Saturday, March 17, 2012

0 Some common food additives...Mmm, Mmm good.... NOT!

Since so many of you enjoyed my article on food labeling (February 5, 2012), I decided to write one on food additives. After reading this list of common additives, you may never eat processed foods again. These are just some of the things that are put into processed foods, there are many, many more.  I'm sure I'll be writing more articles about food additives in the future.  I can't say it enough, it's much healthier to prepare your own foods and use fresh, home-grown, farm raised or organic ingredients.

I'll take a Big Mac with a well fertilized bun, please....
Ammonium sulfate, don’t confuse this with the ammonia gas used to clean meat. Ammonium sulfate is inorganic plant food, otherwise known as fertilizer. Plants require nitrogen to grow, and ammonium sulfate supplies the nitrogen. Bakers use it for the same reason. In order for bread to rise, it relies on yeast, which is technically a fungus, and by adding ammonium sulfate, McDonald’s nourishes the yeast and speeds the baking time of its iconic Big Mac bun. Plus, it helps the bun develop a nice, golden hue, so it appears to be more wholesome than a white-bread burger. 

Mmmm, how about having a nice juicy burger, rinsed with ammonia....
Ammonium Hydroxide, is the ammonia gas that is used to clean meat. Imagine the ground beef that you eat is treated with the same chemical that you use to clean your toilet. Every week, Beef Products pumps some 7 million pounds of ground beef through pipes that expose it to ammonia gas that could potentially blind a human being. The tradeoff is that we don’t have to worry about pathogens, right? Wrong. According to documents uncovered by the New York Times, since 2005 Beef Products’ beef has tested positive for E. coli at least three times and salmonella at least 48 times. Yet, despite the obvious flaws in the process, the USDA doesn’t require disclosure as to whether beef has been treated with ammonia. Approximately 70% of ground beef is treated with ammonium hydroxide.  This is what they use to clean the "pink slime" that has been talked about so much over the past week.

Artificial flavor denotes any of hundreds of allowable chemicals such as butyl alcohol, isobutyric acid, and phenylacetaldehyde dimethyl acetal. The exact chemicals in flavorings are the propriety information of food processors, and they use them to imitate specific fruits, spices, fats, and so on. Ostensibly every ingredient hiding under the blanket of “artificial flavor” must be approved by the FDA, but because you have no way of knowing what those ingredients are, there’s no way you can avoid something you’d rather not eat.

Blue #1 (brilliant blue), in an effort to make listless food look more appealing, processors regularly add artificial coloring to everything from breads and crackers to fruits and vegetables. The problem is that many artificial colors have been linked to health problems. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends caution in consuming brilliant blue and avoidance of its cousin indigotin (blue #2) because they’ve been loosely linked to cancer in animal studies. And two British studies implicated the dye along with yellow #5 (also in Chick-fil-A’s pickles) as possible causes of hyperactivity in children.

Boston kreme filling”, take notice of the “k” in “kreme.” That’s a not-so-subtle acknowledgment that there’s no actual dairy in this filling. Bavarian cream, the real stuff, is made with milk, eggs, cream, and whipped cream. But those are high-dollar ingredients that require special storage accommodations, so Dunkin’ Donuts stocks its doughnut case with a loose interpretation. Gone are the famous ingredients that make Bavarian cream a deeply satisfying and memorable indulgence, and in their place is a crude sludge made mostly from palm oil, modified food starch, and two types of syrup. If it weren’t for the “natural and artificial flavorings” injected alongside it, you wouldn’t taste much besides fat and sugar.

Calcium disodium EDTA, is often found in cleaning solutions, and is used in food production as a stabilizer and preservative, to prevent decoloration caused by metal ions. It's also used in soft drinks that contain ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate from forming benzene which is a cancer causing agent. EDTA has been found to cause reproductive and developmental defects.

Hmmm, less fat, more fiber....
Cellulose gum, this powdery additive is derived most commonly from cotton or wood pulp, and in Baskin Robbin’s sundae, it helps prevent the formation of ice crystals. It's also used as a thickener, stabilizer and fat replacer. Cellulose gum is not dangerous, but its versatility as an additive makes for some strange applications. Toothpaste, shampoo, paper, detergent, and laxatives are but a few of the other products it’s used in.

