What are all those funny things in food? And should I be concerned?
At one time “processed” food was simply peeled, sliced, diced and canned. There were only a few basic things that might be added to them such as salt. But food processors discovered they could keep foods from spoiling, and make them look more attractive by adding more things to them.
They soon saw that they could lower their costs and increase profits by substituting artificial chemicals in place of real food. Even Jell-O was originally made from fruit and gelatin; but today, cherry Jell-O has no cherries. Froot Loops has no fruit. And check the ingredient label on “blueberry” muffin mixes. Chocolate foods can have red dye added to make them look more chocolaty and some American cheese slices are not allowed to be called cheese because they have so many other things added.
Foods can also be doctored with synthetic chemical preservatives. BHA, BHT and TBHQ prevent foods from appearing to spoil so manufacturers don’t lose money. The artificial flavorings in so many foods are another way the industry cuts corners and increases their profit.
This would all be fine if these practices didn’t cause any harm for you and me — and for our kids. But sadly, this chemical stew that lines supermarket shelves can cause a great deal of harm.
The agency that is in charge of protecting us has been asleep at the wheel so it’s up to us to find the best food for our families. The good news is that among the junk, supermarkets are filled with food that’s good for us, and we help you find it.
There are acceptable versions of all types of products, including these:
What are the worst of the synthetic additives?
As Ben Feingold, MD, taught us, a person can be sensitive to or allergic to virtually anything. It can appear to be overwhelming to identify the culprit or culprits. But he found that a good place to begin is with several chemicals that bother the most people, and offer little or no benefit for the consumer.
Fake dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, etc.)
Fake flavorings (such as vanillin)
Three preservatives: BHA, BHT, TBHQ
The dyes, the preservatives and many of the flavorings are manufactured from crude oil (petroleum!).
They are added to foods to make it look better than it really is, and they save food companies a lot of money since they are so much cheaper than real food.
These powerful chemicals can affect different people in various ways including behavior, learning & health.
To help you identify what substance(s) might be causing problems, we show you how to run a test by eating the foods you enjoy, but in versions that are free of the harmful additives.
We are able to find virtually every type of food, but in versions that are free of the unwanted additives. Most can be found in your local supermarket.
Nature can provide brightly colored foods
Some notes on foods and additives
Whole milk and raw milk are good choices.
Strawberry milk usually has red dye and chocolate milk often has artificial flavors.
A hallmark study in England showed that a combination of food dyes and one preservative resulted in ADHD-type behavior in all of the children in the study. They were children who had not been considered to have any behavior problems. [Bateman, 2004]
One physician described the effect of a food dye on the brain. He explained that the effect was like having “static” in the brain.
Behavior is generally the first symptom that improves when a child is following a diet free of harmful additives.
“Except for terminology, there is no difference between a chemical we call a food additive and one we call a drug.”
Bernard Weiss, Ph.D., University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
Dr. Karen Lau conducted research on the effects of food dyes and other additives on nerve cells. She found that combinations of a dye plus another additive (blue + MSG and yellow + aspartame) damage brain cells.
Most brands of bread are suitable; it’s been many years since some bakeries experimented with swirls of dye baked into their product.
If you want to bake bread with dyes, use natural colorings, although they are likely to be much less vivid.
Most yellow cheese is colored with a natural dye such as annatto or apo-carotenal. But this is not true for mac & cheese mixes or other processed cheese foods.
Food dyes affect different people in different ways. Some of these effects include: asthma, hives, edema, cancer, nerve damage, migraines, tics, liver and kidney damage, anxiety, hyperactivity, immune suppression, cancer, DNA damage, reproductive damage, colon damage,
This information is based on studies that have been conducted on synthetic dyes. Parents have reported many additional effects such as bedwetting, fearfulness, night terrors, dyslexia, speech delays, obsessive behaviors, tics, and more.
Dyes have been used since the beginning of time, but they were created from natural things such as plants, berries and minerals. Synthetic dyes were first created from coal tar and used to dye fabrics. But eventually, they began to be added to foods; this started slowly at first and gradually they began to be added to not only foods and beverages, but also to cosmetics, medicines, vitamin supplements and dental products.
Natural food dyes in Europe
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest has spearheaded many efforts to get the Food and Drug Administration to remove harmful dyes from our food.
They point out that in the United States McDonald’s strawberry sundae gets its color from Red 40, but in Europe the McDonald’s strawberry sundae gets its color from strawberries.
In 2010 the European Parliament told food manufacturers that if they used a group of synthetic food dyes in their products they would have to include a warning label. In response, most of these companies switched to natural dyes.
Natural food dyes in the US
Happily, there are now many companies that use natural dyes in their food and some that supply natural food colorings for home bakers.
Holiday food can be festive without harmful dyes. For Valentine’s day, serve white frosted cookies on a red plate. For St. Patrick’s day offer natural treats on a green plate. And celebrate Halloween by covering a sheet cake with chocolate frosting, and add spooky decorations of ghosts by using white frosting. For birthdays, decorate a cake with plastic trinkets, flowers or toys.