Tag Archives: food additives

Diacetyl effects on the brain

Mmmm, buttery anything. There are very few folks we know here at FoodFacts.com who don’t enjoy the flavor of butter in sauces, baked goods, snacks and well, basically, anything. But did you ever wonder how that butter flavor found its way into many of the processed foods we find on our grocery shelves?

Some of them contain a flavoring ingredient called diacetyl. Diacetyl is a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation and exists in low levels in both beer and wine. When the levels of diacetyl go up, the buttery flavor and aroma result. But, diacetyl has been a controversial ingredient for quite some time. The United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has suggested that diacetyl may be hazardous when heated and inhaled over a long period of time. Workers in factories that manufacture artificial butter flavoring have been diagnosed with brohiolitis obliterans, an uncommon lung disease that is quite serious. As a result many of this, many major microwave popcorn manufacturers removed diacetyl from their products.

Now there is a new study out that again involves the chronic exposure of workers in factories producing the ingredient. While it’s been removed from most major popcorn brand, you can still find it in margarines, snack foods, and baked goods. And this time, the results of the new study link it to intensifying the effects of a protein that’s present in Alzheimer’s disease.

In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain. These “bunches” of protein are actually a marker for the disease. Researchers realized that diacetyl has a structure similar to the substance that causes the beta-amyloid proteins to “bunch” in Alzheimer’s disease victims. So they studied whether it could act in the same manner as other substances on those proteins.

Sadly, it does appear that diacetyl increased the levels of protein clumping. Not a great relationship between the flavoring and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it was found that diacetyl also intensified the protein’s toxic effect on nerve cells in a laboratory setting. The amount of diacetyl exposure that made that occur was the standard occupational level. This is another blow to workers in the flavoring industry. And on top of all that, more experiments conducted in the lab illustrated that diacetyl can penetrate the barrier between the blood and the brain which is what prevents harmful substances from entering.

This truly revealing research is especially alarming to industry employees, whose exposure to the flavoring is long-term and raises the really disturbing possibility of neurological problems. In addition, FoodFacts.com does wonder if diacetyl really belongs in the GRAS category. If chronic exposure has this level of harmful effect on the brain, perhaps other studies need to be run on the flavoring that go further than those conducted in the past to determine its level of safety for the consumer. Read more here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120801132606.htm and as always, read labels!

Food for Thought: Pink Slime

FoodFacts.com will be tackling the topic of pink slime today.

 

Pink slime, also known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB), has been making headlines recently compliments of the controversy surrounding its usage in fast food and school lunches. This meat filler, as some may know, is used in roughly 70% of all ground beef.

 

Pink slime is nothing new – it’s been used for years in meats. However, not many people may know as much. It earned the nickname “pink slime” several years ago, when a microbiologist referred to LFTB as such in an email. The topic has recently been picked up thanks to a campaign against pink slime by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

 

What is pink slime? In short, it’s ammonia-treated beef. While many people think cleaning products when they think ammonia, ammonium hydroxide was actually cleared for usage in food products back in the 1970s. It is used in meats to remove things such as salmonella and e-coli.

 

As many of you, especially our Facebook followers, are aware, the foods we consume typically contain ingredients we may have never even considered or known about. This is just another example of not really knowing what exactly is going into our bodies.

 

That being said, deciding whether or not LFTB should be eaten essentially falls on the consumer. Making yourself aware of the issue, and educating yourself on the topic itself, you should be able to make your own informed decision. Is it safe? Is it unsafe? Is it gross? Those are questions one has to answer for themselves. But the basic facts are these:

 

-         Pink slime is nothing new. In fact, we’ve been consuming it for years.

-         Pink slime is ammonia-treated beef.

-         Ammonium hydroxide has been approved for use in foods for 40+ years.

-         Ammonia is used to remove salmonella and e-coli.

 

However, just some food for thought. There are plenty of products that have been okayed for consumption (think artificial colors), which are plenty controversial because of unknown effects. That’s not to say this is necessarily bad for you, but it’s something to certainly consider.

 

As for its use in fast food and school lunches, pink slime has been eliminated from many fast food items. As for school lunches, the easiest way to avoid such products if so chosen is to send kids to school with homemade lunches. That’s not to say the controversial item won’t be removed from school lunches, but it’s an option to keep in mind to put parents at ease.

 

FoodFacts.com would like to wish you the best!

