Ketchup – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

“Pass the ketchup, please.”
   “Would you like some ketchup with your fries?”
      “Ketchup on your burger, ma’am?”

Yes, it’s true. We Americans like to put ketchup on everything – meat, vegetables, fruit…well, I haven’t seen that one yet, but I bet someone can tell me a recipe that calls for ketchup in fruit.

Now, I am right there with you. I love my sauces and condiments! They can turn a mediocre meal into a stunning meal worth remembering. That said, I think that today we should take a closer look at America’s favorite condiment (up there with mustard, I’m sure) – ketchup. Knowledge is power, right?

Here is a picture of the back of a ketchup bottle that’s been in my refrigerator, well…probably for too long. (Sorry for the blurry picture).

Typical store-bought ketchup ingredients
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • Print Friendly

Typical store-bought ketchup ingredients

Let’s now dig into the good, the bad, and the ugly of ketchup.

The Good

  • Ketchup comes from tomatoes, and tomatoes are good for you, right? Okay, on the surface, I’m with you on this one.
  • Ketchup makes kids eat food they might not otherwise eat. Really, you know it’s true.
  • It’s easy, plain and simple! Just grab the bottle out of the refrigerator, or the little packets that restaurants fast food joints (another post for another day) so freely hand out. We all like easy.
  • Well, it just tastes good!

The Bad

Let’s take a closer look at those ingredients listed above-
Tomato concentrate
High fructose corn syrup
Corn syrup
Onion powder
Natural flavors

Tomato concentrate– This is basically taking tomatoes and cooking them down, straining them to remove seeds and skin, and cooking them again. This takes place over several hours at very high heat…essentially removing many of the good vitamins and minerals that tomatoes naturally contain.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)– This little booger of an ingredient is found in just about everything: soft drinks, salad dressing, cereal, the list goes on and on. “They” want us to believe that it’s really not that bad for us. I think I’ve even seen commercials on TV touting that very message! In fact, a quick Google search provided me with a link where “They” try to tell me that it’s actually good for me. Ahem…thank you, but I’ve done my homework.

HFCS is sugar, nothing more and nothing less. Well, that’s not exactly true. HFCS has a higher amount of fructose, which is bad. Fructose tells a part of our brains that we are hungry. So, the more HFCS we eat, the more we want to eat. HFCS popping up in pretty much every boxed item at the grocery store is being directly correlated with increasing rates of obesity and type II diabetes.

And this is the second ingredient on my bottle of ketchup, which means the amount in my ketchup is second only to tomatoes. Hmm.

Vinegar– I don’t have a lot to say about this ingredient (yet). Vinegar is actually good for a lot of things that ail you. Let’s move on.

Corn syrup– Wait a minute! Didn’t we just talk about corn syrup!? Yes, we did. This is not HFCS, but is a cousin of HFCS. So, yes…more corn syrup.

Salt– Again, a no brainer. Too much salt (most of us know) is bad for us.

Onion powder– I like onions and I like onion powder. I don’t have a (major) problem with this ingredient either (keep reading).

Spice and natural flavor– I think it’s okay to lump these together. Spice, what spice? Natural flavor? What does that mean? Honestly, I don’t know! Another quick Google search led me to the FDA where I found the following:

The term spice means any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed.

Natural flavors? According to the US Federal Code of Regulations:

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

For most people, these two ingredients are not a big issue; their introduction in our foods just leaves questions, and I like to know EXACTLY what is in my food. For those with food allergies this is a HUGE problem! The number of people with food allergies is radically increasing (again, this is another post on its own).

Whew! Okay, so that was the bad…now into…
The Ugly

Do you know what a GMO is? GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms. A what, a who!?? I am not going to bore you with all of this information right now, as you came here to learn about ketchup (I will save that for another post; meanwhile, go here to learn more now). Let’s just say that GMOs are scary, Frankenstein foods. We need to avoid them as much as we can. According to the Non-GMO Project,

Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.

