by-products and that will have to be taken away. Yong purity as food grade has to ascertained and also labeled in the product.” These are the risks of food processing. You don’t really know what you are getting because they don’t put every minute chemical there in the label. Somebody said that if synthetic acetic acid is used, the product should be labeled “imitation vinegar.” I agree. May we call on the Food and Drug Authority.
Why is vinegar so in demand, anyway, such that companies are shortcutting the fermentation process? Our craving for the sour taste. Hindi ka daw Pinoy kung wala kang sawsawan. Just enter any common eatery anywhere in the Philippines and you will find the familiar soy, suka, sili sawsawan. Naturally sour-tasting foods nourish the liver and gallbladder. If we crave for sour foods, it could mean that our liver and gallbladder are being stressed. Well, this is not surprising. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who have fatty liver and a lot of people, too, have had their gallbladders taken out. We are damaging our internal organs with our chemically-laden foods, meat-rich and sugary foods. We need to fix our diets. Meantime, when you crave for something sour, reach out for what God has provided (not what the factory has produced) – safeng, bakkay, lemon grass tea, sampalok, pias, lemon, calamansi and yes, organic vinegar. There are so many small-scale organic vinegar producers in our barangays producing raw sugar cane juice vinegar (sukang Iloko), rice wine vinegar, basi vinegar, banana/pineapple vinegar, etc. Make sure, though, that these local producers don’t add synthetic acetic acid to their product. Best thing to do? Ferment your own vinegar. I am sure there are a lot of recipes but what I tried is just place overripe bananas, peeled, in a glass container, close it well and let it stay there for 3 months or more and viola, you have the best-tasting vinegar! Now you are sure that your vinegar has natural acetic acid. You satisfy your craving without risking your health.
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1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you know that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

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