If it looks like a blueberry and smells like a blueberry, it still might not be a blueberry

FoodFacts wonders if you know what Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles, Tropicana Cherry Berry Twister and Betty Crocker Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix have in common.

Food colorings. Blue 2, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, to name a few of the more common food colorings in our food supply. But these foods go one step further than using the food colorings … they may in fact be using the food colorings in order to deceive you, the consumer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports today that it is urging the FDA to require food companies to disclose on the front of the food labels whether or not a product is artificially colored. We think they have a point. If you see an illustration of fruit on a front label, you may in fact assume that the fruit in the illustration is actually included in that product.

Let’s take a look at a few product ingredient lists and see if the front label packaging is sometimes giving us the wrong impression.

Here’s Aunt Jemima’s Blueberry Waffles.

The product is featured on the front of the packaging. You can see all the “blueberries” in the waffles pictured, as well as some fresh blueberries garnishing the plate atop which the waffles sit. You can also see that in a lighter color type next to the words Blueberry Waffles, are the words “Artificially Flavored”. At least the words are there. The ingredient list cites “Artificial Blueberry Bits” … and that’s the only place you’ll see the word blueberry in that list. You will, however see, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. We guess they need to use something to make those dots in the waffles actually look like blueberries.

 

Next we have Betty Crocker SuperMoist Carrot Cake Mix. This was a featured product in the report from the Center For Science in the Public Interest.

If you look closely at the image, you can see what appear to be bits of real carrot in the cake. Sadly, when you look further into the ingredient list, those bits of carrot are actually listed as “Carrot Flavored Pieces that are made out of corn syrup, enriched flour, corn cereal, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or soybean oil, carrot powder and yellow 6 and red 40.” That carrot powder mentioned in the Carrot Flavored Pieces is the only carrot in the entire ingredient list. What leads you to believe the carrot cake mix is made with actual carrots is the photo gracing the front of the package.

 

Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast is using Red 40 in what appears to be an effort to make the consumer think that the cherries and berries pictured on the label are actually in the product.
The product does, in fact, contain fruit juice, just no cherry or berry juice.

 

We can also feature Strawberry Cool Whip.

The artwork on the front of the package pictures lovely, whole strawberries surrounding with a dollop of Strawberry Cool Whip sitting on top. Unfortunately, that’s the biggest relationship to a strawberry this product has. When you check the ingredient list, it doesn’t mention strawberries at all. It does, though, mention Red 40 which makes the whipped topping pink and, therefore leads the consumer to believe it actually contains strawberries.

Share your opinions with FoodFacts. We’d like to know if you think the efforts of the Center for Science in the Public Interest will help this situation. Would reading clearly on any of these front labels contains Food Coloring Red 40 or Yellow 6 make this more intelligible to the consumer. Perhaps they shouldn’t be able to picture a fruit on the label that’s actually unrelated to the product. Or maybe you have other ideas that we can share. Let us know.

The scoop on diet frozen meals

Every day, FoodFacts.com looks into the benefits and drawbacks of hundreds of different food products in our database. Sometimes we surprise even ourselves with the information. And sometimes, we know that the measure of nutritional value of a food product is really determined by the lens through which it’s being observed.

For instance, when it comes to frozen diet meals, there are a few different ways to observe nutrition. You might say that would be a simple matter of calories and fat — and then all the brands would qualify as healthy options for those seeking to reduce their weight. But there are a few other manners in which to look at these frozen meals and determine whether or not they should be part of a diet plan at all.

FoodFacts.com has a “rule of thumb” — that is to be wary of any food product with a long list of ingredients. Generally speaking, the longer the list, the more likely you are to find ingredients you don’t recognize and that may, in fact, be controversial. And generally speaking, in most cases, frozen diet meals feature these long ingredient lists. There are certainly exceptions, but the majority of frozen diet meals contain ingredients that you wouldn’t find in your fridge or your pantry. We thought we’d take a look at four common ingredient concerns for these meals.

Sodium
The recommended daily allowance for sodium for adults is about 2300 milligrams. That’s about a teaspoon. You’ll find that most diet frozen meals contain about 30% of the RDA for a 2000 calorie per day diet. That’s a lot of salt — especially when you consider the portion sizes of the diet meals This can vary slightly up or down depending on meal content and brand. Excessive sodium consumption can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
BHT is an antioxidant that is used as a preservative, keeping foods from oxidizing and spoiling. You’ll find BHT in a wide variety of processed foods. It is popularly used in frozen foods. BHT may be carcinogenic. Other side effects of this food additive include elevated cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, infertility, sterility, immune disorders, increased susceptibility to carcinogens, and behavioral problems. While BHT isn’t present in every frozen diet meal, it’s not an uncommon additive and something you may want to carefully watch out for.

