The search for additive free stock begins with the start of winter approaching. The cooler warmer brings a desire for comfort food and warm hearty meals. You will often find soups, stews and casseroles frequenting the winter menu. The basis of many of these meals requires stock.
Have you seen the sheer number of stocks on the supermarket shelves? No wonder I hear that our community members are feeling overwhelmed! I’ve decided to help you navigate these.
I have reviewed 70 different stocks!
Much more than I expected when I undertook the exercise. I know that I haven’t got ALL of them either.
This guide is NOT an exhaustive list of all the stocks on the market.
There are so many different types of stocks depending on your preference. We enter the world of cubes, powders, concentrates and liquids. When I was little I only remember Mum using the stock cubes. I doubt we had the sheer volume of options available to us today.
I would love to know what the ingredients were of the stock cubes back then. Were they the same as they are now? Have they progressively removed more real ingredients as time goes on. The pressure to increase profits is always mounting. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing. That information isn’t kept anywhere for the public to see.
Anyway lets get to it…
I have also included bone broths, powders and concentrates in the review too.
On my search for additive free stock I reviewed 70 different products and examined over 200 different ingredients.
That is an ENORMOUS amount of ingredients.
Before we get into what stock is better to buy to save you time, I’d like to draw your attention to what should be the typical ingredients of a stock.
Meat (and or bones)
perhaps some oil too.
Examples of the ingredients I came across in the review
– water or filtered water
– Organic meat and / or bones
– meat fat (beef, chicken)
– meat powders
– meat extracts
– meat concentrates
– Organic or conventional
– Dehydrated veges
– Vegetable powders
Herbs and spices
– Apple cider vinegar
– Reconstituted lemon juice / powder
Sugar (not an ingredient you will typically find in home made stocks)
– Organic sugar
– Cane sugar
– Caramelised sugar syrups
– Himalayan, WA Lake salt, Southern Ocean sea salt
– Iodised salt
– Organic oils
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Sunflower oil
– Canola oil
– Vegetable oil
– Palm fat
– Vegetable fat
– Organic flours (rice and corn)
– Rice, Wheat
– Wheat fibre
– Potato flour
– Potato starch
– Corn starch
It’s really interesting when you see the range of ingredients used isn’t it?
Then the sneaky tactics start:
Caramel colours feature heavily. You will also see burnt sugar and caramelised sugar (wheat). Does this raise alarm bells for anyone? Since when does caramelised sugar come from wheat?
Burnt sugar is an interesting one too. Burnt sugar is sold by flavour houses. It is generally used for flavour, however it does have a light to dark brown colour. The added bonus? You don’t need to say your product contains colours. For those that have been in the AFK community for some time, we know that natural colours can be just as problematics as synthetic colours.
Stocks made with real ingredients don’t need colours or burnt sugar.
Thankfully very few stocks contained traditional preservatives (ie 220 and 224). However, Rosemary extract (and its various names) appeared in many of the cleaner products. Rosemary extract was approved by the FSANZ as an additive 392. It is used for its antioxidant properties and as a preservative.
What most people don’t know is how the rosemary extract is extracted. It is usually extracted using acetone or other solvent methods. Reviewing some of FSANZs reasonings when approving this additive was interesting. Rosemary has been used in cooking for hundreds of years with no harm. How about looking at the actual process of extraction? I expect those of us that are highly sensitive to this ingredient are reacting to the method that it has been extracted.
Bonus for manufacturers, the product sounds clean, acts as a preservative and an antioxidant and there is no requirement to list it as a preservative.
In my review I came across a few gums:
– Vegetable gum
– Xanthan gum
– Locust bean gum
I urge you to think why are these gums in these products? You will see the products that have been ranked Best have no need for gums. Are these gums there for your benefit or the manufacturers?
Flavours and extracts
This is where its all happening!
Over 23 different flavours, flavour enhancers and extracts were used over the 70 products I reviewed. We had the industry heavy weights such as MSG and its cousins, Hydrolysed vegetable proteins, Yeast extracts, Natural Flavours, Flavours and Extracts galore.
