Brand new science series Food Unwrapped explores how our food is really made and the industry secrets behind our favourite produce.
This eight-part series is presented by a new team of reporters - Matt Tebbutt, James Watt and Martin Dickie, and Kate Quilton - who travel the globe to discover just how the food we love is mass produced.
Food Unwrapped contacts supermarkets and producers with simple questions about the food we buy - What's the wax on my lemons?; What are the bacteria in my Probiotics? or What is formed ham? If they can't explain it, the gang of hungry detectives stop at nothing to find out, travelling to the food producers who supply the supermarkets to investigate - from Liverpool to Swaziland, and Thailand to Spain.
Taking the cameras behind the doors of factories worldwide, the inquisitive food lovers meet food technicians, scientists, factory owners, growers and producers. On the journey to get their answers, they report back on some truly amazing places, and most importantly, reveal weird and wonderful facts we never knew about our food.
An 'honorary Welshman' since the age of six months, Chef Matt Tebbutt is passionate about British cuisine, seasonal produce and getting back to nature.
After graduating from the prestigious Leith's School of Food & Wine in London, Matt landed a traineeship with Marco Pierre White, followed by a stint of classic French cooking at Chez Bruce. Moving on to work for his hero Alistair Little, he picked up tips on high-quality, rustic cooking and seasonal ingredients. In 2001, Matt and his wife Lisa took over The Foxhunter pub in Nantyderry, South Wales, turning it into an award-winning restaurant with a daily-changing menu featuring recipes using Matt's foraging finds.
As well as working hard in the kitchen, Matt has presented Drop Down Menu on Channel 4 with Gizzi Erskine, Market Kitchen on the Good Food Channel and appeared on The Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen for the BBC.
Kate has worked in journalism and broadcasting for seven years, is big into food - and more specifically, what's actually in it. Kate landed her first reporter job for ITV West while she was still a student and went on to work as a Broadcast Journalist in Somerset for the BBC, spending a lot of her time with farmers, and reporting mostly on food.
Kate will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of what's on your dinner plate. Whilst at university, she undertook a student equivalent of Morgan Spurlock's 'Super Size Me', she ate kebabs for one week - breakfast, lunch and dinner. The stunt was picked up by a national paper.
When she's not finding out about what's in your fridge, Kate is one of Channel 4's youngest commissioning editors. She has run the online editorial for some of the Channel's biggest shows and now manages Factual multiplatform commissions including The Food Hospital and Foxes Live.
James Watt and Martin Dickie
Martin and James are two friends who have a mutual passion - Beer. Bored of the industrially-brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the UK market, they decided the best way to fix this was to brew their own beers, and in April 2007 their own brewery, BrewDog, was born. They use that same passion and their discerning palettes to investigate what's in our food.
Prod Co: Ricochet
Exec Prods: Simon Knight, Edward Levan
Series Prod: Daniel Barry
Comm Ed: Jill Fullerton-Smith
In the series finale, our food enthusiasts find out how much cream is in ice cream and to discover if there is any other fat in our frozen treats. We love smoked haddock but how do you smoke cheese, sausages and crisps? Matt Tebbutt travels to Sweden to see smoke without fire.
Matt Tebbutt sees that many smoked fish specialists use traditional smoking chimneys to rack up fish like haddock. Techniques like this have been used for hundreds of years but how do food manufacturers smoke products like sausages, cheese, crisps and sauces? Sweden's Stensåkra Charkuteri & Deli - one of Europe's most respected independent producers of smoked foods - reveal they use Liquid Smoke to flavour their sausages, spraying them in huge sealed chambers. This method is cheaper, quicker and allows the food industry to tailor flavours more effectively. Food Scientist Rachel Edwards Stuart makes home-made liquid smoke with Martin and James in her kitchen - pumping smoke into an iced glass, making it condense into a liquid.
The team ask the customer helplines how much cream is in ice cream but they don't seem know. Contrary to what we think, there doesn't have to be any cream in ice cream. The Food Standards Agency requires that ice cream need only contain 2.5% milk protein and 5% of any kind of fat. This rarely comes from any fresh ingredient and vegetable fats are one of the most commonly used. As none of the big ice cream companies would let Food Unwrapped in, Matt meets Reading University's Dr Alistair Grandison of the School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy - a scientist who has created an equivalent of a traditional old ice cream factory on campus as part of his research. He makes ice cream with vegetable fats for Matt to try. Meanwhile, Martin and James head to Brighton beach with an old fashioned ice cream bicycle adorned with banners saying ‘Ice Vegetable Oil'. What will the public make of this product and how will they respond when they find out it is ice cream but that vegetable oil is a key ingredient - not cream?
In this seventh episode of Food Unwrapped, Kate travels from Essex to Holland to try and find out how sandwich manufacturers stop our packet tomato sarnies from going soggy. And the team investigate how strawberry flavoured foods really get their strawberry flavour.
