Knowing what’s in your food - and what’s not - is an important step toward good health. The trouble is, it’s not always easy to do. Sometimes ingredients are hard to recognize because they are listed under an unfamiliar name; other times, products contain harmful substances like pesticide residues that aren’t labelled at all. Here is some basic information to keep in mind as you scan the aisles for the best food for you and your family.
What are some examples of common chemical additives in food?
Some common additives include artificial flavors (e.g. aspartame), colors (e.g. Red 40, Yellow 5), and preservatives (e.g.: BHA, BHT, sodium benzoate).
Are chemical additives safe?
A recent report issued by the Center for Public Safety found that nine synthetic dyes used in conventional foods present “a rainbow of risks,” including allergic reactions, hyperactivity and even cancer.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest advises avoiding a long list of additives, on the basis that they are “unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk.”
A 2010 FDA report, based on an analysis of 35 years of scientific studies, found that children “certain food additives may exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity and overactivity) in some groups of children.” Specifically, they found that children with ADHD were particularly sensitive to artificial food dyes.
How can you avoid chemical additives in your food?
Go organic! Organic food contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Minor ingredients used in organic food must come from a list of approved substances that have been evaluated for safety and their impact on both human and environmental health. By law, these ingredients must make up 5% or less of the total ingredients used to make organic food.
Organic processors must take a number of steps to ensure additional standards are met for how the snacks are made. This means thoroughly cleaning machinery, storing organic ingredients separate from non-organic ones to avoid mixing, and lots of record-keeping to verify that when you buy an organic product it contains only what you expect.
For your health and the health of your family: Organic. It’s worth it!