There’s a new beverage on the Indian market (new to Vizag anyway), imported from Thailand, called SAPPE ALOE VERA DRINK. It comes in four flavours, grape, apple, lime and peach. We all know the wonderful natural medicinal properties of aloe vera from healing wounds, scars, sunburn to boosting immunity, digestion and metabolic activity. I’m a huge fan of aloe vera but is this SAPPE drink, with aloe vera cubes all that it’s cranked up to be…
About six months ago I kept getting sick – fever, coughs, colds, severe body and joint aches. If a person sneezed next to me, the next day I’d be down with whatever they had. I turned to PURE aloe vera juice as I was convinced my immune system was the problem here. It’s ridiculously expensive, at Rs.300 for 600ml. And the stuff tastes foul. But I religiously downed a cap full a day (you get used to the taste, like waxing, you get used to the pain) and I don’t know whether it was the aloe vera or something else but I haven’t had any ailments for a very long time.
Aloe vera juice is widely available in Indian stores (Karachiwala/Spencers in Vizag) but choose the one with the highest concentration of aloe vera (99%). You probably have it growing in your garden too and you can snap off a leaf and use the gel on cuts, rashes, eczema to great effect. The ancient Indian system of ayurvedic medicine which goes back to at least the mid-second milennium BCE (bronze age times) definitely needs no resurgence but is getting one in the abundance of aloe products (juice, gels, face wash).
Yesterday the DH brought home an aloe based juice I’ve not seen before. It’s called SAPPE Aloe Vera Drink. We had the grape flavour. And when chilled it tastes nothing like pure aloe vera juice and very plesantly of grape. It has these transcluscent pure aloe vera cubes which is like clear tasteless jelly.Now for my doubts. How on earth could they make the foul tasting aloe vera so damn refreshing and tasty? I flipped over the bottle to check out what makes it so and there were 2 E numbers I wasnt’ so thrilled about. Apart from the sucrose and fructose (which probably makes the juice more palatable) there was E211 – Sodium Benzoate and E 300 (Vitamin C). E300 is fine but the combination of the two is not ideal.
E211 is widely used in beverages for it’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungoidal properties as a preservative. It’s made by neutralizing benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide. And if I’ve lost you already, all you need to know is that while benzoic acid naturally occurs in very low levels in cranberries, apples, cinnamon., the combination of ascorbic acid (a form of Vitamin C) or E300 and E211 (Sodium Benzoate) form benzene which is a known carcinogen. Ascorbic acid is an approved food additive by the US FDA, in certain quantities of course.
But the reaction to form benzene is more likely to occur if the product has been on the shelf for a while and exposed to light. Considering this is India where kirana shops tend to have old dusty products on their shelves and given the high heat we are experiencing, all i’m saying is to check the manufacture date and the combination of E numbers in the products you buy and proceed with caution. I don’t mean to be scaremongering but because we live so far away from any big shops our intake of foods which contain E numbers (crisps, instant foods, tetra pak juices) is very very limited. If we lived closer to civilization this wouldn’t be the case. I guess that’s the reason for my sudden shock at seeing E numbers on a health drink.
Did I mention the drink costs a whopping Rs65 for 300ml… The only good thing is that it’s so expensive you won’t be ingesting too many potential carcinogens from this drink.