Kate starts at one of the UK's most innovative sandwich factories, supplying shops, hospitals, the House of Commons, even Buckingham Palace - who surely wouldn't stand for soggy sandwiches. The sandwiches are cut by a sonic laser to ensure the perfect slice, with clever spreading of margarine and layering of ingredients to stop moisture leakage. But the real revelation is that they use a tomato which has been specially bred to stop soggy sandwiches. The Intense Tomato, launched in 2007, is very firm, with few seeds, and makes hardly any juice when squeezed, but is incredibly tasty and a deep red colour. Kate travels to one of Holland's largest tomato growers who grow Intense Tomatoes hydroponically in vast greenhouses so big you need a bike to get around inside them. And in the Dutch labs and greenhouses where the Intense Tomato came from and where it is still evolving with the latest science, Kate discovers that this hybrid tomato took 10 years to develop, using the very latest cross-pollination and plant DNA technology. The investigation reveals all the little-known work that goes into stopping the humble sandwich from going soggy.
Strawberry flavour is one of the most popular around - in yoghurts, sweets, drinks and cakes. Matt and food scientist Rachel Edwards Stuart try to make strawberry yoghurt with the average amount of strawberries in supermarket's own brands - 10% - but it totally lacks flavour. Martin Dickie visits the huge Nestle factory that makes Fruit Pastilles to ask how they get the strawberry pastilles so strawberry-ish and discovers that a six-times-concentrated strawberry flavour and strawberry oils are the key. But they both contain some strawberries, meaning the factory can put a picture of a strawberry on the packet. Kate visits a flavour expert and finds out that there can be up to 200 different chemical compounds in a strawberry flavour - one of the most complex around. But a good strawberry flavour can contain just five or six compounds, which can also include the smell of freshly mown grass, the taste of butter and a touch of peaches. The flavour expert makes a concoction for Kate, but it's far too strong to taste - just 0.1 gram would go into a 125 gram pot of yoghurt.
In this sixth episode of Food Unwrapped, Kate Quilton heads to Spain to find out how pure-squeezed, not-from-concentrate orange juice is really made - and how ‘fresh' it really is. The team then travel around the UK to find out what is used to replace the fat in low fat mayonnaise, and discover it's a bacteria which usually grows on rotting cabbages.
Kate first visits a large orange grove in Valencia where the workers are harvesting. She squeezes fresh orange straight from the tree, and realises it tastes very different to ‘fresh' supermarket juice. She then heads to one of Europe's largest orange juice factories to follow how they cleverly ‘disassemble' an orange into its three core components: juice; oils and essences; and cells - the tiny sacks in each segment of orange.
The juice is pasteurised, then de-oxygenated to avoid decomposition, and stored in 40-million-litre tanks for up to two years. The cells are frozen in 200 litre drums. And along with the oils and essences, are all then sold separately on to the big juice companies and the factories supplying supermarket brands - who then blend them according to their own specific formulas to guarantee that their juice always tastes the same, with the same specific texture. This is how the majority of pure squeezed not-from-concentrate is made. The juice manufacturers are not permitted to add anything which is not from an orange, or any chemicals, or even extra water. But they can blend different varieties of oranges.
Mayonnaise is almost all fat. So how do you make a low fat, or ‘light' version? Matt and food scientist Rachel Edward Stuart first try to make low fat mayo at home, with disastrous results. Matt then visits a mayonnaise factory and discovers they use a ‘slurry' containing ‘gums', which replaces the fat.
To find out what this slurry is, James meets a scientist at Warwick University, who reveals that one of the key ingredients is Xantham Gum. This originates from bacteria which causes black rot on cabbages and is common in many foodstuffs as it's a great replacement for fat. Kate visits a specialist ingredient supplier, to find out more about this mysterious food additive.
In this fifth episode, the team head to Thailand to find out what seafood is in our seafood sticks, and then discover how British wine is really made, in Spain.
Kate travels to Thailand to visit a seafood stick factory and sees that the production techniques are incredible. But even more intriguing than the clever machines used, are the giant frozen blocks of fish which are used as the key ingredient. Kate is told these are surimi - which is a ‘white fish protein'. Martin visits a surimi factory in France, which is actually a floating factory ship. He learns that surimi is made from fillets of white fish and is based on an ancient Japanese fish processing technique. James and food scientist Rachel Edwards Stuart make their own seafood sticks, showing how surimi producers isolate the desired proteins from white fish, and revealing some of the very clever processing aids used to manufacture them - including transglutaminase, a bonding enzyme known as Meat Glue, which is also a favourite of experimental molecular gastronomy chefs.
Confusingly, there are two types of domestically produced wines - British and English. British wine is much cheaper, so what's the difference? Some supermarket helplines think that British wines are made with grapes grown in vineyards here in the UK, however when Kate heads to Norfolk and Huddersfield, home of two of the major British wine producers, she cannot find any ‘British wine' vineyards. Matt meets a professor of wine, who tells him that British wines are made with concentrated grape juice imported from Spain and just fermented and bottled here - there are no ‘British wine' vineyards. English wine, however, has to come from grapes cultivated here.
