Do you know what you’re eating? I mean KNOW what you’re eating? Do you sometimes flip the package over to read the ingredients and still eat it? Some of the most commonly used chemicals found in food are sodium benzoate, propylene glycol, acesulfame potassium, caramel color and artificial flavorings. You know these things probably aren’t healthy, but have you considered what they really are and how many times a day you eat them?
Sodium benzoate is a benzene compound produced by mixing benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide. It’s a common preservative in processed foods and soft drinks and has been associated with a vast array of health problems. Sodium benzoate is considerably more toxic than processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, yet it gets very little media coverage. Outside of our foods, benzene is the main ingredient of Liquid Wrench, various paint stripper products, rubber cements, and spot removers. It was discontinued in rubber manufacture in the U.S. because it caused a large percentage of workers to get leukemia.
Propylene glycol, otherwise known as antifreeze. The FDA acknowledges that propylene glycol can cause kidney damage when consumed in large doses and skin irritation when it comes in direct contact with flesh. In the U.S., products can contain five grams of propylene glycol for every kilogram of body weight. European formulas, however, can only contain 0 .1 gram per kilogram of the ingredient.
Acesulfame potassium is a calorie-free sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. The sweetener is used in a wide variety of foods in the United States. It contains methylene chloride which has been linked to headaches, depression, nausea, visual disturbances, kidney and liver damage.
Caramel color is the single most used food coloring in the world, according to a 2013 report from market research firms Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research. It’s added to many soft drinks and some foods to turn them brown. But in no way does it resemble real caramel. Some types of this artificial coloring contain a potentially carcinogenic chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). Under California’s Proposition 65 law, any food or beverage sold in the state that exposes consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI per day is supposed to carry a health-warning label. In recent Consumer Reports’ tests, each of the 12-ounce samples of Pepsi One had more than 29 micrograms per can or bottle.
Artificial flavors come from anything that is inedible (i.e petroleum), that is processed to create chemicals of flavorings.
In 2006, Japanese researcher Mayu Yamamoto figured out how to extract vanillin from cow poop. Vanillin, as you may have guessed is vanilla flavor. She was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard University for this development. Although some artificial flavors aren’t necessarily dangerous, I wouldn’t want to eat them….
So the next time you are eating some prepackaged frankenfood from the gas station or vending take a moment to read the ingredients. Are these things really what you want to be eating?