July 8, 2014

Chemicals in Food – Part 2


Image by chemicalfreelife.tumblr.com

If you have not read part 1 of chemicals in food, you can read about it here:

Chemicals in Food - Part 1


2. Sodium Nitrates & Sodium Nitrites

Used for:          to give taste and color to meat
                               as an anti-oxidant to keep meats lasting longer
                               as a precursor to pharmaceuticals, dyes, and pesticides
                               to prevent botulism
                               to help control feral pigs and wild boar in Australia

Why are Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite Dangerous And Side Effects

The concern with nitrates/nitrates is not the compounds themselves, but is their conversion to nitrosamines under certain circumstances (especially when charred) – a carcinogen. A carcinogen is any substance that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer.

Nitrosamine may also be formed under acidic conditions (like in our stomachs) when nitrite comes in contact with other amines. The industry’s claim is that ascorbic acid neutralizes this reaction.

Aside from questions of carcinogenic nature, other studies have investigated the link between sodium nitrates/nitrites and migraines as well as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Migraines in those who already suffered from them on occasion appeared to be directly linked to consumption of nitrites. (1998 study, in FDA Consumer Magazine).

COPD link to cured meats found in 2007 study WebMD Medical News.


Image by indianapublicmedia.org

Common foods Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite are found in:

  • Mostly processed and cured meats
  • Hot dogs
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Beef jerky
  • Sandwich meats
  • Canned soups with meat
  • Frozen pizza and meals with meat
  • Meat/Ravioli pasta foods

3. Certain Food Dyes & Colorants

Used for:
                   Making foods “pretty”
                                     of the color that people feel they should be


Image by Michael Jacobson

Why are Food dyes and colors dangerous And Side Effects

I’ll mention a few specific colorants, but in general many dyes have been linked to hyperactivity and sensitivity in children. Food dyes are often used because the actual fruit itself has not been used.

Blue 1: Possible affect on neurons, allergic reactions – needs further testing

Blue 2: Possible brain cancer in male rats (the above two are banned in Norway, Finland, and France).

Green 3: Possible bladder and testes tumors in male rats.

Red 3: Probable cause of thyroid tumors in rats (1983). The FDA recommended its ban, but was overruled.

Red 40: Widely tested and inconclusive, but appeared to cause allergy-like reactions; may cause tumors of the immune system.

Yellow 5 (Tartazine): Aspirin-sensitive individuals may also show to be hyper-sensitive to this dye, also triggering hyperactivity in some children. It may contain items which the body converts to carcinogenic substances such as benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl (banned in Norway and Austria).

Yellow 6: Small amounts of the carcinogens (same as above) may be found; may cause hypersensitivity reactions; suspicions of adrenal gland and kidney tumors are also being researched.


Image by CNN.com

Common foods Dyes is found in:

  • Candy, chewing gum
  • Soda, Drinks
  • Gelatine
  • Desserts
  • Kids cereals
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Cake icings/frostings
  • Often foods of low nutritional value that you should stay away from anyway

Note: There are such things as natural food dyes! For example, turmeric and beets, beta-carotene, carmine, paprika, annatto.

4. BHT And BHA

BHT - Butylated Hydroxytoluene

BHA - Butylated Hydroxyanisole

Used for:        Antioxidants to preserve foods - Oxygen reacts with BHT or                                                     BHA rather than the fat/oil to keep a product from spoiling
                          basically, a synthetic form of vitamin E
                          BHT is also used for this purpose in cosmetics,
                          pharmaceuticals, rubber, turbine oil, jet fuel, and diethyl ether

Why are BHT and BHA dangerous And Side Effects

A myriad of studies for and against BHT exit. Some show a link to cancer, asthma, and behavioural issues, while same claim its value as an antioxidant not only in food and products, but in our bodies. Many food companies actually voluntarily eliminated BHT from their products. It’s highly probable that the reason studies show varied results is that certain people have difficulty metabolizing BHA and BHT, and not everyone.


Image by organiccatfood.org

These two chemicals have also been shown to cause allergic skin reactions in some people. Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption have warning against BHA due to its possible effects as a human carcinogen and interference with proper hormone function.

The Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic also lists BHA as a chemical of potential concern. Questionable findings in BHT studies with rats include the cause of liver, thyroid, kidney, reproductive, and lung function problems after long-term exposure in high doses. If nothing else, we know it harms marine life and therefore is environmentally harmful.

Common foods BHT and BHA are found in:

  • Butter
  • Meats
  • Cereals
  • Chewing gum
  • Baked goods
  • Snack foods
  • Dehydrated potatoes
  • Many food packaging materials, cosmetics, rubber, petroleum, and animal feed

5. Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Used for:              A water and food repellent
                                A chemical component of Teflon,
                                treated upholstery and carpeting, gore-tex, floor wax,
                                dental floss, and food paper
                                Non-stick cookware


Image by cleancuisineandmore.com

Why is PFOA dangerous And Side Effects

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) is a man made chemical that does not occur naturally. Studies reagrding it's effects are prolific. For example, British Researchers found in a sample of more than 4,000 that those with higher blood serum and urine samples were more likely to present with thyroid disease. PFOA has actually been detected in the blood of more than 98% of the U.S. population (in a very low range). Those ranges are higher for chemical plant employees and their surrounding populations.

3M Corp stopped using it due to:

evidence that PFOA is a toican and carcinogen to animals;
its increased exposure being linked to kidney disease;
and harmful environmental impact.

DuPont, however, still uses it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a health advisory for a safe level of PFOA in our drinking water in 2009, and the State of California in a bill sponsored by Senator Corbett at the time made an attempt to ban PFOA and related compounds in food packaging. Governor Schwarzenegger suggested instead that it be reviewed more comprehensively.

Common foods PFOA is found in:

  • PFOA is formed in the production of fluorotelomers, which are often used in food contact papers due to their ability to keep oil and fat from seeping through
  • Packaged food containers like microwave pop-corn bags

6. Azodicarbonamide (ADC)

Used for:            Flour improver and bleaching agent
                               To help create foamed substances

azodicarbonamide in food

Image by satishchemicalindia.com

Why is Azodicarbonamide (ADC) dangerous And Side Effects

The big warning light here is the fact that Australia and Europe have banned the use of azodicarbonamid as a food additive. Reportedly, in South Korea although manufacturers are allowed to use it, nearly all have voluntarily agreed to stop its use.

In the U.S. and Canada it’s one of “those.” You know those, deemed as “generally recognized as safe” – or GRAS. Not all breads do contain ADC. One, the Delaney amendment, sought to ban the use of additives that cause cancer in humans or animals. ADC would be on that list which would require the FDA to ban its use.

The concern with ADC is specifically two chemicals that form from it once the bread is baked. The first is semicarbazide, which caused lung cancer in mice (but not rats). The second is urethane, which is recognized as a carcinogen. The World Health Organization also linked respiratory issues, allergies, and asthma to individuals who work where ADC is manufactured.

Common foods Azodicarbonamide (ADC) is found in:

  • White flour
  • Breads, rolls, buns

Chemicals in Food - Part 3

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