Food additives

There’s a great piece over at Civil Eats this morning, Our Deadly, Daily Chemical Cocktail on the sheer amount of chemicals in the food most people eat. Here’s the quote that got me:

Based on the anecdotal information I see in my client’s food journals, people eating processed and packaged foods are taking in exorbitant amounts of artificial ingredients and additives. Typically, a client will say something like, “I eat a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk, have yogurt for a snack, and a Subway sandwich for lunch.” While this sounds relatively harmless, here’s what it might actually look like based on some popular “health food” items:

  • One serving of Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Antioxidants Berry Yogurt Crunch contains more than 13 different additives, preservatives, and food dyes, including Red 40 and Blue 1, which are known to cause allergic reactions in some people and mutations leading to cancer in lab animals. It also contains BHT, monoglycerides, and cellulose gum. In addition, conventional milk often contains residues of artificial bovine growth hormones, known endocrine disruptors as well as antibiotics used in industrial milk production.
  • Dannon Light & Fit Peach yogurt contains more than 11 different additives including Red 40, aspartame, potassium sorbate, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium.
  • A Subway sandwich of turkey and cheese on nine-grain bread with fat-free honey mustard, peppers, and pickles contains more than 40 different additives, preservatives, and dyes. The pickles and peppers have yellow 5 and polysorbate 80, the bread has ten different additives including dough conditioners, DATEM, and sodium stearoyl lactylate, and the turkey contains ten additives as well.

The person in this example has consumed more 60 food additives eating breakfast, a small snack, and lunch alone, to say nothing of dinner, dessert, further snacking and drinks. Consumers Union’s Dr. Hansen told me, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it were up to 100 additives or more that people are taking in on a daily basis.”

Excerpts like this make me feel like actually I’m weirder than I think. I don’t buy any of that stuff, in part because it seems like a ripoff to me (those little pots of yogurt) and because I’ve always been suspicious of processed food. And Subway. Ugh. The bread is sweet! There’s so much sugar in what most people think of as “regular” food.

While I’ve always proselytized for eating “real food,” I do realize that since I work at home, and don’t have to commute, and don’t have kids, I’m in a different demographic from many people, and hence, it’s easier for me. Or is it? Really, how hard is it to buy plain yogurt and, if you like it sweet, add a dollop of real jam? Or make a sandwich at home from real ingredients that you can control? Or even bread — I make bread once or twice a week depending (except in the summer when it’s too hot) and it’s not hard at all.

But more fundamentally, I don’t understand why people trust these huge corporations, whose motive is only profit, with the food that goes into their bodies. Why, for example, would someone think that food produced in some huge factory someplace, by strangers, then loaded with chemical sweeteners and emulsifiers and preservatives is somehow better than what you can make at home from simple ingredients?

4 thoughts on “Food additives”

  1. In American schools — or at least, in Oregon schools — parents are not allowed to cook food that can be shared with other students, like cupcakes. If we want to share birthday cupcakes with other kids in class, we are required by law to buy the cupcakes from a store. The theory is, of course, that the gov’t can control the conditions in commercial bakeries, but it can’t control the conditions in a home. (I don’t know how old these laws are; I’d be interested to find out.)

    And so we believe that store-bought bread is safer than homemade bread. Maybe not “better,” necessarily, but safer.

    And so we distrust our own cooking.

  2. For me it’s because everyone in the house likes and needs totally different foods. I make as much as I can, but with a baby who you honestly cannot look away from for longer than 60 seconds without her climbing and/or eating something hazardous, I can’t also be a short order cook. :D For example, I used to make bread for them, but they go through tons of it and if I’m making bread, it’s usually for me. But they don’t like my bread as much, it doesn’t make a good sandwich, and gluten-free things aren’t enriched.

    I made baby food for the baby, and she refuses almost all mushy things. :P So it went to waste. (Both she and The Boy appear to have food sensory problems. It’s not just being picky, they gag and choke to near death on the wrong textures…)

    So they eat horrendous yogurt in a tube and microwavable mac and cheese. ;) It’s things they can make for themselves, which beats starving to death…

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