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Making processed foods more like real food

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Candace Choi released an article on Dec. 18, 2013 titled Less strange stuff on food labels as companies reformulate products that was published in The Columbus Dispatch later in the day.

In the past, consumers quietly bought food that they thought was healthy or tasty and didn't buy food they considered bad or unsavory. This was called voting with their pocketbook. As information came out that partially hydrogenated soybean oil in margarine was unhealthy, people switched back to butter or to olive oil.

In today’s world where anyone can start a petition and publish it on the Internet, people with food issues are not going quietly out into the parking lot. This attention to the details of what is on the food label is beginning to be felt by the food manufacturers. This is the main subject of Choi’s article.

It is important to understand the ingredients that are being removed and the reasons that people should be concerned about food additives and genetically engineered (GE) foods. Previous pressure on the FDA and USDA resulted in forced labeling of the major components in food packages. This is how we learned the calories per serving, the fat, protein and carbohydrate content. It also forced differentiation among components so that high fructose corn syrup is not simply called sugar.

It has been the alternative health sites on the web that have alerted consumers to the dangers of many chemicals far down on the list of ingredients. The “kick” from Mountain Dew is a lot of high fructose corn syrup and substantial amounts of caffeine. Diet Mountain Dew substitutes a very suspect artificial sweetener, and keeps the caffeine. Both products include brominated oil that is used to provide the nice green color, and its presence is largely unnoticed. Brominated oils are also used in Gatorade and other "health" drinks.

Here are the ingredients for Diet Mountain Dew from the Pepsico website:

"CARBONATED WATER, CONCENTRATED ORANGE JUICE, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVORS, CITRUS PECTIN, POTASSIUM BENZOATE (PRESERVES FRESHNESS), ASPARTAME, POTASSIUM CITRATE, CAFFEINE, SODIUM CITRATE, ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, SUCRALOSE, GUM ARABIC, SODIUM BENZOATE (PRESERVES FRESHNESS), CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (TO PROTECT FLAVOR), BROMINATED VEGETABLE OIL, YELLOW 5

PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE."

Brominated oils have no business in food products and the manufacturers are quietly taking them out. There are a lot of other chemical additives and dyes used in foods to extend shelf life, make them look better, and hide changes in color from aging. Very few additives or dyes add to the nutritional value of the food.

Although not yet proven to be the cause of increases in the incidence of cancer, autism, dementia, liver and kidney diseases, all of these diseases have increased dramatically since processed foods have added more chemical additives and dyes.

The reason that the links associating food additives with various diseases are not better established is because the USDA generally relies on data from the manufacturers to determine food safety. You can read about the procedure that the USDA uses to determine the safety of a component directly from the USDA website.

There are two categories of food additives that are acceptable to the USDA for food sold in the US. The definition and explanations are copied directly from the USDA website.

“Under the Food Additives Amendment, two groups of ingredients were exempted from the regulation process.

GROUP I - Prior-sanctioned substances - are substances that FDA or USDA had determined safe for use in food prior to the 1958 amendment. Examples are sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite used to preserve luncheon meats.

GROUP II - GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredients - are those that are generally recognized by experts as safe, based on their extensive history of use in food before 1958 or based on published scientific evidence. Among the several hundred GRAS substances are salt, sugar, spices, vitamins and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Manufacturers may also request that FDA review the industry's determination of GRAS Status.”

The manufacturers supply the data to the USDA that is used to determine that the additives are safe. The GRAS additives may give you a warm and fuzzy feeling that is resulting from the damage to your digestive system, liver, kidney and other organs. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are considered to be GRAS by the USDA.

Genetically engineered (GE) foods must be labeled in 64 countries. You can see the list of countries, which was provided by the Center for Food Safety (CFS). Kellogg corn flakes requires a GE label be attached if sold in the UK. Many of the developed countries, including the majority of those in the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and Australia require GE foods to be labeled to identify genetically modified content.

The food companies are not in business to tell the USDA that they are using additives that cause diseases, increase the incidence of obesity, and link to autism, ADD, and other increasingly prevalent childhood and adult conditions. The best summary of how the USDA works with the food manufacturers to protect our safety can be taken directly from the USDA site.

“Regulations known as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) limit the amount of food ingredients used in foods to the amount necessary to achieve the desired effect.”

The "desired effect" increases profits for the food companies, and has little or nothing to do with nutrition. The charters of the FDA and USDA are to monitor the safety of food and food processes to insure nutritious foods and prevent food related diseases. The FDA and USDA are not doing their jobs when they let the food companies provide the data that determines what is safe to eat or drink.

Until we have independent studies done on the safety of additives and ingredients as the basis of GRAS decisions, we are at high risk of significant health hazards from the food we eat. The attached suggested Examiner articles by the author goes into additional details about food additives, GMO foods, and the effects of pesticides and herbicides that are not mentioned on food labels.

If you are interested in your health, contact Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Rob Portman, and Representatives Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi to let them know you want GMO foods labeled and the GRAS list reevaluated based upon current independent studies. If you aren't sure of your representative, go to the Steve Stiver website and there is a zip+four link to determine your own representative.

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