Sodium Benzoate
Manufacturers have used sodium benzoate for a century to prevent the growth of microorganisms in acidic foods. The substances occur naturally in many plants and animals. Sodium Benzoate can cause hives, asthma, or other allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Again, not every frozen diet meal contains sodium benzoate, but it’s a fairly common ingredient and one you want to keep an eye out for.

Disodium Inosinate
An expensive flavor enhancer usually used with the cheaper Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) alternative. It comes from the nucleotide Inosine monophosphate (IMP) commonly found in mushrooms and meats. Nucleotides are information-carrying molecules (seen in DNA) and help with the body’s metabolic processes. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration but like MSG, is associated with certain allergic reactions after consumption. Again, if you’re purchasing diet frozen meals, read the labels carefully – this is not an unusual ingredient.

While it’s certainly tempting to go the route of frozen diet meals while trying to lose weight, we all need to keep in mind that it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to cook lasagna with meat sauce for 270 calories per serving. Even if you use skim-milk cheeses and 97% lean ground beef, you’ll have a problem bringing it in at under 300 calories. The point is it’s not diet food. Most of the food featured in frozen diet meals, regardless of brand, isn’t meant to be diet food. Hence, the food additives and ingredients you can’t pronounce and the high levels of sodium. They have to add to the food to make it appetizing.

So if you’re trying to lose weight, the healthiest option would be to stick to foods that will work within your diet goals. Grilled chicken and turkey, fish, and lots and lots of fresh vegetables will fill you up, nourish your body and help you to reduce your caloric intake. The additives you’ll find in diet frozen meals won’t do any of that for you.

Sucralose in our drinking water???

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Foodfacts.com works to find all the latest news and research pertaining to the food we eat, and water we drink. We just recently came across this article which we think many of you would be interested in, regarding a recent study determining that sucralose has been found in 19 different water treatment plants in the US. Read below to learn more!

If you’ve been diligently avoiding the consumption of chemical sweeteners like sucralose, you may be alarmed to learn that researchers have found sucralose lurking in the drinking water supply of more than 28 million Americans.

A recent study tested water samples from 19 water treatment plants in the United States serving more than 28 million people. Researchers analyzed the samples for the artificial sweetener sucralose. Samples tested positive for sucralose in the source water of 15 out of 19 plants. Furthermore, treatment failed to remove the sucralose from the drinking water: sucralose was also found in the finished drinking water from 13 out of 19 plants.

Researchers determined that current water treatment methods fail to effectively remove sucralose from our water supply, leaving millions of Americans to unknowingly consume this artificial sweetener every single day.

Why is Sucralose in Our Drinking Water?

When a person ingests sucralose, a large percentage of it is not broken down and is instead excreted as waste. This waste goes through the water treatment plant, where the sucralose remains intact and goes on to become part of our drinking water supply.

Because sucralose has become one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners in commercial soft drinks and snack foods, it is no wonder that it is making an appearance in our drinking water. If sucralose consumption continues to rise, it stands to reason that everyone drinking public water will be ingesting more of this chemical sweetener as well – whether they want to or not.

Sucralose is Not Safe for Consumption

The public should be aware that the majority of the studies on the safety of sucralose are funded by the creators of the most popular sucralose product on the market. The conflict of interest is obvious and the results of these studies are clearly biased in favor of sucralose.

Independent studies aren’t nearly so positive. Questions about the negative impact sucralose has on male fertility, red blood cell count, kidney health, gut flora balance and body weight are serious concerns generated from the results of these studies. Many researchers and health experts are convinced that sucralose should never have been deemed safe for human consumption.

Common sense dictates that any chemically-processed food is unfit for human consumption. The fact that these substances are now running rampant through our water supply is an atrocity that violates our right to choose what we put into our own bodies.

(NaturalNews.com)

BPA in Children’s Foods

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A major concern among many of our Foodfacts.com followers is bisphenol A , better known as BPA. We’ll try to clear up any questions you may have regarding products containing BPA, and also give you tips and resources on how to avoid exposure.

