Seven Deadly Food Additives
The seven deadly food additives
Unless you grow your own food, or make all your meals from scratch, it’s almost impossible to eat foods that do not have chemical additives. You will find caramel colour in bread to give it a healthier earthy look than the white bread it actually is. You will find xanthan gum in salad dressings to keep the oil and the vinegar mixed and create a homogenous suspension; carrageenan in almond milk to give it thickness; maltodextrin in ice cream for a creamy consistency and butylated hydroxytoluene in breakfast cereals which acts as an antioxidant to preserve the cereal and give it a long shelf life.
Unless you have a university background in chemistry, the very long chemical names on food products are like reading a foreign language. Enough to cause concern and confusion.
Food additives are added at very low levels during the manufacturing process to improve texture, enhance taste and appearance, maintain nutritional quality, or prevent the growth of bacteria and moulds. Regulated by the Food and Drug Regulations issued by Health Canada, food additives must pass rigorous and thorough testing to make sure that they are safe and effective. Even so, scientists are very concerned about ingesting high quantities of these substances and especially their long term effects.
Here is a list of what I consider 7 of the deadliest food additives. There are many more than I am listing but these are the most common and in my opinion the most dangerous.
1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
This is one of the most dangerous additives and yet it has the sweet name of high fructose corn syrup. It is from corn but it is so bad for you, it makes refined sugar look good by comparison. It is the major sweetener in all soda pops, salad dressings, ketchup, candy, some breads and nearly every cereal. It is treacherous on the waistline and a strong contributor to Type 2 diabetes. It also raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) and although it is very sweet, actually causes sugar cravings.
2. Benzoic acid (sodium benzoate)
This is a chemical preservative that is used to prevent the growth of mould, yeast and some bacteria in foods such as soft drinks, jam, fruit juice, pickles, ketchup and tomato paste. While it is safe for most people, it may cause hives, asthma and eczema in sensitive individuals.
3. Cellulose (methyl cellulose)
This chemical is manufactured from wood pulp and is used as a thickening agent. It is added to flavoured skim milk, salad dressing, cottage cheese, processed cheese, shredded cheese and ice cream to thicken and stabilize or even to prevent clumping and crystallization. It is an insoluble fiber so it passes through your digestive tract and may even promote the health of gut-friendly bacteria. However, in most cases, in can cause diarrhea, bloating and cramps. Somehow I don’t think are guts were designed to digest food pulp.
4. Caramel Colour
This product is allowed as a colouring agent in colas, whole wheat bread, rye bread, ketchup, malt vinegar, soy sauce, jams and jellies, sherbet, wine, vinegar, beer and some spirits. You make caramel by heating sugar together with ammonia compounds, acids or alkali.
When made with ammonia, caramel colouring contains two contaminants, called 2- and 4-methylimidazole, that have been linked to cancer in mice. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers both of these compounds to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and California’s Environmental Protection Agency has listed ammonia caramel colouring as a carcinogen. This means that in California, Coke and Pepsi are considered to be carcinogenic.
Of course the label only states caramel colour and does not tell you if the caramel was processed with ammonia. However if you are a regular drinker of Pepsi or Coke, consider avoiding it or greatly reducing your consumption. Baked goods, soy sauce, ketchup and other foods are considered less of a problem because the amounts consumed are very small. On the other hand, dark beers should definitely be avoided because they are consumed in larger quantities. Try looking for products free of caramel colour. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) a consumer advocacy group with offices in Ottawa and Washington recommends avoiding caramel colouring completely.
This product starts out naturally as it is extracted from seaweed. However, it is then chemically treated with acids or alkali and is used to thicken and texture foods such as salad dressings, low-fat chocolate milk, evaporated milk, non-dairy beverages (almond, soy and coconut beverages), beer, calorie-reduced margarine, infant formulas and many of the whey protein powders made in North America.
When acid is used to separate the carrageenan from seaweed, it causes the carrageenan to degrade. The degraded carrageenan is separated from the food-grade carrageenan because the degraded form causes gut inflammation and colon cancer in animals. We only hope that the entire degraded product is removed but there are no guarantees which mean that products containing carrageenan may harm your gut.
The FDA and WHO have concluded that food-grade carrageenan does not pose a cancer risk in people However, as I said before; we only hope that none of the degraded product wins up in our food.
6. Xanthan Gum
This additive is used to thicken and emulsify foods such as salad dressings, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, ice-cream, whipped topping and infant formula. Xanthan gum is made by fermenting corn sugar with a bacterium called Xanthomonas campestris. It is very popular in gluten-free baked goods because of its binding properties.
If you are sensitive to xanthan gum you will experience flu-like symptoms, sore throat, running nose, and for many people hard stools that are difficult to pass. Although it is considered a safe additive, it is very uncomfortable if you have sensitivity to this product.
7. BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
Just the name alone on the label of any food should scare you away. It is found in chewing gum, dried breakfast cereals, parboiled rice, olive oil, margarine, shortening and potato chips. BHT acts as an antioxidant to prevent fats and oils in foods from going rancid.
Studies have been inconclusive but it definitely causes cancer in rodents. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHT to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. The CSPI recommends avoiding it.
Most families today have two working parents and the possibility of making a meal from scratch or even preparing your own salad dressing seems almost impossible. You have no time and you just grab some stuff to quickly put together a meal. You may be saving time now but eventually shortening your time on this planet.