Mmm....Bug Juice.... or...
Confectioner's Glaze, Resinous Glaze, Shellac, Pharmaceutical Glaze, Pure Food Glaze, Natural Glaze, or Lac-Resin is used for shiny coatings on fruit, candy, chocolate, vitamins, pills, tablets and capsules. It is derived from the secretions of the Lac insect (or in other words bug juice).

Yummy, I think I'll have some silly putty!
Dimethylpolysiloxane is a silicone-based antifoaming agent commonly added to deep-fried foods to keep the oil from turning frothy. Outside the kitchen you’ll find it in a range of products, from shampoos to Silly Putty.

MSM (Mechanically Separated Meat), MRM (Mechanically Recovered/Reclaimed Meat), MDM (Mechanically Deboned Meat) – also known as Meat Paste Goop or "Pink Slime". This is the meat product that has been in the news so much this week.  The process of mechanically harvesting meat that wouldn't otherwise be used, such as meat, tendons and other bits attached to bones. Since it can pass on diseases it is often mixed with ammonium hydroxide to make it “safer”. Hot dogs can not contain more than 20 percent MSM. Other products that contain MSM are: ground beef, bologna, salami and chicken nuggets.  When this process originally started being used it was only used to make dog food, somewhere along the line they decided that it was ok to feed humans.

Is it hair... is it feathers... is it E Coli... no it's bread!!!
L-cysteine hydrochloride, this additive is used as a dough conditioner in industrial bread/baked good production. It is a nonessential amino acid that is most commonly derived from one of three equally surprising sources: human hair, duck feathers, or a fermented mutation of E. coli.

Propyl paraben, this is but one of many parabens, a class of compounds used to preserve food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. It’s been well documented that parabens act as mild estrogens and, according to the Environmental Working Group, they can disrupt the natural balance of hormones in your body. In a Japanese study, male rats fed propyl paraben daily for four weeks suffered lower sperm and testosterone production, and other studies have found that the compounds concentrate in breast cancer tissues. A causal link hasn’t been established though, so for now, paraben use is still common.

Dried bugs... Umm, no thanks....
Red 4 (natural red #4, carminic acid, cochineal, cochineal extract, carmine, crimson lake, CI 75470, E120) is produced from the dried bodies of the kermes insect and used as a “natural” food coloring. 

Red 40 (natural red #40) is a crimson pigment originally derived from coal tar, it's now produced from petroleum. It’s FDA-approved and widely used as a dye in various red foods, especially yogurts, children's medication, cotton candy, soft drinks and juices – but it's banned in Europe because studies show that it may cause hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

Silicone Dioxide or sand, is used as a non-clumping agent in powdered foods. Also used in toothpaste as an abrasive to remove plaque. Gee, ya think?

TBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone), an organic preservative that also can be found in dog food, perfumes, varnishes, and resins. In processed foods it is used as an oil and fat replacer. Due to potential links with cancer and DNA damage, the FDA limits the use to 0.02 percent of the oil or fat in any single food item. Consuming 1 gram of TBHQ will cause you to vomit, have a sensation of being suffocated, make you delirious, or make you collapse, consuming 5 grams will kill you. Studies on its long-term safety have been contradictory, but as with all dubious additives, it’s best to limit your exposure whenever possible. TBHQ is most commonly found in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, Fruit & Walnut salad and Griddle Cakes.

I'll have an ice cream please, with some wood and black rot....
Xanthan gum, found in salad dressing, ice cream and many other processed foods. While it’s not dangerous, it is funky. Xanthan gum is a thickener and emulsifier derived from sugar through a reaction with Xanthomonas campestris, a slimy bacterial strain that often appears as black rot on broccoli and cabbage.

Finally, I just wanted to say that I applaud McDonald’s for stopping the use of Pink Slime in their hamburgers and for recently requiring their suppliers of pork stop using gestational pens. With any luck they will continue this trend and perhaps someday become a healthy place to eat. They are a huge corporation and have the power to make changes to the food industry. Unfortunately, today they are better at advertising that their food is healthy than actually creating healthy food. And a tentative high-five to another huge corporation that has the ability to change the way the food industry works, Walmart, for it's “Great for You” labeling program – we'll just have to wait and see if it's truth in labeling – will their products really be “Great for You”? Somehow, I doubt it...

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