Our ancestors used natural methods of preserving foods. Among the earliest preservatives were sugar and salt.
But after Louis Pasteur proved that it was the presence of bacteria that caused food to spoil, there is a tendency to consider all microorganisms harmful. Today, food industry uses nearly 6,000 chemicals to preserve foods. Highly attractive food packaging, taste-enhancers and convenience for busy mothers are making our next generation dependent on packaged and processed which is taking them towards many health-related disorders.
Ill-effects of Artificial Preservatives
- Benzoic acid or sodium benzoate is added to margarine, ice cream, fruit juices, and carbonated beverages. It can produce severe allergic reactions. It can convert into lethal carcinogenic poison when combined with absorbic acid. It also has the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that it can totally inactivate it
- Sulfur dioxide is a toxin used in dried fruits and molasses (jiggery or gur) as well as to prevent brown spots on peeled fresh foods such as potatoes and apples. Sulfur dioxide bleaches out rot, hiding inferior fruits and vegetables. In the process, it destroys the vitamin B contained in produce. A number of epidemiological studies have suggested that exposure to sulfur dioxide may be related to adverse reproductive effects.
- Colouring agents are derived from coal tar, and nearly all colouring is synthetic. Though some artificial food dyes have been banned because they are believed to cause cancer, most dyes used today are of the artificial variety. They are also linked to allergies, asthmas, and hyperactivity. They have been found to provoke asthma attacks and have links to thyroid tumours. Coincidently, artificial colors are very prevalent in ice cream products which are directly marketed to children. Every single artifical color in the food industry has some kind of detrimental health effect. These include neurotoxicity, organ, developmental, and reproductive toxicity and cancer.
The long list of foods and beverages in which colour is altered includes butter, margarine, the skins of oranges and potatoes, popcorn, maraschino cherries, hot dogs, jellies, jellybeans, carbonated beverages, and canned strawberries and peas.
Even the chicken feed on large-scale egg farms is coloured so that chickens will lay golden-yolked eggs similar to those laid by free-range chickens.
- Artificial Sweeteners are primarily in processed foods, many of which are artificial sugar substitutes containing no natural sugars, such as saccharine and aspartame.
- Artificial sweeteners present in aerated drinks and artificially coloured and flavoured beverages are linked to behavioural problems, hyperactivity, and allergies. Because saccharin was shown to increase the incidence of bladder cancer in animal testing, all foods containing this sugar substitute are required to carry a warning label. Aspartame releases free methanol that breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body.
- Emulsifiers, thickeners and stabilisers used in cream, butter, mayonnaise and ice-creams are known to cause neurological disorders and skin allergies. Carrageenan has been found to impair and depress cell-mediated immunity and cause the proliferation of tumour growth. Conventional and synthetic guar gum has been linked through studies to a high molecular weight agent that can cause occupational rhinitis and asthma.
Conventional soy lecithin has been linked to digestive distress, immune system breakdown, PMS, endometriosis, reproductive problems for men and women, allergies, ADD and ADHD, higher risk of heart disease and cancer, malnutrition, and loss of libido.
-Nitrites are also a controversial additive. When used in combination with salt, nitrites serve as antimicrobials and add flavor and color to meats. However, nitrite salts can react with certain amines in food to produce nitrosamines, many of which are known carcinogens . Food manufacturers must show that nitrosamines will not form in harmful amounts, or will be prevented from forming, in their products.
- MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a popular flavour-enhancer. It causes common allergic and behavioural reactions, including headaches, dizziness, chest pains, depression and mood swings, and is also a possible neurotoxin. MSG is not a nutrient, vitamin, or mineral and has no health benefits.
- Potassium Bromate is a chemical added to flour to make bread rise better and give it a uniform consistency. Most of what is added to flour breaks down during the cooking process into bromide. An excess intake of bromide has been associated with the inhibition of iodine enzyme metabolism, which weakens the thyroid and kidneys. The potassium bromate that isn’t broken down remains in the baked good and is a known carcinogen. Numerous petitions have been made to the FDA to ban this ingredient and many flour mills have voluntarily stopped adding it to their products. This food additive is banned in most countries.
- Diacetyl is a chemical that imparts the buttery flavour in microwave popcorn. It has a disease named after it because many microwave popcorn factory workers exposed to it have developed a lung condition called diacetyl-induced bronchiolitis obliterans or “Popcorn worker’s lung”.
- Ehedrine is a stimulant that works on the central nervous system. It is a common ingredient in energy drinks, weight-loss products and decongestants, but it often poses a threat to the health of the heart. It should not be taken without proper guidance and after reviewing the medical history of the person consuming it.
It’s time we as parents and all the health professionals take serious responsibility to protect our youth from the dangerously harmful effects of the processed and preserved foods.