Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What's Going On: The Ugliness of Food Additives

We all know (or should know) that the food industry is far from perfect. It is masked away behind pretty packaging and a million tasty distractions and word jargon to make you not think about what you are eating. Ultimately, most consumers just don't care what they eat. I could give you a million reasons why you should care, but for today we'll start with an obvious one and somewhere to start from if you're looking to improve your overall well-being; stay away from Food Additives--and why you should do so. 

They're lurking in everything, usually behind names you can't pronounce. Chances are (as mentioned with beauty products post) if you can't pronounce it you probably shouldn't be letting it near your body. So what should you stay away from when it comes to Food preservatives? And why? 

Sodium Benzoate (aka Benzoic Acid)

Chances are you've heard of this nasty bugger, or at least seen it on ingredient lists before. This preservative is used in fruit juice, carbonated drinks and pickles to help prevent the growth of microorganisms in these acidic foods. If you don't know why you should stay away from it, here's why; it's evil!! 
Sodium benzoate may cause hives, asthma, or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, and may adversely effect behavior in children, particularly those with ADHD.
Further, when sodium benzoate is used alongside ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in an acidic solution, a reaction occurs that causes the formation of benzene, which causes cancer.
U.S. officials and members of the beverage industry have known about this problem for some 15 years, and drink makers were supposed to reformulate their products to prevent the problem over a decade ago.

Keep an eye out for the following: sodium benzoate, benzoic acid and potassium benzoate. All members of theparabenfamily of chemicals and pose potential risks when combined with ascorbic acid. There are MANY synonyms for parabens.

Propyl Gallate

This preservative, used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling, might cause cancer. It's used in vegetable oil, meat products, potato sticks, chicken soup base and chewing gum, and is often used with BHA and BHT


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used similarly to propyl gallate -- a preservative to keep fats and oils from going rancid. Used commonly in cereals, chewing gum, vegetable oil and potato chips (and also in some food packaging to preserve freshness), these additives have been found by some studies to cause cancer in rats. If a brand you commonly buy uses these additives, look for a different variety, as not all manufacturers use these preservatives.

Sodium Nitrite (Sodium Nitrate)

Sodium Nitrite (or sodium nitrate) is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. These additives can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines. Some studies have found a link between consuming cured meats and nitrite and cancer in humans.
Any Nitrate and/or Nitrite should be avoided. 

Sulfites (Sulfur Dioxide, Sodium bisulfite)

This preservative prevents discoloration in dried fruits, wine, processed potatoes, and some fresh shrimp. Sulfiting agents destroy vitamin B-1 and may cause severe allergic reactions, particularly among people with asthma. Certain kinds can even provoke life-threatening asthma.
This is a nasty one and is found in tons of packaged foods! 
Look for anything that ends in "sulphite/sulifte" as well (ie. metabisulphite). 

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Perhaps better know as "MSG", it is not a preservative but a "food enhancer" added to products,
Has been known to cause pressure on the head, seizures, chest pains, headache, nausea, burning sensations, and tightness of face. This chemical actually "tricks" the brain into thinking food tastes good so develops food addictions. It can literally make dirt taste good. It is a huge huge huge one to avoid and can be found in far too many products. 

Ultra Pasteurization

Ultra-pasteurization refers to a type of high-temperature processing that gives milk and dairy products an extended shelf life of up to 50 days. Also known as "ultra-high temperature" (UHT), this process may damage the fragile components of milk, for instance flattening milk proteins so that enzymes can no longer help break them down. According to Lee Dexter, microbiologist and owner of White Egret Farm goat dairy in Austin, Texas in a Weston A. Price article, "If such proteins pass into the bloodstream (a frequent occurrence in those suffering from "leaky gut," a condition that can be brought on by drinking processed commercial milk), the body perceives them as foreign proteins and mounts an immune response. That means a chronically overstressed immune system and much less energy available for growth and repair.

Food colouring

Avoid the food colorings blue #1 and #2, red #3, green #3 and yellow #6. These food colorings have been linked with cancer in animal testing. Blue #1 and #2 can be found in beverages, baked goods and candy. Red #3 is used to dye fruit and candy. Green #3 is added to candy and drinks. Yellow #6 is added to beverages, gelatin, sausage and candy. 
Also look out for: Ponceau 4R, Conchineal Red A, Sunset Yellow FCF, Orange Yellow S, Allura Red AC.


Tartrazine is another Food Coloring, this one is far too common. 
May cause allergic reactions and asthmatic attacks and has been implicated in bouts of hyperactivity disorder in children. Those who suffer from asthma, rhinitis and urticaria may find symptoms worsen after consumption.

Sulphur dioxide

Sulphur dioxide reacts with a wide range of substances found in food, including various essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes and essential fatty acids. Adverse reactions include bronchial problems (particularly in those prone to asthma), hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. 
International Labour Organization says to avoid E220 if you suffer from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease.


Olestra is a synthetic fat that is found is some potato chips. Olestra can cause severe cramps, gas and diarrhea. Olestra also blocks the absorption of vitamins from healthy sources such as fruit and vegetables.

Potassium bromate.

Potassium bromate is used to increase volume in flour and breads. It has been shown to cause cancer in animal test subjects. Small amounts can pose risks for people.


Aspartame- May affect people with PKU (phenylketonuria). Recent reports show possibility of headaches, blindness, and seizures with long-term high doses of aspartame.
Saccharin- The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded that saccharin is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Always make sure you read food labels. If you're ever uncertain about something look it up--better to be safe than sorry. 
Remember taking care of your body helps take care of your general well-being and happiness as well! You are what you eat! 

Peace & Love,

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