First, what is BPA?
Bisphenol A is a chemical which is produced and used in large quantities for polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins which are commonly found in cans for food and jar lids.

Why is BPA a concern?
BPA is an endocrine disruptor. Exposure has been linked to a higher risk of prostate and breast cancers, infertility in females, diabetes, obesity, and ADHD.

Where can I find BPA?
A recent report issued by the Breast Cancer Fund showed various levels of BPA in different canned-foods marketed towards children. Note that these products may not be the only items containing BPA. BPA is measured in parts per billion (ppb):

114 ppb – Campbell’s Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth
81 ppb – Campbell’s Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth
39 ppb – Earth’s Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup, USDA Organic
31 ppb – Annie’s Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli, USDA Organic
13 ppb – Campbell’s Spaghettios with Meatballs
20 ppb – Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta, Mini ABC’s & 123′s with Meatballs

Now that you know some of the foods which are exposed to BPA, you can also learn some foods that do not contain this chemical. The easiest way to find out, is to go online and do some research.

We’ve found that Eden Organic, Wild Planet, Trader Joe’s, Eco Fish, Edward & Son’s products do not use this chemical in their packaging. Also, Rubbermaid, Evenflo, and a few other plastic-based companies address that their items are available without BPA. Don’t be surprised if these items are a bit more pricey, because they tend to materials that cost more for each product.

Do your research on BPA!

(Foodfacts.com)

Natural Vanilla Flavoring from Beavers

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We at Foodfacts.com take much time to research and discover the controversial ingredients present in a great portion of our food supply. Labeling in the US and many other countries continues to stump consumers because there is little specific information regarding the exact information of some ingredients. Often, people are mislead most by the term “natural” when it is present on a nutrition label. However, we want you to think twice before believing these manufacturers, and further educate yourself prior to making food choices.
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Natural vanilla flavoring is used as an additive in a variety of products. Ice cream, seltzer waters, yogurt, candy, milk, bread, and many other products commonly use natural vanilla flavoring to mimic the taste of pure vanilla beans. Some may even think that vanilla bean was used to prepare the product, but unfortunately we can never be too sure. In fact, “natural vanilla flavors” is a listing for an additive you may be unaware of, which is Castoreum.
Brown Cow Yogurt at blog.foodfacts.com

“When castoreum occurs in a food, it does not have to be listed by its name. It is considered a “natural flavor” and may be so designated on a food package according to the Code of Federal Regulations.”

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What is Castoreum?

“Castoreum extract… is a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years. Both the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regard castoreum extract as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).”

Yes, that definition summarizes that castoreum is derived from glands of a male or female beaver. Although many top manufacturers of flavors and fragrances say castoreum is no longer used as a food additive, few products have found they do contain this ingredient.

Check your labels!

Does Water Really Need Flavoring???

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Foodfacts.com recalls a trend that began a few years back to help steer consumers from purchasing sodas and sugar-filled drinks, and concentrate beverage consumption solely on water. Food companies took advantage of this opportunity and began cranking out flavored waters to make sure they received some profits. Their labels boasted sugar-free, low in calories, and great refreshing tastes. However, it took a plethora of ingredients for these food companies to get the “right” product. Check out more on these ingredients below to see what you’re actually consuming!
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Natural Flavors: A variety of beverages contain “natural flavors.” What these natural flavors are; no one is really quite sure. The FDA believes that consumers have a right to know what is in their foods, however, they also believe food companies have a right to protect their trade secrets. This gives food companies the opportunity to slip in some ingredients we may not be so happy with, but still under mandated regulations.

Products that contain this ingredient: Vitamin Water, Propel, Fruit-2-O, Hint Water, Poland Spring, Sobe, Aquafina, and many more!
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Sweeteners: Acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and other sugar substitutes are added to flavored waters to not only provide sweetness, but to also guarantee that the label reads 0 grams of sugar. These artificial sweeteners have been known to cause a number of reactions in different quantities. Consumers have reported headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and mild fatigue after consuming products containing artificial sweeteners.

Products that contain this ingredient: Dasani, Fruit-2-O, Aquafina, Propel, Tava, Vintage, Nestle, Minute Maid, Wegman’s
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Artificial Dyes & Coloring: You can’t just have CLEAR water! What kind of liquid is that?! That’s why food companies pump Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow Lake 5, and a bunch of other fancy colors into single-serving flavored powders to drop in our water bottles if we’re in a hurry. Well, having a pink beverage may be pleasing to the eye, but fact of the matter is that they may pose some health risks. Food colorings have been associated with triggering hyperactivity in children’s and adults with ADHD; reactions with asthma, rhinitis, urticaria, or other allergies; and may possibly assist in growth retardation and severe weight loss.

