Artificial sweeteners may have some scary research studies about them. Check out the ABC News, February 13, 2013 "Top 9 Scary Food additives" article, by Bill Phillips, research by Leah Zerbe and Amy Rushlow, and the Editors of Men's Health. Also see the article, "14 Foods You Should Never Eat." Flavors are added to food to give the edibles a particular taste or scent. And other additives are put into processed foods to preserve texture, color, and taste, or to extend the shelf life.
For example, Health department administration officers destroyed reclaimed New Orleans roast chicken wings, chicken hamburgers and sauces from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), contaminated by the cancer-causing food dye Sudan I March 18, 2005 in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China. KFC outlets in China years ago have stopped selling their New Orleans roast chicken wings and chicken hamburgers after the carcinogenic coloring, Sudan I was found in a sauce used in the products.
Local officials have stepped up inspections after discovering Sudan I in some locally available pickles and in a pepper sauce. But here in the U.S.A. people are concerned about how food additives in so many commercial foods might have an impact on consumer health.
When a label says natural flavorings, you may be surprised what that means, and you have no way of knowing which ingredients are in the food or supplement or whether you could be allergic to any of the natural flavors or natural seasonings because you don't know which additives, flavorings, food dyes, preservatives, seasonings, spices, herbs, and sweetening products are in the food if they're all under the label of "natural flavorings" or "natural colors." Check out the article,Starbucks to phase out coloring from crushed beetles | Reuters. Sure, natural color or flavor can come from any animal, insect, from a plant or a mineral, but all you'll probably see is the word 'natural.'
Aspartame is put into more than 6,000 foods from diet sodas to yogurts. It's in NutraSweet and Equal, those little packages of sweeteners put on tables. Check out the site, 25 New Healthy Foods That Aren't.
The food additives listed include the no-calorie artificial sweetener Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame-K), said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar found in many types of diet soft drinks and ice cream often advertised to contain no added sugar. The article refers you to the site, The Strange Reason Diet Soda Makes You Fat.
Also, animal studies have linked the chemical to lung and breast tumors and thyroid problems. Just because the FDA says a food additive is safe doesn't mean the studies the FDA's decision was based on aren't flawed. You need to research the reviews of this additive found in more than 5,000 commercial foods as noted in "Top 9 Scary Food additives" article.
Other food and nutritional supplement additives
There's Titanium Dioxide found in many commercial white-colored salad dressings, vitamins and other nutritional supplements, commercial cake icing, and coffee creamers, mentioned in that article about scary food additives as well as the artificial sweetener with near zero calories. As far as titanium dioxide, you can find it on some labels of nutritional supplements.
Beware of Glyphosphate added to some foods. It's also found in the popular week killer Roundup. It's used on corn and soy crops genetically engineered to withstand a heavy dousing of the chemical. Unless the corn or soy products say organic, Glyphosphate exposure is linked to obesity, learning disabilities, and infertility, according to the "Top 9 Scary Food additives" article.
Fat and oil preservatives
Also an additive you don't want in your food is Butylated HydroxyAnisole (BHA) used to used to preserve fats and oils. It's also found in some beer brands of crackers, cereals, butter, and foods with added fats. The Department of Health and Human Services classifies the preservative as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."
You can read further about this additive at the sites, Butylated Hydroxyanisole - National Toxicology Program and Butylated Hydroxyanisole - Healthy Child Healthy World. It's an additive that preserves fats and oils in food and cosmetics and is found in some brands of chewing gum, snack foods, and diaper creams. Why put this environmental toxin in your body? See, Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) - Environmental Toxins - Time. It may promote cancer in lab animals. BHA is hard to avoid in foods, but the government limits its levels.
Beyond Transfats: Is the alternative may be just as bad?
You may not have heard about Interesterified Fat in your processed, commercial foods. It's made by blending hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated oils. It was developed when the public demanded an alternative to transfats. When you buy those pies, pie crusts, margarine, frozen dinners, and canned soups, see whether this additive is on the label. The "Top 9 Scary Food additives" article mentions one study by Malaysian researchers that "showed a 4-week diet of 12 percent interesterified fats increased the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. Furthermore, this study showed an increase in blood glucose levels and a decrease in insulin response."
