Avoiding Food Additives And Preservatives

Many foods contain additives and preservatives that are dangerous or have been treated with chemicals that can harm. Learn how to avoid them and what you can do to minimize the risk.

How many people actually bother to check the labels on the food they eat to see just what it is that they are taking into their bodies? More than that, how many people are aware of the things that they ingest unintentionally through the pesticides, coatings and much more than are put on the things they eat?

It is almost a certainty that few really know what it is, that is part of their foodstuffs, and yet may present threats and danger.

Essentially there are two main sources of dangerous or threatening additives.

The first is those that are put in as part of the processing operation. These include the colourings, preservatives, flavours and flavour enhances, sweeteners, texture agents and processing agents. Details of these must be included on the labelling and can be identified with a little knowledge and some attention to the information provided by the manufacturer.

Ideally, food that has no additives at all is to be preferred and especially if it is to be used to feed children. Far too many of our young are sensitised through these additives and this can lead to allergies and such conditions as Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity.

It is impossible to list all the additives that you might find in your food and you will need to do more research, consult your doctor and the product manufacturer to get all the information you need to make a reasoned decision. Suffice to say that there are over four hundred additives permitted to be added to food in North America and many of these are known to cause potential health problems.

As an example consider the following:

Your decaffeinated coffee probably contains the solvent methylene chloride.

Your orange flavoured drink has tricalcium phosphate, cellulose gum, Xanthan gum and the colour tartrazine which is already banned in some countries.

Your yellow cheese has added colouring, possibly titanium oxide which is banned in Europe.

Your bread may have sodium-stearoyl-2-lactylate, caramel and calcium propionate.

Your margarine contains potassium sorbate and monoglycerides.

Your pickled cucumbers probably contain polysorbate 80, alum and artificial colourings.

Your sausages contain nitrites, which are known to cause cancer.

The list is almost endless but this brief look should give some idea of the threats.

Worse though, are those additives that you cannot determine from information on a label.

The US Environmental Protection Agency at one time identified 24 chemical carcinogens that went right through the chain and "˜appeared' on the dinner plate. These were the herbicides, pesticides and fungicides so liberally applied through the growing process of plant foods. Animals carry their own hidden "additives" with hormones for growth and increased milk production, antibiotics freely given to farm animals to prevent and cure animal sicknesses and residue from various chemicals given to ward off insects etc. Chickens are given mixtures containing copper sulphate, lead and arsenic to help growth and many of these remain in the meat and eventually find their way into the human intestinal tract.

That is all bad enough but then there are the chemicals added to the "finished product" to increase its shelf life; improve its appearance or to protect it in some other way. These may be in the form of wax coatings, sprays or through "˜washing'. Some can be removed by washing but that in no way removes everything and the residue may be concentrated by cooking.

Perhaps even more surprising is the additions that are made even by the packaging that is used. Plastic and plastic film can leach out into the foodstuffs they are meant to protect and, indeed, warnings have been given that cheese should never be wrapped in plastic wrap (e.g. Saran Wrap) because of the threat of dangerous chemicals being absorbed into the cheese.

Now there is the added threat that may be posed by foods that contain genetically modified ingredients and this is particularly difficult in North America where there is, as yet, no mandatory labelling requirement.

Consider the following examples.

The celery, cucumber, lettuce, cabbage and beans you buy will often have pesticide residue on them.

The apple, pear, pepper that looks so enticing and fresh are probably coated with paraffin wax.

The delicious looking grapes may well be carrying sulphites which are dangerous for some asthmatics.

The safest thing to do is to avoid all foods that contain any additives whatsoever and this can most easily be accomplished by eating only those foods that have been organically produced and are certified as such by a reputable organic certification body. This need not be any more expensive than buying any other kinds of food though, regrettably, many organic growers and suppliers have taken advantage of the situation and charge high premiums for the privilege of eating safe food. You may have to search around and "˜negotiate' but it is the very best and safest route if you are able to take it.

If the organic option is not available to you then you must learn as much as you can about the additives which are used, the ones that are the most threatening and dangerous and how to identify them in the foods you buy. Wash all fruit and vegetables as thoroughly as you can and peel apples, pears, potatoes etc., before eating or cooking. This does remove much of the goodness but at least it gets rid of the residues on the skins.

The threat of all these additives cannot be minimised. Children, especially, are at risk though there is an element of risk to everyone. Next time you're in the supermarket, look more closely at the labels and ask yourself whether you want these extras on your food.

© High Speed Ventures 2011