Why are all these used?
I can tell you, in some products where they featured heavily, the product contained very few ingredients. The real ingredients I did find were water, sugar and salt. The rest were flavour enhancers. No real meat. No real vegetables. Who needs that when you have something that is ‘identical’ in taste for a fraction of the cost?
For those that are long time followers of AFK you will have heard me talk about yeast extracts, MSG, HVP, flavours. For people that are highly sensitive to MSG these are all additives you would want to avoid.
Ok….lets move on…I know you are dying to see the results of the review.
This guide ranks the stocks and broths according to additive impact. These are NOT all additive free!
In fact, I would suggest that 80% of these have some form of additive in them. Saying that….some additives are worse than others.
You will see that the Stocks and Bone Broths are categorised into four categories: Avoid, OK, Better and Best.
These stocks contain some or all of the following ingredients: flavours, extracts, colours, thickeners, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, gums and preservatives.
These stocks still contain some or all of the following ingredients: extracts, thickeners, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, gums and highly processed ingredients.
These stocks / bone broths may still contain rosemary extract (or equivalents), undeclared ingredients or highly processed ingredients.
These stocks / bone broths are completely clean and free of additives.
STOCKS / BONE BROTH – AVOID
STOCKS / BONE BROTHS – OK
STOCKS / BONE BROTHS – BETTER
STOCKS / BONE BROTHS – BEST
ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS FROM MY REVIEW – LOOKING FOR ADDITIVE FREE STOCK / BONE BROTH
- Look out for the word “Style” on packaging.
This should be a red warning to you. What I found is that when you are looking at “Chicken style” usually you will not find any chicken in the product. It will contain flavours and extracts, but not chicken. By saying “Chicken Style” they aren’t misleading anyone. They never said it was “Chicken”
- Just because a product is organic it doesn’t mean it is additive free or free from ultra processed ingredients
There were quite a few organic products that still contained yeast extracts and / or flavours. Definitely ingredients we always recommend avoiding for our sensitive AFK community.
- Look at which order the ingredients appear on the ingredients label
In conducting this review, I must say sometimes I really felt angry. That customers that don’t know better are being duped. The first ingredient listed first is the biggest quantity of ingredient in that product. In some of the AVOID products, you will see a range of ingredients such as salt, sugar, maltodextrin, yeast extract before you even get to the veges. If you look at the ingredients in the BEST category, you will see that the very first ingredients ARE vegetables!
In short, keep in mind the following tips when buying additive free stocks / bone broths.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE – the simpler the better!
- Avoid flavourings – flavour enhancers, yeast extracts, extracts, MSG..
- Avoid colours – caramels, burnt sugar
- Avoid preservatives – usual 200 numbers or rosemary extract
Please let me know if this has been helpful for you. Share any thoughts you may have. Share with friends if found it useful. Let me know, if you will be changing how you vote with your dollar going forward.
Don’t forget that we have the Additive Free Advocates Membership that has been built for you to find additive free products that have been screened for you, to save time!
Manufacturers regularly change their ingredients. For the most up to date information on rankings, ingredients and product reviews, I invite you to join us in the Additive Free Advocates Membership – you can find out more here.
If you would like to be kept up to date with the latest news, product reviews and giveaways come and join us in the Additive Free Kids email list.
Frankie Bell is the Managing Director of Additive Free Kids, a food coach, mentor and is one of Australia’s leading activists against additives in foods.
Frankie is a mum to 5 boys and has personal experience working through the damaging effects of additives to resolve the multiple health issues and behavioural problems in her own children. It became Frankie’s purpose to help other families achieve the same improvements for their families.
These changes can be overwhelming, especially for time poor parents, Frankie has done all the hard work for families to ensure they have access to additive free food, anytime, anywhere. Additive Free Kids specialises in assisting families to live healthy lives free from additives. See how you can work together with Frankie here.