whats in your food?

Additives

Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet)- This is broken down into formaldehyde, used to expand the shelf life of food. This chemical is known to be carcinogenic, known to specifically increase risk of cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma.

Calcium Sorbate- also known as calcium salt. Fine white crystalline powder that is used as a preservative to prevent growth of microbes, mold and fungi in foods. Can be found in cheese, fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, confectionery items, cereals, meat and soft drinks. There is a lack of data on the genotoxicity of calcium sorbate, which leads to an unknown acceptable daily intake level.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)- typically used to intensify and enhance savory meals. Has been associated with various forms of toxicity, linked with obesity, metabolic disorders, neurotoxic effects and detrimental effects on reproductive organs. Can be considered a silent threat, as they are often an unnoticed additive.

Natural Colorings/Flavors- Per research and studies, this could possibly mean ground up bugs in your product. The chemicals found within the “natural flavor” are usually not shown on the ingredient list. This is due to the fact that a lab is creating this flavor within your product. USDA certified organic producers are the only respectable companies recommended for you to buy products with natural colors/flavorings given quality and preparation of the food product, as well as they are upheld to higher standards.

Sodium Benzoate- A known preservative that can be found within salad dressings, pickles, fruit juices, condiments, and carbonated drinks. This can potentially cause health implications such as hyperactivity, increased risk of ADHD symptoms, and can potentially be carcinogenic when Vitamin C is involved.

Sodium Nitrite/Sodium Nitrate- A salt and an antioxidant used to cure meats, such as ham, bacon and hotdogs. It is used to block the growth of clostridium botulinum (botulism) causing bacteria and helps maintain shelf life. Per McDonald’s chicken nuggets, it will keep the meat pink and stop it from turning gray. Note, these additives will turn into Nitrosamine over time, increasing risks of cancer development.

Chemicals

Benzene- a carcinogenic chemical that can potentially act as a preservative or an antioxidant; found in soft drinks and other beverages (i.e. Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta Orange).
Found to potentially increases risk of leukemia and other cancers along with neurologic disorders.

Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)- Can be found in food such as sweet potatoes, pineapples, chocolate milks, baked goods, meats, and icings. PFAS contamination is possible via air and water. With roughly 5,000 different types of PFAS known, 10 hormones within the body and the immune system can be compromised due to exposure. You can avoid this through water filtration, consuming quality/washed produce, and keeping a clean home with less chemical exposure. 

Sulfites- Can be found naturally in products or used as additives, are most likely used in cooked, cured, and processed foods. Foods that may contain sulfites include: baked goods, canned vegetables, gravies, potato chips, trail mix, beer, wine, pickled foods, soup mixes, bottles lemon and lime juice and many condiments. Ingredients with sulfite can be found on a label as: sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite.

Stabilizers

Ascorbic acid- An antioxidant that works as a synthetic Vitamin C supplement, a preservative, as well as a stabilizer. It can be found in beer, gelatines, jams, sweets, bread and baked products, fruit juices, wine, fishing products and meats.12 This is related to Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrate because it is used to prevent nitrosamine from producing within meats.4 It can be found to have effects on the gastrointestinal and renal side.12

Hydrocolloid- is used to enhance shelf life and quality of the food in addition to being used as thickening and gelling agents. Thickening agents are typically used for soups, gravies, salad dressings and sauces. Gelling agents can be found in jam, jelly, marmalade, restructured foods and low sugar/calorie gels.13

Thickeners

Carrageenan- Known as a stabilizer, thickener, and gell-er. This can be found in dairy and non-dairy products, jelly, salad dressings, deli meat, frozen dinners, and infant formula. Possibly carcinogenic and may lead to gastrointestinal or immune system distress.4

Food Colorings:

They are used to add color to food to maintain or improve appearance. Manufacturers usually add dye to add color to colorless foods, to enhance colors, to avoid color loss due to environmental elements, to provide consistency when there are variations in the food coloring. Some food colorings are synthetically produced. The most popular food dyes are Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.15. Blue 1 and Blue 2 have been found to lead to hyperness within young children. Citrus Red 2 is known to have cancer causing qualities within it. 4

Processed oils

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)- An emulsifier and clouding agent. Can be found within fruit flavored sodas such as Mountain Dew or Fanta Orange. It has been taken out of many products over the years due to findings of BVO within fat of the body, brain, and liver in addition to other organs.4

Partially Hydrogenated or Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Trans Fat): This can be found in foods our taste buds favor such as fried foods, twinkies, or chips. Consumption leads to inflammation, leading to increased risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. 4

Gums

Cellulose Gum- also known as Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC); this is known as a thickener and can be found in foods/drinks such as beer, ice cream, pie fillings, jellies, cake icings, and diet foods. May affect gastrointestinal health and can potentially cause side effects that are found within Inflammatory Bowel Disease Syndrome (IBD).4

Guar Gum- is used as a thickener stabilizer, and a binding agent. A fiber coming from the seed of the guar plant, and can also be used to normalize moisture in the stool. Guar gum known to be used for potential relief of constipation, a binder to help relieve diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, possible prevention of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It can also be used as a thickening agent for creams and lotions. Guar gum may potentially decrease blood sugar, which can be harmful to those taking medications for diabetes. Guar gum interacts with ethinyl estrogen. Ethinyl estrogen is a form of estrogen that can be found in some estrogen products and birth control pills.16

Xanthan Gum- A popular polysaccharide produced to be both an effective thickener and stabilizer, found in bakery products, beverages, dairy, dressings, syrups, toppings, relishes, sauces, as well as pet food. May potentially cause gastrointestinal distress and soft stools.18