That sounds like an unhealthy fat. Find the oils or fats that are healthy for your own body. You can tailor the oil that works for you whether its a few seeds, fish oil, olive oil, rice bran oil, or no added oil except what you get in nuts and seeds, depending on how fast your arteries fill up with plaque after eating certain fats above a specific level such as 10% or 20% or 40% of fats in your daily diet.
Red food dyes linked to health issues
You may want to limit or eliminate red food coloring and use beet juice instead. Avoid the food dye known as Red #3 (Erythrosine) and Red #40 (Allura Red). You can make red or orange food coloring by mixing turmeric and beet juice for an orange-red color, or mix blueberry juice and cranberry juice for a purple color and spirulina and water for a dark blue-green or aqua color.
As far as commercial foods, "Red #40" is the most widely used food dye in America put into commercial fruit cocktail, candy, chocolate cake, cereal, beverages, pastries, maraschino cherries, and fruit snacks. For foods you can eat with more safety, check out the article recommended by the Men's Health magazine article, "The 125 Best Packaged Foods in America. There are some packaged and convenience foods that are healthier and safer due to a limited use of the food additives you don't really need for your health.
The FDA has not been able to ban Red #3 even after it tried in the past. But if you look at animal studies, the particular red food dye was linked to thyroid tumors in rat studies. If it's still in food, it's no longer in drugs because the FDA managed to have the liquid form of the dye removed from external drugs and cosmetics. But what about the non-liquid form of the food coloring? See the articles, F.D.A. Limits Red Dye No. 3 - New York Times, Food Dyes - Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Food Dyes Linked to Behavioral Problems.
Yellow food coloring in cereals, puddings, bread mixes, chips, cookies, and condiments
Don't buy foods containing a huge amount of Yellow #5 (Tartrazine) and Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow). You don't need yellow food dye in your food for better health. If you want to color your own cereals, breads, chips, or cookies and condiments yellow, add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric and then add your flavorings or other seasonings. The second and third most common food colorings are these yellow food dyes. Check out the studies that have linked both dyes to learning and concentration disorders in children.
You can start with the animal studies demonstrating potential risks such as kidney and intestinal tumors. One study found that mice fed high doses of sunset yellow had trouble swimming straight and righting themselves in water. The FDA does not view these as serious risks to humans. But did you ever ask why? You may want to look at the study mentioned in the article, "FDA Probes Link Between Food Dyes, Kids' Behavior: NPR." Check out, Living in Color: The Potential Dangers of Artificial Dyes - Forbes and Food Dye and ADHD: Food Coloring, Sugar, and Diet.
A study by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency in 2007 showed that the consumption of foods containing dyes could increase hyperactive behavior in children. In the study of 3-, 8- and 9-year-olds, children were given three different types of beverages to drink. Then their behavior was evaluated by teachers and parents.
One of the drink mixtures contained artificial food colorings, including:
- Sunset yellow (E110)
- Carmoisine (E122)
- Tartrazine (E102)
- Ponceau 4R (E124)
It also contained the preservative sodium benzoate. The second drink mixture included:
- Quinoline yellow (E104)
- Allura red (E129)
- Sunset yellow
It also had sodium benzoate. The third drink mixture was a placebo and contained no additives.
Artificial coloring additives: Any behavioral links?
Researchers found that hyperactive behavior by the 8- and 9-year-olds increased with both the mixtures containing artificial coloring additives. The hyperactive behavior of 3-year-olds increased with the first beverage but not necessarily with the second.
They concluded that the results show an adverse effect on behavior after consumption of the food dyes, according to the article, Food Dye and ADHD: Food Coloring, Sugar, and Diet. What other food additives may not be touted by the public, but are labeled as natural flavorings?
Another food additive you don't want is Castoreum that comes from the anal gland of a beaver that's used to mark territory. Why would scientists or food manufacturers put anal gland juice from an animal in food? It's used as vanilla or raspberry flavoring in processed foods because that's what it can be processed to taste like to humans. Instead of using real vanilla bean flavor or real raspberries, it's cheaper to use this beaver anal gland juice.
You'll never see it on a label because the government allows the title of natural flavoring to natural flavoring, and what's more natural than juice from the anal gland of beavers? For further information, get more details from Men's Health Daily Dose newsletter. If you want to read more about Castoreum, check out the sites, Castoreum - 18 Grossest Food Ingredients - Health.com, Natural Flavors and Castoreum, Safety assessment of castoreum extract as a food ingredient. Labels can say it's a natural ingredient because it comes from nature and is not synthetic.
