For the past few months I was dealing with what I thought was a new allergy to milk products, commonly known as being Lactose Intolerant. It’s my understanding that people with this stomach and bowel issue can have symptoms ranging from mild stomach upset to severe diarrhea. And by severe diarrhea, I mean where all the contents of your stomach and bowel seem to change to a watery substance and it pours out of you within minutes of having a reaction. In my case it was the latter. For me there is no feeling of my stomach turning inside-out like when you have the flu, but simply a noticeable and extreme stomach gurgling, and a need to find a toilet. Followed by intense dehydration, and shock that your body actually had that much water inside it to void. When it’s over you feel like you were a sponge that was wrung out.
In my case this allergy seemed inconsistent. As I didn’t have a reaction to every dairy product I drank or ate. But to be safe I switched to the more expensive diary replacements for milk and cream, stopped eating cheese, and was even watching the ingredients in everything I ate for dairy ingredients. After a few weeks of this my general health seemed no better or worse, yet I still had one or two episodes of stomach problems.
Since my dairy replacements didn’t seem to solve the problem, I jumped off the dairy wagon and went back to milk, cream and cheese as normal. I then had two more these allergy attacks within a week and a half. After careful thought, I narrowed it down to one of my dairy replacements, fake whip cream, generic Cool Whip. One reaction was to fake whip on store bought pie, and the other to fake whip on homemade cake.
Examining the ingredients of the Safeway no-name Cool Whip, one ingredient stood out from all the rest, something called Polysorbate 60. So I did a quick search online to see what this was, and was amazed at the list of hits from complaints and comments about similar situations and warnings.
So what is Polysorbate 60? Apparently is an emulsifier. As I understand it, to bind together oil and water based substances in food products.
I next went through my kitchen and read the ingredients on every single food product I own. In my kitchen I found this chemical in all forms of pickles and in sweet relish. And I instantly realized that pickles had been giving me an upset stomach, but till then I had assumed it was simply a lower tolerance to vinegar. And the last time I had relish was at the lake this past summer, and I had stomach problems after eating a hamburger with this relish on it.
I also had a reaction after an ice cream on a stick treat one day. At the time I had no idea to link it to Polysorbate 60. But I recently went to to the grocery store and read the ingredients of numerous processed ice cream desserts (including the one in question) and found that it like many others contained Polysorbate 60. To date, I have not seen it listed on a frozen yogurt package, so extra points for the frozen yogurt industry.
Between my consistent extreme reactions to fake whip within minutes, and online reports of other people with the same type of reaction to Polysorbate 60, and the careful review of all the other ingredients in the fake whip that seem to be in other foods I eat with no reaction, and my reaction to pickles and relish, I think it’s safe to diagnose that I personally have an extreme allergy to Polysorbate 60.
So if you find you have similar inconsistent stomach problems to processed dairy products or store bought pickles, you might want to check the ingredient list for Polysorbate 60, and make sure you black list it from your life.
FYI, there is a sister chemical used in food production called Polysorbate 80. I have no personal experience with this one, but since it is apparently similar in chemical composition and use, I would avoid it as well.
Safeway brand frozen whipped dessert topping ingredients.
Bulk chemical image from Google search.