Additives in Food – Benign or Harmful?
Much of the food we buy in supermarkets today are treated with one form of additive or another–whether it’s with a preservative, flavoring, coloring or nutritional supplement. Over 3,000 food additives have been approved by the FDA as fit for human consumption. Yet there are health risks that may warrant reconsideration for consumers.
Most additives go under the radar, however. When you see “spices” or “flavorings” on the ingredient list of a food item, those are simply placeholders for artificial flavorings like artificial sweeteners. This makes it difficult for consumers to identify what exactly they are consuming.
The Dangers of Food Additives
Some additives have been shown to cause allergic reactions, which are by far the most dangerous potential side effect. Sulfites, for example, induce allergic reactions in about 1 out of every 100 people. While these reactions are rarely fatal, they can be severe. The FDA has resultantly limited the types of foods that may include sulfites and required manufacturers to explicitly list them as ingredients.
Monosodium glutamate is perhaps the poster-child for the dangers of additives. Known to cause everything from headaches and weakness to rapid heartbeat and chest pain, MSG has largely been blacklisted by the market (although not by the FDA).
What Can You Do?
Consume less processed foods. Buy from local farms. Eat fewer frozen, prepackaged meals. And, of course, check the label for additives. In the process, you may want to consult the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s helpful additive guide, which lists additives you may want to avoid alongside those that are relatively benign.
Not only are fresh, unprocessed foods safer for your family, they’re also tastier. The choice is a no-brainer, although implementing it takes some work initially in figuring out what to eat and where to source it from. That diligence is certainly worthwhile, however. Once you’re accustomed to eating fresh, additive-free foods, you won’t want to turn back.