You'll see on many food labels and nutritional supplement labels the word "natural flavors." You are not told what natural flavors are in that product. So you won't know whether you're allergic or not to any particular "natural ingredient." Some supplement manufacturers use the word natural sweeteners or natural flavors, which can mean anything that comes from an animal, plant, or person. Check out the PDF file article, "Beaver casoreum."
The federal government notes that "Castoreum extract (CAS NO. 8023-83-4; FEMA NO. 2261) is a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver." It's used not only as a food flavor ingredient, but also is put into some perfumes. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years.
Both the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regard castoreum extract as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Acute toxicity studies in animals indicate that castoreum extract is nontoxic by both oral and dermal routes of administration and is not irritating or phototoxic to skin. Skin sensitization has not been observed in human subject tests.
Castoreum extract possesses weak antibacterial activity. A long historical use of castoreum extract as a flavoring and fragrance ingredient has resulted in no reports of human adverse reactions. On the basis of this information, low-level, long-term exposure to castoreum extract does not pose a health risk.
If you read the review of the additive, its objective is to evaluate the safety-in-use of castoreum extract as a food ingredient. People may not like the idea of natural flavoring on a label referring to the anal gland body secretion (juice) of beavers being put in their food products or supplements. The human mind usually thinks of "natural flavors" referring to plant extracts, but this isn't always so.
Keep in mind that natural flavors could mean anything coming from an animal, plant, or any other living creature or even minerals, since rocks and soil also are found in nature. What you'd want manufacturers to put on any given label is to state from where did the natural flavor come?
You might hear back from manufacturers that you can only print so much on a tiny label. But really, the word 'castoreum' is shorter and more precise than the two words, "natural flavorings." At least then, you'll know what's on the label is what's in the container at least for that one additive. Check out Castoreum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia for more in-depth details on additives.
What are the various food additives?
According to the Wikipedia site, Food Additives, they can be divided into several groups, although there is some overlap between them. Check out the links to the food additives below.
- Food acids are added to make flavors "sharper", and also act as preservatives and antioxidants. Common food acids include vinegar, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, fumaric acid, and lactic acid.
- Acidity regulators
- Acidity regulators are used to change or otherwise control the acidity and alkalinity of foods.
- Anticaking agents
- Anticaking agents keep powders such as milk powder from caking or sticking.
- Antifoaming agents
- Antifoaming agents reduce or prevent foaming in foods.
- Antioxidants such as vitamin C act as preservatives by inhibiting the effects of oxygen on food, and can be beneficial to health.
- Bulking agents
- Bulking agents such as starch are additives that increase the bulk of a food without affecting its nutritional value.
- Food coloring
- Colorings are added to food to replace colors lost during preparation, or to make food look more attractive.
- Color retention agents
- In contrast to colorings, color retention agents are used to preserve a food's existing color.
- Emulsifiers allow water and oils to remain mixed together in an emulsion, as in mayonnaise, ice cream, and homogenized milk.
- Flavors are additives that give food a particular taste or smell, and may be derived from natural ingredients or created artificially.
- Flavor enhancers
- Flavor enhancers enhance a food's existing flavors. They may be extracted from natural sources (through distillation, solvent extraction, maceration, among other methods) or created artificially.
- Flour treatment agents
- Flour treatment agents are added to flour to improve its color or its use in baking.
- Glazing agents
- Glazing agents provide a shiny appearance or protective coating to foods.
- Humectants prevent foods from drying out.
- Tracer gas
- Tracer gas allow for package integrity testing to prevent foods from being exposed to atmosphere, thus guaranteeing shelf life.
- Preservatives prevent or inhibit spoilage of food due to fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.
- Stabilizers, thickeners and gelling agents, like agar or pectin (used in jam for example) give foods a firmer texture. While they are not true emulsifiers, they help to stabilize emulsions.
- Sweeteners are added to foods for flavoring. Sweeteners other than sugar are added to keep the food energy (calories) low, or because they have beneficial effects for diabetes mellitus and tooth decay and diarrhea.
- Thickeners are substances which, when added to the mixture, increase its viscosity without substantially modifying its other properties.