Ketchup: is it a sauce or a medicine?

Ketchup is one of the favorite foods to season different gastronomic preparations. For decades, with the fast food trend, it became the inevitable accompaniment. In the United States, it is one of the favorite foods. However, although it is the country where it is most consumed, it was not their creation and it was not always a food.

Ketchup is sold in bottles and sachets

Ketchup and its history

Ketchup was born in China, approximately in the 17th century. Its name derives from ke-tsiap. However, the original recipe has nothing to do with the one we know today. They prepared it based on an anchovy sauce and its color was caramel-like. In the 19th century, the English came to China and added tomatoes to the sauce. It should be remembered that in the 1800s, the tomato was considered poisonous, even though it was a very popular food in Italy and Spain.

Ketchup label
Old ketchup label – Image: Computer Hoy

Until 1834, Dr. John Cook Bennet recommended tomatoes to cure diarrhea, gastritis and other pathologies of the digestive system. He even published a book of recipes that included ketchup as a medicinal food.

They promoted it as a medicine

In 1837, a merchant of the time, Archibald Miles, was trying to convince people that ketchup was good for health and even necessary. He marketed it as a tomato extract that cured everything from athlete’s foot to baldness. However, like many false doctors of that time, his project failed.

Thus, the sauce was almost forgotten until 1876 when FJ Heinz launched the product again on the market. He highlighted its antioxidant properties, emphasizing its lycopene content, which is indeed present in tomatoes naturally.

Old ketchup label. Image: Instagram:@brainjunkpodcast

To further highlight its medicinal properties, Heinz carried out advertising campaigns that would not be allowed today. In these advertisements, he promoted the need to consume ketchup to reduce cholesterol or to help cure prostate cancer.

In addition, Heinz funded studies at universities to certify the healthy benefits of lycopene. The United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) prohibited such campaigns. In this way, he was prevented from advertising the medicinal properties of ketchup and lycopene, since there was no scientific evidence that it was beneficial for health.

From that point on, Heinz modified the recipe, and began selling the ketchup as a food. Over the years, Americans embraced ketchup as the quintessential American sauce and loved it. Although, to sweeten the ketchup, corn syrup is added, which has a high fructose content. This is how it became another sauce option, and it is among the most chosen.

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