Because of stricter food labeling laws, most ingredients now have to be listed on food packaging. But, how do you know what all those ingredients mean? How do you
know if what you’re eating is good for you? The fact is, most of the time we can’t even pronounce the words on the ingredients list!
We have become a fast food nation. Almost 90 percent of the money we spend on food is used to buy processed foods – 90 percent! Pop something in the microwave and voilà … dinner is ready!
But, I have to ask, what are all those chemicals doing to our minds and our bodies? And what are the long-term repercussions for ourselves and our families of ingesting foods that have so many hidden calories and unhealthy fats and additives designed to chemically alter the food so it will taste better and last longer?
The FDA currently lists approximately 2,800 international food additives and about 3,000 chemicals which are deliberately (and legally) added to our food supply. When you consider the number of chemicals used to grow and process food, it is possible that we will consume between 10,000 and 15,000 chemicals a day by the time our food reaches our stomach. Just pause for a moment and really think about that. Ask yourself, “Is that the kind of thing you really want to be feeding your family?”
Now, we all know that manufacturers use food additives to make food taste better and last longer – color, flavor, texture, stability, enhanced nutrient composition, and resistance to spoilage are just some of the characteristics that additives give our food. Before you reach for your next package of processed food, you might want to familiarize yourself with these de?nitions – some of them may change your mind.
Anti-microbial agents – preservatives that prevent spoilage and inhibit the growth of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Less harmful examples include acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium chloride (salt), but nitrates and nitrites are also used to preserve foods. The problem is, these anti-microbial agents may be creating super bugs, which are learning to procreate in ways that
are resistant to anti-microbial agents and rendering us sick as our bodies have not learned to deal with them.
Antioxidants – preservatives that prevent rancidity of fats in foods and other damage to food caused by oxygen. Some examples of preservatives are ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and tocopherols (vitamin E). While these vitamins can be used by our bodies, the synthetic kind or those derived from genetically-modified foods are not recommended because of their potential dangerous health effects.
Artificial colors – food coloring is added to foods to enhance its appearance. Food colors are a mix of vegetable dyes and synthetic dyes approved by the FDA for use in foods. Some of these were primarily deemed safe and then later de-listed; others are still being studied. Some have already been linked to ADD and ADHD in children.
Artificial flavors, flavor enhancers – chemicals that mimic natural flavors. They are just that, “chemicals”.
The FDA decides what additives can legally be added to foods. To obtain permission to use a new additive, a manufacturer must test the additive and satisfy the FDA that it is effective (it does what it is supposed to do) and can be detectedand measured in the final food product. Then the manufacturer must study the effects of the additive when fed in large doses to animals under strictly controlled conditions to prove it is safe for consumption. It is important to note that while the FDA has the final say in what is approved, it is the manufacturers (the ones who will make money by selling the product) who provide the evidence for the safety of the additives. Does that sound right to you?
With all of the many chemicals and additives that we ingest each day through processed foods, there has been growing concern over their health impact on North Americans. Some of the major health concerns include: Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Cancer. There is a wealth of information out there on additives, so it’s important to do your homework. You can also contact your local health department to find out what information they might have on food additives. Taking a few hours now could add years to your life down the road.