Mar 21, 2019 | Updated: 02:42 PM EDT

Breakfast Cereal: How did this get in my milk?

Mar 12, 2019 10:21 AM EDT

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Did you know that more than ninety percent of American households have cold cereal as part of their morning routine? After 100 plus years of eating toasted corn flakes, popping rice, and shredded wheat, does anyone really take the time to consider just how that crunchy goodness comes to be?

Most cereals are made from corn, wheat, rice or oats. But unless the cereal is certified organic, there may be a less than appealing process required to manufacture these tiny breakfast sensations. Other than grain, cereals also need salt, yeast, sweeteners, coloring agents, flavor agents, and preservatives as well as synthetic vitamins and minerals. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are added after cooking to replace the natural vitamins and minerals, which were lost due to extreme heat. It's safe to say it is not a one-for-one exchange.

Cereals come in all shapes and textures. The process for making your favorite breakfast cereals all start out the same way. The grains are cleaned and crushed and then added to an industrial sized pressure cooker with various additives. The difference in processes comes about in order to capture the desired shape or texture.

Flaked cereals are flattened under tons of pressure by stainless steel rollers and then scraped off and conveyed to an oven then blasted with extreme heat for toasting.

Cereals may also be oven puffed in or puffed in so-called "guns." Oven-puffed cereals are normally made from rice. After cooking, it is then rolled between stainless steel rollers like flaked cereals but is only partially flattened. The process is known as bumping. It is then oven blasted. Gun-puffed cereals are placed in the gun, a small vessel which can hold very hot steam and very high pressure. The gun is opened quickly to suddenly reduce pressure, which puffs the grain.

Shredded cereals are usually made from wheat. After pressure cooking, it is then rolled between two stainless steel rollers. One roller is smooth and the other is grooved. A stainless steel comb-like apparatus is positioned against the grooved roller with a tooth inside each groove. The cooked grain is shredded by the teeth of the comb and drops off the rollers onto a conveyor belt that catches the ribbons from several pairs of rollers. The shredded wheat is cut to the proper size, then baked to the desired color and dryness.

After baking, the cereals are then coated with the aforementioned sweeteners, color and flavor agents as well as the synthetic vitamins and minerals. It's at this stage that any frostings, marshmallows, fruit juices or real fruit pieces are added.

Cereal companies have a strict quality assurance to ensure all their products get packaged and shipped to local supermarkets clean, delicious and ready for our enjoyment. So the next time you pour yourself a bowl of your favorite cereal, just remember how much work has gone into that oh-so-delicious breakfast.

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