I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago picking up a few things. As I walked down one aisle, I saw a man pick up a bottle of white distilled vinegar and the woman standing next to him asked if he was going to be using it for cooking. He said, “No, why?” (He said he was using it to clean an engine or something.)
She told the man that unless it says, “Made from Grain,” on the bottle, then the white vinegar is most likely made from petroleum. I had never heard that before, so of course I had to do my own research.
I wouldn’t want to eat vinegar derived from petroleum, but I also wouldn’t want to clean with it (we use vinegar for cleaning all the time). What’s the point of using natural cleaners like vinegar if I’m just smearing petroleum all over my house?
What did I discover? According to the FDA’s website, petroleum can be utilized to begin the process of vinegar making. And the FDA doesn't require manufacturers to label the vinegar as being derived from a petroleum starter.
I have noticed that Heinz vinegar specifically states on the bottle that it is derived from select sun-ripened grain. Heinz does use corn to derive its distilled white vinegar, which also brings up concerns of GMOs, but at least it’s not petroleum.
On the other hand, when I look at the bottle of vinegar I have from Stater Bros, there is no mention of ingredients or processing. In the comments of this post, one woman called Kroger for a list of ingredients for their store brand vinegar and they couldn’t help her. The author also noted that store brand vinegar didn’t work for cheese making the same way that Heinz did.
I have dug and dug, and haven’t been able to find a concrete answer about whether there are petroleum-derived white vinegars on our store shelves. Lots of speculation, but that's where it ends. However, I do find it fishy that most of the store brands don’t advertise how the vinegar was made.
While Heinz is almost a buck more expensive than the store brand when it’s not on sale, I think I’ll be grabbing only bottles that say they are derived from grain moving forward. Better safe than sorry!