Matt then heads to Spain to meet one of their biggest grape juice concentrators, who supply to the British wine manufacturers. But what will these guys make of the British wine which they provide grape concentrate for?
In the fourth episode, the team of presenters head to South Africa and Spain to find out what the difference is between green and black olives, and then journey around Great Britain to find out what goes in to beer during processing - and why it's not all listed in the ingredients.
Chef Matt Tebbutt starts off travelling to South Africa, to visit one of the country's largest olive orchards in the Western Cape. He learns that black olives are riper green olives, but both are too bitter off the tree and need a year's soaking in brine to make them edible. Yet this process does not produce shiny jet black olives often found in pizza and salads. South west of Madrid, Spain, Kate learns there is a faster, mass-producing method of processing - by using caustic soda to soften the olives - a substance also used as drain cleaner in higher concentrations. The caustic soda is then washed off with brine. She is finally shown how mass production factories make super black olives; by churning green olives in huge tanks with water and the chemical Ferrous Gluconate - accelerating the natural oxidisation process and turning them black. Heat sterilising in the jars finally delivers those shiny jet black olives we consume in the millions every year.
Is it really just water, hops, barley and wheat in beer? Without access to the plants of major breweries, Matt visits a micro-brewery and learns that seaweed is put into the beer during the early stages of processing. He travels to Ireland where a seaweed harvester explains that seaweed is a processing aid - helping make the beer clearer. Whilst exploring how seaweed is processed at a specialist supplier in Nottingham, Kate spots also spots a container of Isinglass in the warehouse. They reveal Isinglass is actually crushed up fish's swim bladders - used in the final stages for ultimate clarity. Matt secures access to a small brewery near Belfast to learn how in most lagers and beers, the powdered swim bladders and seaweed are filtered out before canning, but in some cask ales, the powdered swim bladders are left in the keg which travels to the pub. So why aren't these interesting ‘processing aids' not listed as ingredients?
The third episode of Food Unwrapped explores how prawns are intensively farmed in Thailand, and discovers why there are often so few wild mushrooms in our wild mushroom soups.
Many of the prawns we buy are labelled as farmed. Kate Quilton travels to Thailand - the world's biggest producer of farmed prawns - to get a sense of the scale of the industry. She sees how 1500 peelers at a large factory process over 600 prawns an hour, and millions a month, by hand. But she also discovers that a large prawn farm, who say they supply some top British supermarkets, is nowhere near the sea. In fact it's 20 miles inland. Back in the UK, James Watt meets a marine biology professor, who reveals that the farms are just stations where prawns are brought to grow. The really surprising stuff happens at the breeding centres. Kate travels to one of these usually secretive commercial hatcheries and comes across one of the biggest secrets of the global prawn industry. Has she stumbled upon the shocking technique which allows this industry to intensively breed billions of prawns every year?
How can soup manufacturers claim we're eating Wild Mushroom Soup - containing just 0.9% wild mushrooms? Matt Tebbutt meets a professional wild mushroom forager in the woods of West Sussex, who sniffs out a wild mushroom ring and explains that wild mushrooms need host trees so cannot be farmed on the scale the supermarkets need. Luckily, a meeting with a supplier of wild mushrooms to the food industries reveals that wild mushrooms are very strong-flavoured. So are our Wild Mushroom Soups wild enough? To verify this, Martin Dickie heads to Trading Standards to ask how food producers can get away with putting under 1% wild mushrooms in a wild mushroom product.
In the second episode, chef Matt Tebbutt and reporter Kate Quilton head to Spain and Thailand to find out exactly what that wax on our lemons is, and Matt discovers what formed ham really is here in the UK.
The quest to find out what many producers wax our lemons with begins in Spain, one of Europe's biggest producers of lemons. Kate travels to Murcia, one of the main lemon growing regions of the country, while Matt travels to Valencia to visit a fruit wax manufacturer. Kate visits a large lemon grove and processing factory to see how lemons are waxed using clever technology - although at that stage she realises it does not taste great. Meanwhile at the wax factory in Valencia, Matt discovers that, alongside ammonia and polyethylene (or plastic), one of the key ingredients in many fruit waxes is a substance called Shellac - which can be found in Thailand. Lucky Kate travels to Sukothai in the far the north of Thailand to meet Shellac pickers on a Shellac farm. She is taken in to the jungle to discover that Shellac is actually made from a waste product. But which jungle critter does this wax come from?
Many packets of supermarket sliced ham say they are Formed Ham - even with differently cooked hams like Wiltshire Cured, Honey Roast or the supermarket's pedigree brand. Matt travels around the UK to find out what the difference is between this product and ham off the bone. He finds his answers at a large ham processing factory in South London. From chemical injections, to cures using the same mineral found in some explosives, Matt uncovers a surprising set of production methods behind the tasty and convenient cured ham we love.
In the first episode, Kate travels to Swaziland to find out just how they get tinned grapefruit segments so perfectly peeled, and Matt discovers in Finland, exactly what the bacteria are in Probiotics.