In North America, we spend almost 90 percent of our food budget on processed food which contains a staggering number of artificial food additives, preservatives, colours and flavour enhancers. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest compiled a list of common food additives. There is a short description for each additive and a safety rating for each.
So what's wrong with a bit of flavour enhancement? When it comes to commercial food, its so dangerous your health and the health of your children may be suffering as a consequence. A carefully designed randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal The Lancet may have finally shifted the tide. It concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate – found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – do cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distracted.
The seven ingredients tested in the study included:
• Sodium benzoate (E211)
• Sunset yellow (E110)
• Quinoline yellow (E104)
• Carmoisine (E122)
• Tartrazine (E102)
• Ponceau 4R (E124)
• Allura red AC (E129)
The results of this study have already prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. Read the labels on food products and find out what is in the foods you buy.
Additives to Avoid
1. Sodium Nitrate (also called Sodium Nitrite)
This is a preservative, coloring, and flavoring commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef. Studies have linked eating it to various types of cancer.
2. BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydrozyttoluene are used to preserve common household foods. They are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. They are oxidants, which form potentially cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.
3. Propyl Gallate
Another preservative, often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. It is sometimes found in meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum. Animals studies have suggested that it could be linked to cancer.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. It can cause headaches and nausea, and animal studies link it to damaged nerve cells in the brains of infant mice.
5. Trans Fats
Trans fats are proven to cause heart disease. Restaurant food, especially fast food chains, often serve foods laden with trans fats.
Aspartame, also known by the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal, is a sweetener found in so-called diet foods such as low-calorie desserts, gelatins, drink mixes, and soft drinks. It may cause cancer or neurological problems, such as dizziness or hallucinations.
This is a relatively new artificial sweetener found in baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts. There is a general concern that testing on this product has been scant, and some studies show the additive may cause cancer in rats.
8. Food Colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6
Five food colorings still on the market are linked with cancer in animal testing. Blue 1 and 2, found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to candy and beverages, has been linked to bladder cancer. The widely used yellow 6, added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy, has been linked to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney.
Olestra, a synthetic fat found in some potato chip brands, can cause severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and gas. Olestra also inhibits healthy vitamin absorption from fat-soluble carotenoids that are found in fruits and vegetables.
10. Potassium Bromate
Potassium bromate is used as an additive to increase volume in some white flour, breads, and rolls. It is known to cause cancer in animals, and even small amounts in bread can create a risk for humans.
11. White Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Watch out for foods with added sweeteners such as baked goods, cereals, crackers, sauces and many other processed foods. It is unsafe for your health, and promotes bad nutrition. HFCS is the number one source of calories in North America. The accumulated scientific evidence demonstrates it causes far more damage than white sugar.
12. Sodium Chloride
A dash of sodium chloride, more commonly known as salt, can bring flavor to your meal. But too much salt can be dangerous for your health, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. However, unprocessed salts, like unrefined sea salts and Himalayan salt can be an important part of a healthy diet.