From poison to medicine to junk food -- ketchup's long strange trip

This note popped up on Twitter recently… “Ketchup was sold as medicine in the 1830’s.”

Okay. I’ll bite.

A little investigating shows that up until around 1800, North Americans widely regarded tomatoes as poisonous. That’s why ketchup didn’t contain tomatoes back in those days. Different varieties of ketchup were made of berries, grapes, mushrooms, and other foods.

In 1834, the tomato got a makeover. A published medical paper claimed tomatoes could treat digestive problems.

Three years later, Archibald Miles began producing “Dr. Miles’ Compound Extract of Tomato.” Some sources state that Miles produced his extract in pill form. Other sources say it was ketchup. In either case, Miles was not a doctor. Authorities eventually dismissed his “medicine” as a hoax.

But if Miles’ Extract WAS in the form of ketchup, it was probably good stuff. All food was organic back then. And as we now know, tomatoes are rich in lycopene and antioxidants.

Today’s ketchup products, however, have one big drawback. They’re sweetened. And you know what that means… Most are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

Game over. No “medicinal” benefits there.

Get urgent health alerts, warnings and insights delivered straight to your inbox