What is liquid smoke

Liquid smoke: smoking without wood deceives consumers

With the blessing of the EU, meat, sausage and cheese producers can now save themselves the time-consuming smoking with wood. Liquid flavors give artificial smoke flavor.

ROßBACH Artificial smoke around the sausage stinks a lot. Erwin Kettl (52): “The craft has absolutely nothing to do with liquid smoke”, the butcher's guild master from Roßbach shakes his head. He equips the smoker with beech wood pellets, while senior partner Erwin Kettl (76) lights the wood with a gas burner and makes it glow. It is a tradition here to make the meat more durable by smoking.

The meat was marinated in garlic, juniper and salt for three weeks before it went into the oven. The Surfleisch stays in the smokehouse for four days at 58 degrees before it goes into the store as "Lower Bavarian smoked meat". In industrial production with artificial smoke aromas, the process is done in ten to 15 minutes.

This means that industry can produce “smoked” goods at lower costs, says master butcher Erwin Kettl jun. The butcher finds it particularly perfidious when meat is first blackened over an open fire and then treated with a smoke flavor.

The desire of consumers for foods that are as natural as possible does not seem to impress the European Union - otherwise extremely petty when it comes to cucumber curvature and apple sizes. When it comes to hygiene regulations, the EU is pushing the trade, says Obermeister Kettl, and the Brussels authorities are generous when it comes to smoke aromas.

After another review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), certain smoke flavors meet the highest standards and are no longer classified as potentially harmful. For years, consumer advocates had seen mutagenic and cancer-causing substances in certain smoke aromas. The manufacturer of the flavors has dispelled these concerns, said Brigitte Ahrens from the Lower Saxony consumer center in Hanover. Nevertheless, the nutrition expert is grimacing: "Anyone who advertises sausage treated with liquid aromas as being smoked is legal consumer deception," explains Ahrens.

Certain types of smoking would always have served the purpose of achieving a preservative effect. According to the expert, this effect does not apply to artificial aromas. Smoke aromas are now also appearing where no one suspects them: “The list of ingredients on the packaging of chips or pizza is for sale,” observes Brigitte Ahrens.

Despite the approval by the EU authorities, some discount chains are already responding to consumers' wishes for natural foods and no artificial flavors on the table. Critical discussions about ingredients or additives are taken into account in the cooperation with the suppliers, says Kirsten Geß, Head of Communication at ALDI Süd. "For this reason, there are only a few products in our range that have been treated with liquid smoke - even if this complies with the legal requirements."

A clear message from ALDI South: “Together with our suppliers, we are trying to reduce this number further.” A spokeswoman for ALDI North even announced that “suppliers have been obliged to use only a traditional smoking process with beech wood smoke or beech wood smoke when manufacturing smoked products . To use fir wood smoke ".

“In the private label and REAL master butcher shop, only items that are manufactured without liquid smoke or smoke aromas are sold,” said a spokeswoman for the METRO Group (Düsseldorf). In the sausage area of ​​the REAL hypermarkets, there was a clear decline in the use of liquid smoke, so that almost all items are produced by traditional smoking, ”said METRO as well.

At Lidl and Kaufland (both Neckarsulm), the press spokesman refer to a statement by the Bundesverband der Deutschen Fleischwarenindustrie e. V. (Bonn), who defends the use of smoke aromas. At Coop (Kiel) it says succinctly: "We do not comment on the reasons for choosing the production method."

The lobbying work of the flavor manufacturers in Brussels has had its effect on the implementation of the Smoke Flavor Directive: "We have worked closely with the Commission and the members of the Standing Committee on Food Safety," says Red Arrow Handels-GmbH (Bremen) German manufacturer of artificial smoke flavors, openly in a press release.

"We conveyed the benefits of smoke flavorings for food safety and explained the difference between using it as a flavoring and using it as a complete replacement for traditional wood smoking."

The Federal Association of the German Meat Industry e. V. (Bonn) even sees itself as a pioneer in terms of environmental protection: "Since the use of smoke aromas makes it unnecessary to operate smoking systems, smoke aromas avoid the emissions that occur with conventional processes." Association.

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