Are You or Your Family Eating Toxic Food Additives?

How safe are the ingredients in your food?

If you stock your pantry with processed foods, you may worry about how safe food additives really are. Over the years, the safety of many food additives, from food dyes to trans fats, has come into question.

While I was researching, I looked at Food Intolerance Network website. What I read

“There are about 350 permitted food additives in Australia/New Zealand. About 50 are likely to cause adverse reactions. Few other Additives could be used, if at all, with caution. Then rest other additives are unlikely to cause reactions. This includes anti-caking agents, bleaches, emulsifiers, mineral salts, propellants, food acids, sweeteners, thickening agents, vegetable gums and vitamins.”

And on Victorian government website, it said “Food additives are chemicals added to foods to keep them fresh or to enhance their colour, flavour or texture. They may include food colourings (such as tartrazine or cochineal), flavour enhancers (such as MSG) or a range of preservatives.”

Food Standards Australia’s chief scientist Dr Paul Brent says: “a food additive is any substance that is not normally consumed as a food in itself and is not normally an ingredient, but which is allowed to be there if it fulfils a technological function in the final food”.

  • Problem additives

Much of the concern about food additives has been based on certain groups.

Preservatives have been associated with intolerances, particularly among people with asthma. Sulfites (including sodium bisulphite (222), sodium metabisulphite (223) and potassium bisulphite (228)) found in wine, beer and dried fruit, are known to trigger asthmatic episodes and cause migraines in people who are sensitive to them. Also sodium nitrate (251) and sodium nitrite (250), which are used in processed meats, have been classified as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ by the International Agency for Research of Cancer (IARC).

Flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) (621) is often used in Asian cooking and has been associated with ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ (a collection of symptoms including headache, numbness and tingling that some people experienced after eating foods containing MSG). While many studies have found MSG is safe for most of us, some people experience symptoms if they eat a large amount of MSG in a single meal.

Food colourings, such as tartrazine (102), allura red (129) and ponceau 4R (124), are often credited as the cause of hyperactivity in children. In 2007, a team of researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK studied food colourings and additives, and their effect on children’s behaviour. The authors of the Southampton study concluded there was a link between hyperactivity and food colourings (and one preservative) in children aged three and eight to nine years old.

  • Why do we need them?

The additives, in some form or the other are used in most of the processed foods. Generally the more processed food we eat, the more additives we consume. They are in our breads, margarine, jam, biscuits, most processed foods, other than the lollies and children’s drinks etc.

When foods are processed, sometimes valuable nutrients are lost and fibers removed and many times, the texture, natural variation and flavors are lost too. After processing, what’s actually left behind can be bland and uninteresting “food” that most people may actually find unappetizing.

So the nutrients, flavor, color and texture have to be added back to make them desirable, and this is why they may have to be loaded with many food additives.

Additives are generally added to slow down or prevent the spoilage before you buy the food; to prevent fats and oils going rancid; or to improve taste, texture and appearance.

Think why some of these additives may have been added in the foods you are putting in your trolley, in the first place. Are the colours needed because food may otherwise look unappealing? Or the taste enhancers are needed because the food may not be tasty enough otherwise? Or it may have turned brown or rancid? Are they then really good for you?

The good news is avoiding artificial food additives can be incredibly easy — just Buy and Eat and Stick to whole fresh foods and avoid the processed ones as much as possible to avoid food additives.