Arsenic. When I hear that word I immediately think of a TV mystery where someone’s lover is poisoned to death via the toxin. Today, arsenic is not the star in some made-for-tv drama but rather a news-maker for a completely different reason. Arsenic is in our food and you could be eating it every day. Have you read the recent reports of elevated arsenic levels in apple juice? Just weeks later, and now, it’s showing up in many organic food products.
Environmental chemist, Brian P. Jackson, and his team at Dartmouth, discovered that organic foods containing the popular alternative sweetener, brown rice syrup, tested high for arsenic. Among the foods tested were infant formula, cereal bars, energy bars, and energy “shots.”
I like condiments. Sauces, dips, drizzles and sprinkles. Having the right agent for the right dish. Mushroom risotto is just that much more superb with a sprinkling of freshly grated Aged Parmesan. Toasted sourdough bread practically begs for a luscious and moisturizing spread of mayo. Given my affection for accoutrements (one of my favorite words as long as it’s pronounced with a French accent and optional grandiose hand gesture), it shouldn’t really come as surprise that I might have tempura sauce for, you guessed it, tempura. What sucks, though, is when you look at that Kikkoman bottle that’s been in your fridge (for, dare I say…years?) and take a glance at the ingredient label:
Ingredients: naturally brewed soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt), sugar, water, salt, vinegar, bonito extract (fish), natural flavoring, monosodium glutamate, caramel color, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, succinic acid, sodium benzoate.
I’m not even going to start a dialogue about the possible issues of soy at this juncture, but rather stick with the other goodness that blesses this dipping agent.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – This oldie but goodie just won’t go away. If you are wondering why your asthma is suddenly flaring up or what the deal is with your headache and heart palpitations, this flavor enhancer could be to blame.
Caramel Color – The type of caramel color generally used for soy sauce type products is prepared with heat and ammonium compounds (Caramel III). In February 2011 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to bar the use of caramel colorings produced with ammonia due to the formation of two known carcinogens (2-Methylimidazole & 4-Methylimidazole). Great, now my “sauce” is going to give me cancer. At a minimum, caramel coloring produced with ammonia needs to be labeled differently so consumers will know which type of caramel coloring was used.
Sodium Benzoate – This extremely popular preservative may also exacerbate asthma and in animal studies there are reports of liver and kidney issues. It has also been linked to hyperactivity.
Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate – On their own, these two additives are somewhat benign. They are not doing you any favors, but probably not going to kill you. However, I bring them up because they are virtually exclusively used in conjunction with MSG. If you see these two culprits, put the object back on the shelf and walk away.
Clearly this tempura dipping sauce is not something any self-respecting, co-founder of a food additive database website should have anywhere near her fridge. Yet, it was. I consider myself on notice. Check your refrigerators, especially those condiment containers that seem to last forever) and pantries for gems like these. Then, take great pride in chucking them. This is 2012 my friends and it is time to make the commitment to ditching the pseudo food.
A newly release national survey reveals that Americans drink a boatload of sugary drinks. I know, shocking news. None the less, here are some of the key findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey:
SEX: Males consume more sugar drinks than females.
AGE: Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups.
RACE: Black children and adolescents consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than their Mexican-American counterparts. Black and Mexican-American adults consume more than white adults.
INCOME: Low-income persons consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than those with higher income.
LOCATION: Most of the sugar drinks were consumed away from home are obtained from stores and not restaurants or schools.
The other major finding is that approximately half of the US population consumes sugar drinks on any given day. At first, I was actually surprised as I thought that number seemed low. Then I read the definition of what was and was not considered a “sugar drink:”
“…sugar drinks include fruit drinks, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened bottled waters…Sugar drinks do not include diet drinks, 100% fruit juice, sweetened teas, and flavored milks.”
It seems crazy to me that they did not include sweetened tea or flavored milk since both have ADDED sugars. And what about diet drinks? I’ve noticed they are always excluded from studies on regular soda consumption. I want to see data on all forms of soda with any ADDED sweetener. While I’m not a proponent of drinking fruit juice, at least there is no added sugar. If you include diet drinks, flavored milk (can’t you hear Jamie Oliver’s voice now?), etc. how high does that 50% number climb? Are 75% of the US population drinking sweetened beverages daily? Maybe even 90%?
The “Potato Chip Study,” published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, found interesting links between certain foods and weight gain. Researches from Harvard University looked at the long-term effects of diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes in a study that included over 120,000 men and women.
4-year weight change was most strongly associated with these foods (average weight gain/loss is shown in parentheses):
A new research review shows that a diet of genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans leads to organ problems in rats and mice. Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and his research team reviewed data from 19 different animal studies with results indicating liver and kidney organ disruption as “GMO diet effects.” The kidneys were more affected in males and the liver was more specifically disrupted in females. Here is the end of the published conclusion:
“We can conclude, from the regulatory tests performed today, that it is unacceptable to submit 500 million Europeans and several billions of consumers worldwide to the new pesticide GM-derived foods or feed, this being done without more controls (if any) than the only 3-month-long toxicological tests and using only one mammalian species…”
Current industry trials limit studies to 90-days. This is shocking considering how long it may take the human body to show the effects of any diet.
Check out our new flowchart and in your comment, tell us what sweetener you ended up on. Click on the image below to see the full flowchart and to get the embed code to add it to your site.
In a disappointing (but perhaps not surprising) decision, the FDA panel that met earlier this week to discuss whether there is a link between children’s consumption of synthetic color additives and adverse effects on behavior, has determined there is not enough evidence to justify a warning label. It was a close vote (8 to 6 vote in favor of rejecting the warnings), but as they say ‘almost doesn’t count’. The panel did acknowledge that some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be vulnerable to food colorings as well as a host of other food additives. To keep the food producers happy, though, they were quick to point out that those children have a unique intolerance to those additives, meaning there’s nothing ‘wrong’ per se with the additives, it’s simply the kids with the problem. Right. With the European Union already requiring warning labels on artificial food colorings, it makes us wonder what type of study would the FDA need to finally add a warning, and is such a study going to take place? I mean if they ruled based on lack of evidence, shouldn’t they do some more studies to get the evidence?
Harvard Health Publications
Image: Jonas Dalidd