In the United States today there are 18 different food additives and 14,000 chemical food additives added to food. Let that sit for a few minutes.
As consumers, we don’t truly know what toxic chemicals are added to our foods.
In a year’s time, we Americans can consume anywhere from 6-9 pounds worth of additives. Would you have ever thought that?
Food additives made their way to tables beginning in the 20th century. Additives give food a desirable effect, a more appealing color, taste, smell and even give a longer shelf life.
Emulsifiers in Foods
Emulsifiers in food are a combination of two liquids that do not mix. When water is added to the oil, for example, the oil is dispersed throughout the water.
Egg yolk, mayonnaise, water, and oil are all examples of emulsions. Emulsions act like food stabilizers, they benefit foods by improving appearance and consistency.
Adding coloring to our food is a way of making it look more appealing. If our food was not colored a lot of foods would not look the way they do.
According to ACS, the American diet is made up of 70% of processed food (Mind blowing!).
The reason synthetic dyes are so much more common within our food is that these colors can be mass-produced.
Synthetic food coloring is made mainly from petroleum and crude oil. They go through final testing to make sure none of the original petroleum remains. The first synthetic colors were by-products of coal processing.
Did you know at one point these colors contained harmful, poisonous material such as lead, arsenic, and mercury? It wasn’t till congress passed the Food and Drug Act in 1906 which removed any poisonous material from the synthetic dyes.
Our once rich soil for farming clean, nutritional food has become depleted from over-farming.
We no longer get all our vitamins and minerals from food. It’s not possible anymore. As a result we have to add in these nutrients to keep our bodies going without experiencing deficiencies.
During the enrichment and fortification process vitamins and minerals are added to foods that may have lost nutrients during processing or given nutrients to increase nutritional value.
How companies use preservatives varies between company to company.
Preservatives’ sole purpose is to extend their shelf life. They can decrease food waste however the drawback is how many chemicals are then added to our foods.
Two of the most common preservatives found in our food are Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrates.
Mostly found in lunch meats to preserve color and prevent bacterial growth. Foods such as Bacon, hot dogs, ham and lunch meat are loaded with nitrates.
The difference between the two is simply one oxygen atom. Sodium Nitrite has two were as Sodium Nitrates has three.
The cause for concern with meats when nitrates are added is when those meats become exposed to high heat sources they produce a dangerous chemical called Nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a known carcinogen.
Controversial Food Additives
Below is a list of some of the more common and concerning food additives we typically consume often.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- Sodium Nitrate or Nitrite
- Artificial sweeteners (Suraclose, aspartame, Saccharin, acesulfame potassium)
- Sodium Benzoate
- Hydrogenated vegetable oil (Trans-fat)
- BHA or TBHQ
- Artificial Food Coloring
- Propylene Glycol
- rBGH (Genetically-engineered artificial growth hormone)
- Chlorine Dioxide
- Propyl Gallate
- Potassium Bromate
- Brominated Vegetable oil
Health Risks Associated With Chemical Additives
- Heart Disease
- Weight Gain
- Antibiotic resistance (Added to our animals)
- Asthma or Allergies
- Hypersensitivity or ADHD
- Cancers (Studies have found increased cancer risks in lab rats)
What Does GRAS Mean?
GRAS is short for generally recognized as safe.
Many Chemical additives added to the FDA’s approved list were never thoroughly tested to be sure they are safe. Additives that have been used for years can slip through testing and approval. Food manufacturers can tell the FDA that the additives are safe and do not need further testing.
Companies will mislabel and change the names of additives that are put into food. For example, companies can disguise ingredients by saying it’s “spices” or “flavoring” that can mean multiple things. They are required by law to label MSG or Sulfites due to the health risks concerned with those additives.
Something else companies like to do is change the names of ingredients. Instead of using the actual name such as MSG they will then put “natural flavor” or “hydrolyzed yeast” it allows them to slip through the cracks when adding ingredients that might otherwise not be allowed.
Look up ingredients you don’t recognize when shopping as a way to avoid ingredients you might be sensitive to or that have unwanted health risks.
Why We Should Be Concerned
As more studies are done it’s obvious that our food isn’t as healthy or as safe as expected. Companies are cutting corners to save money while also turning a profit.
It is in the best interest to read nutritional labels. Watch for highly concerning additives and try to find alternative foods that do not contain highly toxic chemicals. The best advice is to avoid additives that are linked to a lot of controversy or questioning about safety. Be sure to remember that even if an additive is generally recognized as safe doesn’t mean the FDA has proven it’s safe.