The food industry today is not the simple thing of past generations. Rather, food science is indeed rocket science. Even seemingly simple products are processed, stabilized, colored, consistency adjusted, etc. The result is even the most straight foward product may not be.
People wonder why there is kosher supervision on something that a generation ago was simple - coffee, sugar, salt, juice.
This type of situation explains it.
Forwarded to me by Neshama of HaBayitah, from here...
For decades, some basic foodstuffs like coffee, tea, sugar and salt were not required to have kashrus supervision, and a Jew could buy a cup of coffee in a disposable cup anywhere.
But a new development in China may change all that.
A large manufacturing plant in China which markets sugar to Israel under a mehadrin hechsher was discovered to have bleached its sugar with lactose, a milk derivative, which makes it cholov akum.
The discovery was made by Rav Avraham Rubin, the head of the Rechovot Mehadrin kashrus organization. He traveled a month ago to the sugar manufacturing plant and discovered the cholov akum ingredient. The plant owners, suspecting nothing wrong, hadn't even attempted to conceal the problematic ingredient on the list.
Rechovot Mehadrin Kashrus Agency representative, R' Yaakov Zeibald, said, "Rav Rubin himself travels to inspect every plant which manufactures the ingredients for the products he supervises. He happened to be inspecting this plant, because he supervises a different factory which manufactures preserves with sugar produced here. After discovering that lactose was used to bleach the sugar, he gave strict instructions that the only sugar which our products may use is the one produced in India which contains no dairy ingredients.
"Sugar has always been considered a raw material that doesn't require special supervision throughout the year. The sugar used in Israel comes from dozens of different plants and no kashrus agency bothers to check its source. For all we know, we may have all consumed this dairy sugar without being aware of it."