Food Additives to Avoid
There are over 14,000 man-made chemicals added
to our American food supply today. Food additives
are not natural nutrition for humans or their
pets. Children are suffering the most from food
additives because they are exposed to food chemicals
from infancy, and human bodies were not meant
to be exposed to the degree of chemicals and food
additives that we are currently.
It is important for everyone to be aware of the
types of chemicals and food additives they are
consuming. I have selected merely a few chemical
food additives listed below as examples, but recommend
you use the internet resources to research the
myriad of chemicals and food additives inundating
our modern food supply.
CSPI REPORTS Food Additives to Avoid (listed alphabetically)
Known commercially as Sunette or Sweet One, acesulfame
is a sugar substitute sold in packet or tablet form,
in chewing gum, dry mixes for beverages, instant coffee
and tea, gelatin desserts, puddings and non-dairy creamers.
Tests show that the additive causes cancer in animals,
which means it may increase cancer in humans. Avoid
acesulfame K and products containing it. Your sweet
tooth isn't worth it.
The great bulk of artificial colorings used in food
are synthetic dyes. For decades synthetic food dyes
have been suspected of being toxic or carcinogenic and
many have been banned. Whenever possible, choose foods
without dyes. They're mostly used in foods of questionable
nutritional worth anyway. Natural ingredients should
provide all the color your food needs.
This sugar substitute, sold commercially as Equal and
NutraSweet, was hailed as the savior for dieters who
for decades had put up with saccharine's unpleasant
after taste. There are quite a few problems with aspartame.
The first is phenylketonuria (PKU). One out of 20,000
babies is born without the ability to metabolize phenylalanine,
one of the two amino acids in aspartame. Toxic levels
of this substance in the blood can result in mental
retardation. Beyond PKU several scientists believe that
aspartame might cause altered brain function and behavior
changes in consumers. And many people (though a minuscule
fraction) have reported dizziness, headaches, epileptic-like
seizures, and menstrual problems after ingesting aspartame.
Avoid aspartame if you are pregnant, suffer from PKU,
or think that you experience side affects from using
it. If you consume more than a couple of servings a
day consider cutting back. And, to be on the safe side,
don't give aspartame to infants.
BHA & BHT
These two closely related chemicals are added to oil-containing
foods to prevent oxidation and retard rancidity. The
International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of
the World Health Organization, consider BHA to be possibly
carcinogenic to humans, and the State of California
has listed it as a carcinogen. Some studies show the
same cancer causing possibilities for BHT.
BHT and BHA are totally unnecessary. To avoid them
read the label. Because of the possibility that BHT
and BHA might cause cancer, both should be phased out
of our food supply. To play it safe, phase them out
of your diet.
Caffeine is found naturally in tea, coffee, and cocoa.
It is also added to many soft drinks. It is one of the
few drugs -- a stimulant -- added to foods. Caffeine
promotes stomach-acid secretion (possibly increasing
the symptoms of peptic ulcers), temporarily raises blood
pressure, and dialates some blood vessels while constricting
others. Excessive caffeine intake results in "caffeinism,"
with symptoms ranging from nervousness to insomnia.
These problems also affect children who drink between
2 to 7 cans of soda a day. Caffeine may also interfere
with reproduction and affect developing fetuses. Experiments
on lab animals link caffeine to birth defects such as
cleft palates, missing fingers and toes, and skull malformations.
Caffeine is mildly addictive, which is why some people
experience headaches when they stop drinking it. While
small amounts of caffeine don't pose a problem for everyone,
avoid it if you are trying to become or are pregnant.
And try to keep caffeine out of you child's diet.
Note: Caffeine can be ingested in cases of severe migraine
headaches to quickly relieve pain due to its dilating
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Early in this century a Japanese chemist identified
MSG as the substance in certain seasonings that added
to the flavor of protein-containing foods. Unfortunately,
too much MSG can lead to headaches, tightness in the
chest, and a burning sensation in the forearms an the
back of the neck. If you think you are sensitive to
MSG, look at ingredient listings. Also, avoid hydrolyzed
vegetable protein, or HVP, which may contain MSG.
Nitrite and Nitrate
Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are two closely related
chemicals used for centuries to preserve meat. While
nitrate itself is harmless, it is readily converted
to nitrite. When nitrite combines with compounds called
secondary amines, it forms nitrosamines, extremely powerful
cancer-causing chemicals. The chemical reaction occurs
most readily at the high temperatures of frying. Nitrite
has long been suspected as being a cause of stomach
cancer. Look for nitrite-free processed meats -- some
of which are frozen, refrigeration reduces the need
for nitrites -- at some health food and grocery stores.
But regardless of the presence of nitrite or nitrosamines,
the high-fat, high-sodium content of most processed
meats should be enough to discourage you from choosing
them. And don't cook with bacon drippings.
Olestra, the fake fat recently approved by the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), is both dangerous and
unnecessary. Olestra was approved over the objection
of dozens of leading scientists.
The additive may be fat-free but it has a fatal side-effect:
it attaches to valuable nutrients and flushes them out
of the body. Some of these nutrients -- called carotenoids
-- appear to protect us from such diseases as lung cancer,
prostate cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
The Harvard School of Public Health states that "the
long-term consumption of olestra snack foods might therefore
result in several thousand unnecessary deaths each year
from lung and ,prostate cancers and heart disease, and
hundreds of additional cases of blindness in the elderly
due to macular degeneration. Besides contributing to
disease, olestra causes diarrhea and other serious gastrointestinal
problems, even at low doses."
FDA certified olestra despite the fact that there are
safe low-fat snacks already on the market. There is
no evidence to show that olestra will have any significant
effect on reducing obesity in America.
Despite being approved as safe by the FDA, all snacks
containing olestra must carry a warning label (similar
to one found on cigarettes) that states:
This Product Contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal
cramping and loose stools. Olestra inhibits the absorption
of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D,
E, and K have been added.
CSPI advises consumers to avoid all olestra foods,
and urges major food manufacturers not to make olestra-containing
This additive has long been used to increase the volume
of bread and to produce bread with a fine crumb (the
non-crust part of bread) structure. Most bromate rapidly
breaks down to form innocuous bromide. However, bromate
itself causes cancer in animals. The tiny amounts of
bromate that may remain in bread pose a small risk to
consumers. Bromate has been banned virtually worldwide
except in Japan and the United States. It is rarely
used in California because a cancer warning is required
on the label.
Sulfites are a class of chemicals that can keep cut
fruits and vegetables looking fresh. They also prevent
discoloration in apricots, raisins, and other dried
fruits; control "black spot" in freshly caught shrimp;
and prevent discoloration, bacterial growth, and fermentation
in wine. Until the early 80's they were considered safe,
but CSPI found six scientific studies proving that sulfites
could provoke sometimes severe allergic reactions. CSPI
and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified
at least a dozen fatalities linked to sulfites. All
of the deaths occurred among asthmatics. In 1985 Congress
finally forced FDA to ban sulfites from most fruits
and vegetables. Especially if you have asthma, be sure
to consider whether your attacks might be related to
sulfites. The ban does not cover fresh-cut potatoes,
dried fruits, and wine.