If there is food in your cupboard with ingredients that sound inedible, you might want to think twice about how much of it you really want to eat.
Have you ever wondered about the term “Natural Flavour” on an ingredient list?
It begs the question: if it’s so natural then why aren’t the ingredients that make up the “natural flavour” listed? It makes it all seem decidedly unnatural, don’t you think?
So-called “natural flavours” are the fragrance of the food world. They’re often comprised of synthetic preservatives and chemicals (including propylene glycol), and they’re often made by the same companies that concoct fragrances for the personal care product industry.
Undisclosed “flavours” are just two of a dozen food additives that Environmental Working Group suggests we all watch out for because they’re loosely regulated and their safety is questionable.
Highly processed foods contain food additives so if you want reduce your consumption of the additives, or avoid them altogether, aim to eat more whole foods, do as much cooking from scratch as possible and read more labels.
Here are more common food additives to look out for:
Propyl paraben: This additive is used as a preservative in foods like flour tortillasthat can stay on the shelf for eons without going moldy. It’s a hormone disruptor (mimics estrogen) and has a worrisome connection to breast cancer and fertility issues in women.
Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose which specific artificial colours are contained in their products, which is a problem for those of us who want to avoid caramel colors III and IV (also called FD&C Yellow 5 or Yellow 5) that are potential carcinogens. Mountain Dew contains Yellow 5, and discloses it on the label.
The jury is still out on the possible connection between artificial food colours and hyperactivity in children. In general though, the most food colouring is in foods that have little or no nutritional value.
These are preservatives used in cured meats like bacon, hot dogs and sausages. They can easily form nitrosamines which the World Health Organization classifies nitrates and nitrites as probable human carcinogens.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and its chemical cousin BHT:
More preservatives, often used together, are found in everything from potato chips to preserved meat. The International Agency for Research in Cancer categorizes BHA as a possible human carcinogen and BHT has been associated with developments effects and thyroid changes in animals .
These are among the most common additives found in foods and are used in baked goods, processed meats and fast foods. Some studies have associated them with heart disease.
This is a preservative for fats (think sausage and lard).
This is “generally recognized as safe” for use in a variety of foods, including bread, cereal and sport drinks.
Aluminum additives are used as stabilizers in many processed foods. The thing about aluminum is that it accumulates in your body and never goes away.
These food additives are approved, although there is research that raises red flags on all of them. If there is food in your cupboard with ingredients that sound inedible, you might want to think twice about how much of it you really want to eat.