Artificial food additives

From my May 16 2007 post. Supermarket food looks so bright, colourful and healthy-looking, right? Well, that brightly coloured food is not healthful at all, according to recent studies carried out in the United Kingdom. And when you think about it, it makes total sense: blue and pink cake icing? Hello? There’s no question that those colours are attractive (I confess to having eaten blue supermarket cupcakes in the past), but hardly natural. And last year (ok, ok, another confession, just last week, too!) I tried the freshly-made pesto sauce from our local supermarket. It maintained its lovely healthy-looking greenness even after a couple of days spent in my fridge. When I make my own pesto sauce, it immediately turns brown no matter how quickly I cover it with olive oil. ;-) Well, duuuuh!, the supermarket pesto is full of artificial colours. And have you ever wondered why ground beef remains bright RED for hours/days/centuries? When my husband and I grind our own beef, it goes brown almost instantly. What’s the difference between the store-bought meat and ours? Gee, let me guess. And if you want to be really scared, have a look at this Consumer Affairs’ report about carbon monoxide allowed in U.S. meat packaging to keep meat red and fresh-looking: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/02/fda_meat.html

Yellow dye, or tartrazine, derives from coal tar, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartrazine. Can tar be considered food? Right, I thought not. Do you want brilliant yellow food? Well, simply add a natural colouring agent to it. For instance, the easiest way to have a lovely bright yellow frittata is to add some turmeric. Ok, before I get too carried away, let’s have a look at the UK studies, which inspired me to write this piece in the first place.

The May 8 online edition of BBC News (see: http://tinyurl.com/2vulgo) looks at a study by the University of Southampton concerning the effect of food additives on children. This study apparently confirms the findings of a previous one (known as the Isle of Wight study: http://tinyurl.com/32dlky) that linked food additives to children’s temper tantrums, hyperactivity, sleep disorders, allergic reactions (asthma and rashes, e.g.) and poor concentration. The University of Southampton researchers gave certain additives "tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129)" to three-year-olds and eight-to-nine year olds, in the amounts that an average child would consume on a daily basis. The study findings have not yet been published, but preliminary results have raised so many concerns that a few supermarkets have already banned the use of these additives as well as of aspartame, hydrogenated fats and flavour enhancers (such as monosodium glutamate): ASDA (the third-biggest supermarket chain in the UK) and Marks & Spencer, see http://tinyurl.com/36fb2n

Of course, it’s not just children who are being affected. I already check food labels for parabens, and now I will be checking for some of these colourings, too.

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