Archive for additives

Mmmm…Additives. My Favourite!

What the Monoisopropyl Citrate is Polyvinylpyrrolidone? And are you really going to eat something that you can’’t even pronounce?

The Challenge

Go into your pantry or refrigerator and pull out any boxed item, dessert item, or any other item that is flavoured (i.e. salad dressing, sauces, etc.) Now look at the label and see how many ingredients you either can’’t pronounce or don’’t recognize. You know, all those ones that look like they might hurt your tongue if you try to say them out loud.

Surprising, isn’’t it? Who knew that there was disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetate (EDTA) in a can of chick peas? Or that guar gum was in a box of spaghetti? These are just two examples of food additives used to make food last longer, look more appealing and taste better.

So What’s the Big Deal?

If those additives are making the food better, who cares if you can’’t pronounce it, right? Well, the name is only the beginning. What makes up that name could be an entire laboratory of chemicals. For example, Health Canada allows 32 different food additives to be labeled only as “colour” on an ingredients list. And that is just for colour additives! There are also additives used to stabilize, emulsify, soften, sweeten, preserve, texturize: the list goes on. The bottom line is that the average person in North America ingests approximately 68 kilograms (150lbs) of food additives a year! Holy magnesium silicate, Batman!

But what can all these additives do? Well, that’s where everything gets a little hazy. Health Canada’’s Bureau of Chemical Safety determines what additives are put in our food and whether they’’re safe. But even just a little research (from reliable sources) will produce results that conflict with Health Canada’’s approval list.

One prime example is tartrazine, a yellow dye found in a wide variety of products, everything from cereals to coloured cheeses. Remember, cheddar cheese isn’’t bright orange when it comes from the cow! Countries like Norway have banned tartrazine after studies found immunosuppressive, carcinogenic and behavioural side-effects.

What Can You Do About It?

So if Health Canada’’s approval doesn’’t guarantee safety, what can you do to limit the amount of additives you ingest? It’’s not easy, to be sure. But as a start, you can try limiting the amount of boxed items that you buy. Frozen dinners, many cereals and instant soups contain additives you don’’t need.

Secondly, try to remember to read ingredient labels before you buy. If an ingredient appears that you can’’t pronounce or have never heard of, write it down and do some research when you get home.

These quick tips will not only reduce the amount of additives you ingest, but will limit your sodium and bad fat intake, both of which are common in boxed foods. Now get out to the grocery store and start filling that pantry back up! Only this time you’’ll know what you’re putting in there!