Products that contain this ingredient: (Powdered mixes) Gatorade G2, Crystal Light, Flavor-Aid, Mio, South Beach Living, Kool-Aid
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Propylene Glycol: This additive has been seen in a few new flavored dry mixes primarily due to it’s sweet taste. This petroleum based sweetener is commonly found in brake fluid, acrylic paints, tile grout, primer, shoe polish, antifreeze, floor polish, tire sealant and sealant paste. It has been reported that symptoms associated with this compound include throat irritation, headache, backache, and kidney problems. If swallowed, propylene glycol can cause drowsiness, slurred speech, vomiting, respiratory failure, coma, convulsions, or even death.

Products that contain this item: Kraft brand Mio Liquid Water Enhancer

Carefully read food labels before purchasing any flavored waters!

Propyl Gallate. Cancer causing Food Additive?

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Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

Maybe on Friday night’s you eat popcorn, during the day you’ll pop a few M&M’s, and late one night you may indulge with a slice of Digiorno pizza. As some may already be aware, these aren’t the greatest choices, but some people may consider them as treats every so often. Well all of these products have one ingredient in common, propyl gallate. Sounds very scientific, doesn’t it? Well, it is.

As an anti-oxidation additive, propyl gallate is commonly found in edible fats, oils, mayonnaise, shortening, baked goods, candy, dried meat, fresh pork sausage, and dried milk; but that’s not all. Propyl gallate is also an ingredient in shampoos and conditioners, cosmetics, lubricating oil additives, and transforming oils. In summary, the same additives you put in your hair, car, and some appliances; you put in your mouth. Sounds delicious.

AFTER food companies began to use this additive, studies were done by the National Toxicology Program and the National Institute for Health to determine the carcinogenic properties of propyl gallate. Yes, that’s right, after this additive was already added to our foods. Research including mice and rats were conducted by including propyl gallate into the diet in small amounts. Although these studies did not conclude that propyl gallate directly causes cancers, results did show that it may potentially increase risk of certain cancers. Other side-effects associated with this additive are asthma attacks, stomach and skin irritation, liver damage, and kidney damage.

And still, propyl gallate is added to many foods, such as:
DiGiorno Pizzas
Pop-Secret Popcorn
Johnsonville Sausage
M&M’s
Stove Top stuffing
Stouffer’s prepared frozen products

Keep your eyes on the lookout for propyl gallate!

Brominated Vegetable Oil in Soda!

sunkist-soda-can-flavorBrought to you by Foodfacts.com:

Soda sales around the world have sky-rocketed in the last 6 decades. Brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Cadbury Schweppes have made billions of dollars in revenue selling their flavorful and bubbly beverages worldwide. Another trend running parallel to this one; lack of reading nutrition labels. Major food companies recognize that many consumers neglect to read the nutrition fact labels. Therefore, they have more room to sneak in potentially harmful ingredients without raising any eyebrows. One ingredient in particular is brominated vegetable oil.
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As mentioned in last week’s blog pertaining to potassium bromate; Bromine is a harmful halogen element which is highly reactive and potentially lethal to biological organisms. In soda applications, bromine is bonded to atoms of vegetable oil to be used as an emulsifier. This emulsifier helps citrus flavors stay suspended in the beverage and also provide a cloudy appearance. Brominated vegetable oil has been used in soda industries since the early 1930′s.

In many countries, BVO has already been banned as a food additive. However, the US has yet to make take this step. So how does the FDA regulate this ingredient? BVO is on the short list of interim food additives. This is basically a list of “questionable” food additives that are still in production as research continues to explore the safety and potential health effects. Why this list was created?

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“The Commissioner recognizes that, with the vast increase in the quantity of scientific testing and in the sophistication of test methodology, there is virtually no[ ] natural or synthetic food substance that cannot be questioned on some technical ground. It would be impossible to require elimination from the food supply of every food substance for which such scientific questions have been or will be raised.”

Currently, BVO is added in certain quantities to flavorings for citrus sodas. Make sure to closely examine food labels and be on the lookout for this ingredients!