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Many consumers have been turning up the heat on Goya Foods, purveyor of Latinx foods and ingredients, since CEO Robert Unanue announced his support and praise for President Donald Trump last week.
Unanue saying the U.S. was “blessed” to have Trump’s leadership sent angry ripples through Goya’s core market of Latinos, many of whom consider the brand’s products to be an essential household staple, and was especially poignant given the president’s history of racist statements about that community.
Many social media users have called for a boycott of Goya, and public figures including chef José Andrés and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have criticized Unanue. (There’s power in where you spend your money — and although boycotting brands can be an effective way to enact change, there are also concerns that doing so would hurt its workers more than the man at the top.)
I grew up in a Colombian and Puerto Rican household, and we were never without Goya in our kitchen. My mom always prepared meat with Goya Adobo, we had a pantry packed with Goya Frijoles and Habichuelas cans, and my abuela taught me to rely on those little foil packets of Goya Sazón to make everything taste a little bit better.
I was disappointed to learn that the head of a brand we love so much doesn’t love us back. But I’ve been thinking about breaking up with Goya for a while, and this was just the kick I needed to do it.
Goya Adobo is a blend of garlic, oregano, black pepper and other Latin spices that instantly adds authentic flavor with just a simple shake. Goya Sazón packs coriander, garlic and cumin into a magical little foil packet of flavor.
A closer look reveals some less exciting added ingredients, including tricalcium phosphate (an anti-caking agent), Monosodium glutamate (MSG), synthetic dyes like Yellow 5 and Red 40, and a whole lot of sodium. All of these ingredients have been deemed safe for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration — and I won’t say no to eating them at the next family asado — but they’re not something I necessarily want in my daily diet, or my community’s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Just a quarter teaspoon of Goya Adobo contains 520 milligrams of sodium — that’s 23% of the recommended daily amount. Half a cup of Goya black beans has 410 milligrams of sodium, while those tiny packets of Goya Sazón have 170 milligrams.
Those three ingredients combined — and they are often combined — contain more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium.
And we’ve seen the effect that a lack of access to healthy food and health care disproportionately has on Black, brown and other communities of color. Packing your pantry with some healthier alternatives to Goya’s adobo and sazón is something you can feel good about that also makes a statement.
If you’re thinking about tossing all of your Goya products (or donating them), I’ve been marinating on your options. You can make your own abuela-approved DIY adobo seasoning at home if you’re feeling adventurous. But if you haven’t quite reached señora status and just want to buy something, try checking out your local shops for handcrafted spice blends.
To help, I’ve found a few healthier alternatives from both small businesses and name brands that you can browse online.
Below, alternatives to Goya for adobo and sazón:
Frontier Co-Op Organic Adobo Seasoning Blend
Primal Palate Adobo Seasoning Jar
Simply Organic Adobo Seasoning
Calicutts Spice Co.
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