There are a variety of food additives that are hard, if not impossible to avoid, that are placed into our processed food. They fall under the category of GRAS (“Generally recognized as safe”), where there is no review given by the FDA for use in human consumption. This broken system has bad potential to make you sick. Here are some of the problem additives, which is in no way exhaustive in it’s scope at this time:
- Potassium Bromate:
It is possibly carcinogenic to humans, and it is banned un the U.K. It is placed in dough and is usually destroyed during baking, but if too much is added or the dough is under-cooked, some residue may be left over. It also is used in Malt barley production.
Nitrates are used to preserve the texture and coloring of salami and hams, however, nitrates are associated with an increase risk of stomach cancer. Bacon, salami, hot dogs, and sausages all have nitrates added and react with amines on the proteins of the meats to form nitrosamines. This is carcinogenic to humans.
- Propyl Paraben:
Acting as a weak estrogen, this compound decreases sperm counts and testosterone levels in humans. It is used in tortillas and muffins as a preservative. The substance can also be found in beverages, dairy products, meat and vegetables which can be contaminated.
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA):
Used as a preservative, for example in chips and preserved meat, BHA is an endocrine disruptor, affecting thyroid hormone and testosterone. It decreases growth in rats and has carcinogenic effects. It is GRAS per the FDA – “generally recognized as safe.”
- Butylated Hydroxytoluene: Also used as a preservative in food, this substance is an endocrine disruptor and may cause developmental and behavioral changes as does BHA. Motor skills nad coordination may be impaired by exposure to this preservative. It may cause cancer in lab animals.
- Propyl gallate: is used to preserve items that have soluble fats such as sausage.
This substance is a preservative that may disrupt the endocrine system and in lab rats, has carcinogenic effect. Propyl gallate is used to protect oils and fats in products from oxidation. It is used in foods, cosmetics, hair products, adhesives, and lubricants.
- Natural flavors? What are they – no one really knows. There may be flavor mixtures that have natural or artificial emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives that are not disclosed. These ‘natural flavors’ may contain synthetic compounds in them such as propylene glycol or BHA, or may be derived from genetically engineered products.
- Diacetyl: Used in popcorn flavoring, but it’s production has been associated with irreversible lung toxicity.
Theobromine is an alkaloid found in chocolate that is used as a caffeine-type stimulant as it has caffeine-type effects on the body. This agent has endocrine and reproductive side effects and may be carcinogenic in large quantities. It is found in naturally occurring cocoa, tea plants, kola nuts, and guarana berries.
How do you avoid these additives? The Environmental Working Group has a scoring system on items that may have these or other bad additives:
http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/ewg-food-scores-state-of-americas-food-landscape <EWG scoring system for additives.
http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/ < additives food scoring system.
http://www.ewg.org/release/new-guide-warns-dirty-dozen-food-additives < Top 10 additives that have bad effects.
http://www.aibmr.com/resources/GRAS-database.php < Database for generally recognized as safe.