So, how about the USA? GMOs are completely legal here and are actually considered “safe” by our government.

At least 70% and up to 85% (there are conflicting reports) of ALL corn grown in the USA is GMO. So, how many of the 8 ingredients in my ketchup contain corn? I can say with 99% certainty that at least 5 ingredients come from corn.

  • Tomato concentrate (not only are the tomatoes themselves are likely GMOs, this concentrate almost certainly contains citric acid meant to preserve the ketchup, which is derived from corn, because it is cheap)
  • HFCS
  • Vinegar (almost always made from rye and corn, because they are cheap)
  • Corn syrup
  • Salt (standard table salt is iodized, which means it contains dextrose, which means it is derived from corn)

I am willing to bet that onion powder also contains corn (calcium silicate is the typical anti-caking agent found in many spices, which is derived from corn) and there’s a possibility (we just don’t know!) that spices and natural flavors also contain corn.

Remember, up to 80% of our corn is GMO corn. That is why I say this is the ugly part about ketchup. It is very likely that out of the 8 ingredients in my ketchup, 8 contain corn, therefore containing GMOs.

So, how is that bottle of ketchup (err corn, sugar, & GMOs) treating you (& your family)???

Alright, I just went all doomsday there on you…explaining that our good old “friend” ketchup is basically a bottle of sugar and GMO corn.

Never Fear! I have solutions! 🙂

I am working on a homemade ketchup. It is not ready yet, but it will be easy, tasty, and good for you. I’ll share the recipe just as soon as it is ready. If you are ready to go home and throw your store-bought ketchup away (like me!), then read on. Below are two tried and true ketchup recipes from two of my favorite fellow foodie bloggers. 🙂 I will keep you posted regarding when my homemade ketchup recipe is ready.

Homemade Mommy (also found on FB here) has an easy, delicious, and very good for you fermented ketchup here.

Wellness Mama (also found on FB here) has a tasty recipe here. It is a bit more involved, but well worth it. Tons of flavor!

Until next time…keep reading those labels!

Jess, aka Scratch Mommy

This post was shared at– Wellness WednesdaysFight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fat Tuesday.

Comments 11

    1. Of course! You and a few other *real* food bloggers have helped me change my life…literally! I have to give credit where credit is due.

      Thank you for all that you do to teach others, including me, everyday. 🙂

  1. Great post and very timely considering the Wellness Wednesday challenge for the month is to eliminate sugar! Thank you so much for sharing this. It was not until very recently (when I found out 2 of my boys have a corn allergy) I found out that white vinegar is made from corn I’m glad you mentioned it here. Maybe one of these days it will be easier to purchase corn-free products.

  2. This is funny because my son, who is almost 2, loves ketchup with his eggs almost every day and if I give him his fruit first instead of after, he dips his peaches in it and says, “Yum!”

  3. It is so sad that huge food industries feed us all these horrible things (high fructose corn syrup, GMOS!!!!) and then try and convince us they really are good for us… I’ve been buying organic ketchup for as long as I can remember because it *tastes* better. Now that I know about everything in ketchup I am so glad that I’ve been buying organic all these years. Unfortunately, for some people it’s more important to make a lot of money than to be honest and truthful about what is really in the food millions of people are consuming.

  4. Ketchup
    (Vegan, Corn Free, Refined Sugar Free)

    Total making time: 10 minutes

    Serves: 8 (4.5 cups)

    4 cans/jars (6 oz each – 3 cups) of Organic Tomato Paste (or make your own)
    1 cup of water
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)4 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (or 1 teaspoon stevia powder)
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
    A pinch of each of the following to taste: Cayenne Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves
    2 teaspoons chia seeds (for thickness)

    1. Put the ingredients in a blender like the VITAMIX and blend well.
    2. Pour into a glass or container and store in the fridge. Let flavors mesh together overnight for great flavor.

    They recommend 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator but use your own discretion by sense of smell! More info go to

    I make meals and things from this site it it awesome.

  5. Pingback: adelaide hills b&b

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *