With the technology of today, and the avenues in which we receive information, there can be a plethora of subject matter pertaining to the food industry and the emerging health concerns from food products. Though the decision to eat nutrient-rich foods and maintain a healthy lifestyle are the result of one’s own actions and choices, consumers may not be aware of several ingredients in their foods that generally should be avoided.

Simply reading the nutrition label is now a thing of the past. Consumers must be vigilant with their food purchases and scan through the list of ingredients; though this task can be daunting. The big names in the food industry are becoming more duplicitous by renaming additives to sound natural or something more familiar to consumers. Add to the mix of toxic additives, the fact that many foods are processed and most contain genetically modified ingredients, it can be even more challenging to find foods that do not contain a synthesized additive.

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for ensuring that harmful chemicals do not make their way into the food supply, and that additives are proven to be “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) for human consumption. The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints in regards to products with chemical additives, and what health triggers or problems that may have resulted from ingestion of these ingredients. The FDA admitted in an interview with the Washington Post that they “simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals.”

One alarming aspect of the food manufacturing business is that within a short period of time, many of these companies have been secretly exposing the population to these additives. Many consumers were more concerned with the caloric, fat and carbohydrate content in the products they purchased than the ingredient portion of the label. Natural ingredients are being replaced by a chemical additive, and for a cheaper price. In many chocolate products, for example, coca butter has been replaced by a hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated additive. In an even more clever attempt, food manufacturers have changed the names of ingredients such as hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats to margarine or shortening, even though these products always contained trans-fats. A consumer is more likely to by a product with ingredients familiar to them than a processed chemical name in the listing.

There are literally dozens of additives in foods that need to be brought to public attention. With little regard to human health, the food industry will continue to create new additives that not only reduce manufacturing costs, but keep up with consumer demand of the product as well.

High-fructose corn syrup has found its way into virtually everything from canned vegetables to salad croutons. It is hard to find a food product that doesn’t have it. A government subsidized commodity, high-fructose corn syrup is much cheaper than common table sugar as a food ingredient. HFCS is made from GMO corn and processed with genetically modified enzymes. In recent studies, samples taken of HFCS have shown over half containing mercury. Furthermore, scientific data shows a direct link to higher than normal HFCS consumption and diabetes.

Propylene glycol is a synthetic liquid additive used in food to prevent the formation of ice crystals in frozen confections, such as ice cream, and helps processed foods maintain taste. The chemical is used in other products such as shaving cream, cosmetics, and alcohol. Some argue that propylene glycol does not pose any immediate danger at low ingested dosages. But because of scientific disagreement and lack of long-term study, it is best to avoid its consumption all together.

Acesulfame-K is an artificial sweetener that was once limited to diet food products. It is highly sweet, approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose, and a cheaper additive than common table sugar. It used to enhance or preserve the sweetness of desserts, pastries and other sweet foods. Acesulfame-K is a potassium salt which contains a known carcinogen, methylene chloride. As with other artificial sweeteners, gastrointestinal bloating, cramps and headaches are some of the reported side effects. Acesulfame-K is another food additive that has gone under scientific scrutiny with conflicting results as to its safety in food.

Potassium bromate is an oxidizing chemical that ages flour at a faster rate than using open air. The additive enhances the elasticity in dough and also bleaches the product. The result is a soft, fluffy and unnaturally white bread product. Potassium bromate is banned from use in many countries except the U.S. If flour is labeled bromated or contains potassium bromate in the ingredient, it is best to choose a product without it.


Michael Lausterer is master essential oil therapist and owner of Basic Earth Essentials located in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. He is also a professional chef and clinical nutritionist.

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Ava Barron-Shasho, MSW