The Gypsum Files

Notes on the Rock Nobody Knows

The food additive nobody knows

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Did you know that gypsum is used in foods we eat every day? You might be surprised to hear that you’re eating rocks, but consider salt. Like gypsum, salt is a sedimentary rock — specifically, an evaporite, meaning that it is created by the evaporation of water. We use salt in some form every day, but unless we’re putting rock salt on our sidewalk, or growing salt crystals for a science project, we think of it more as a seasoning than as a rock or mineral.

Gypsum doesn’t sit on our tables in little shakers, but it does have dozens of culinary uses. This article from the Gypsum Association mentions a few:

  • dough strengthener
  • flour treating agent
  • leavening agent
  • nutrient supplement
  • pH control agent
  • stabilizer and thickener
  • synergist

The article goes on to state that the FDA permits gypsum to be used in “baked goods, confections and frostings, frozen dairy desserts, gelatins, puddings, pasta, and other food categories.” It’s also used to make tofu, beer, and wine.

Remember when we almost lost Twinkies to bankruptcy? Twinkies contain gypsum. Check out the table of contents for Twinkie, Deconstructed. There it is: Chapter 23, “Calcium Sulfate.” That’s gypsum!

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Written by Elizabeth McCullough

April 22, 2014 at 8:00 am

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