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9 Unsettling Additions Lurking in Our Packaged Foods

In today’s bustling world, packaged foods often find their way onto our plates as quick and convenient meal options. However, before you dive into that seemingly innocent snack, have you ever stopped to ponder what lurks within? The truth is, the food we consume isn’t always as pure as it appears. Let’s peel back the curtain on some unsettling additives and preservatives hiding in our food supply to help you make informed choices for your well-being.

Additives in packaged foods
Chemical colors

1. Vibrant Colors Masked by Additives

Canned fruits like pineapple and cherries dazzle our eyes with their vibrant hues, but these striking colors are often the result of food additives and preservatives. While they may appear natural, they’re far from it. Food scientists employ these additives to enhance the visual appeal of our food, but we should be aware of their presence.

2. Arsenic: A Natural Intruder

Heavy metals, including arsenic, can creep into our food supply through naturally occurring channels. Soil is a prime source of such contaminants, transferring trace amounts to crops. Interestingly, ginger root may contain traces of arsenic due to its subterranean growth, while crops like corn, being above-ground, are less likely to bear such elements. Organic arsenic is generally harmless when consumed in minuscule quantities, but inorganic arsenic, a proven carcinogen, has made its way into chicken products due to the use of 3-Nitro, a drug used by poultry producers, though it has recently been withdrawn from the market.

3. Acrylamide in Microwave Popcorn

Popcorn is a beloved snack, especially when heated in a microwave. However, when subjected to high-temperature cooking, as with microwave popcorn, it can produce acrylamide, a potentially harmful chemical. Although its food safety is still being studied, high doses in animal studies have raised concerns about its carcinogenic properties. Acrylamide is not just confined to food; it has been used in various products like plastics, grouts, water treatment items, and cosmetics.

8 additives
Beetlejuice!

4. Cochineal: Beetles in Red Food Coloring

Cochineal, a red food dye extracted from beetles, occasionally stirs controversy. While consuming bug extract might sound unappetizing, it’s considered safer than certain previously used red food dyes linked to carcinogenicity. Food manufacturers use cochineal to enhance the color of various products, responding to consumer preferences for vibrant and appealing hues in our packaged foods.

5. Tin Salts: Pineapple’s Bright Secret

Canned pineapple maintains its brilliant yellow hue with the help of tin salts. This isn’t your typical food preservative; it’s a chemical reaction. Pineapple’s natural acids trigger the “de-tinning” process, releasing tin salts into the syrup or packing liquid. This reaction doesn’t pose food safety concerns, and cans used for packing pineapple are intentionally uncoated to allow this chemical interaction, which has been deemed safe.

6. Ammonium Sulfate in Bread

Ammonium sulfate, a nitrogen-based fertilizer, finds its way into processed bread to aid yeast in browning the bread. The FDA considers trace amounts of ammonium sulfate safe for consumption, listing it in the FDA code of register. For those concerned about food preservatives, scrutinizing ingredient labels and seeking nutritional information online can help make informed choices.

7. Sodium Benzoate in Soda

Sodium benzoate, a common food preservative used in beverages, has raised food safety questions due to its potential connection to cancer. This preservative can become a carcinogen under certain conditions, particularly when the acid from the beverage and heat are present. Some manufacturers have revised their formulas to exclude sodium benzoate, like 7-Up, highlighting the importance of being aware of food ingredients.

8. Cystine: More Common Than You Think in Packaged Foods

Cystine, an essential amino acid, plays a role in several foods in our food supply, especially baked goods. While it can also be found in skeletal and connective tissues, hair, and feathers, the food industry extracts cystine from various sources, including feathers, bones, or connective tissues. It holds GRAS status by the FDA (Generally Recognized As Safe) and serves as a dough conditioner in baked goods and an additive in some human and pet foods.

9. Silicon Dioxide: The Anti-Clumper

Silicon dioxide, another GRAS-listed substance, is a savior for preventing dry ingredients from clumping. Seasonings and flavorings applied to snacks, cereals, and packaged soups would form unsightly lumps without it. This compound can be derived from organic sources like vegetables and grains, aligning with food safety guidelines.

While these additives and preservatives are often considered safe, it’s crucial to be mindful of what goes into your food. Understanding the intricacies of your diet empowers you to make informed choices as to the foods you put on the table for you and your family.

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