Sweeteners

High Fructose Corn Syrup-(HFCS)-  produced from corn starch, produced from glucose molecules combined together and when broken down, can result in corn syrup. In order to make HFCS, enzymes need to be added to the corn syrup (which is basically 100% glucose or a simple sugar). By doing so, some of the glucose molecules convert to another form of simple sugar, fructose.19 HFCS is hidden in many items such as soda, desserts and some cereals. The body metabolizes fructose differently because it needs to be broken down into glucose, glycogen or fat in the liver before your body uses it as fuel. Can potentially increase obesity risk, lead to insulin resistance potentially resulting in diabetes, can increase inflammation, and potentially lead to worsening symptoms of gout.20

Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate (HSH)- A type of sweetener that is known as “sugar-free”.  This alcohol sugar can be found within foods such as candy, chocolates, chewing gums, and baked items. May potentially lead to gastrointestinal distress due to lack of breakdown by the body during digestion.4

Artificial Sweeteners Found in many “sugar-free foods”, studies have found potential leads to metabolic, gastrointestinal and inflammatory side effects. Used as a sweetening alternative with low calorie content.

Aspartame: artificial, non-saccharide sweetener, found in gum, breakfast cereals, and other dry products. Aspartame can be decomposed into liquids during storage.

Acesulfame-k: A high intensity sweetener that contains potassium salt and can be used in cooking and baking due to its stability in heat. Acesulfame-k is not metabolized in the body and does not influence potassium intake.

Sucralose: A soluble and stable, non-nutritive sweetener. It is made from sucrose through a process that substitutes 3 chloride atoms for 3 hydroxyl groups. Because of this, the body does not recognize it as sugar and it does not metabolize it. The majority of sucralose does not leave the GI tract and is directly excreted.

Saccharin: Usually used as sodium or calcium salt because its unpleasant and bitter metallic taste. The FDA attempted to ban saccharin because studies discovered that it has caused cancer in rats. However, there is not a clear relationship between consuming “normal” doses of saccharin and human health risks.21

References:

¹Malkan S. Aspartame: Decades of Science Point to Serious Health Risks. U.S. Right to Know. https://usrtk.org/sweeteners/aspartame_health_risks/. Published July 23, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2020.

²Michail N. Calcium sorbate to be banned in EU. foodnavigator.com. https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2017/11/17/Calcium-sorbate-to-be-banned-in-EU#. Published November 17, 2017. Accessed August 16, 2020.

³Niaz K, Zaplatic E, Spoor J. Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health? EXCLI journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938543/. Published March 19, 2018. Accessed August 16, 2020.

4 Chemical Cuisine: Center for Science in the Public Interest. Chemical Cuisine | Center for Science in the Public Interest. https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine#banned. Accessed August 16, 2020.

5 Link R. 12 Common Food Additives – Should You Avoid Them? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-food-additives#section8. Published April 23, 2018. Accessed August 16, 2020.

6 Sodium Nitrite Q&A. meatsafety.org. http://www.meatsafety.org/ht/d/sp/i/45243/pid/45243. Accessed August 16, 2020.

7 Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Chemical Contaminants – Data on Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. http://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20170112012123/http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/ChemicalContaminants/ucm055815.htm. Accessed August 16, 2020.

8 Food Safety Focus. Benzene in Soft Drinks. https://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/multimedia_pub_fsf_36_01.html. Published November 16, 2018. Accessed August 16, 2020.

9 Goodman B. FDA Tests Find Toxic Chemicals in Food. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20190605/fda-tests-find-toxic-chemicals-in-food. Published June 5, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2020.

10 Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas. Accessed August 16, 2020.

11″What Is Sulfite Sensitivity? Foods and Ingredients To Avoid.” WebMD. June 28, 2020. Accessed August 16, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/sulfite-sensitivity.

12 Varvara, Michele, Giancarlo Bozzo, Giuseppe Celano, Chiara Disanto, Cosimo Nicola Pagliarone, and Gaetano Vitale Celano. “The Use of Ascorbic Acid as a Food Additive: Technical-Legal Issues.” Italian Journal of Food Safety. February 05, 2016. Accessed August 16, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5076701/.

13 Saha D, Bhattacharya S. Hydrocolloids as thickening and gelling agents in food: a critical review. Journal of food science and technology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551143/. Published December 2010. Accessed August 16, 2020.

14 Bhandari S. Food Dye and ADHD: Food Coloring, Sugar, and Diet. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/food-dye-adhd. Published August 29, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2020.

15 Bell B. Food Dyes: Harmless or Harmful? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/food-dyes#section2. Published January 7, 2017. Accessed August 16, 2020.

16 Guar Gum: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-919/guar-gum. Accessed August 16, 2020.

17 Sharma BR, Naresh L. Xanthan Gum – A Boon to Food Industry. Vol 1(5).; 2006. http://www.taiyolucid.com/pdf/1072906782_xanthan.pdf.

18 Link R. 12 Common Food Additives – Should You Avoid Them? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-food-additives#section10. Published April 23, 2018. Accessed August 16, 2020. 

19 Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. High Fructose Corn Syrup Questions and Answers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/high-fructose-corn-syrup-questions-and-answers. Accessed August 16, 2020.

20 Mawer R. 6 Reasons Why High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is Bad for You. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-high-fructose-corn-syrup-is-bad#7. Published September 27, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2020.

21 Chattopadhyay S, Raychaudhuri U, Chakraborty R. Artificial sweeteners – a review. Journal of food science and technology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3982014/. Published April 2014. Accessed August 16, 2020.