Facebook Twitter LinkedIn RSS Feed

See an unfamiliar ingredient

Soup Can Ingredients

Search the Be Food Smart database

Keyboard

Enter food additive or ingredient name

Select and eat smarter food

Plate

Tag: European Union

Dina (left) & Robyn (right) in San Francisco

It was a bright, yet breezy day on the Embarcadero pier in San Francisco on Thursday. I was still buzzing from meeting food activist, Robyn O’Brien a few minutes earlier and knew I was in for a treat. The setting was the patio of The Plant Cafe, an organic restaurant which overlooks the sparkling water. It was an intimate group of food bloggers at a luncheon sponsored by Stonyfield. The mood was lively and inquisitive, and as we all took our seats, featured speaker Robyn O’Brien stood up to tell her story. To find out how she was transformed from an everyday American mom into “the Erin Brochovich of the food movement,” watch her story in this TEDx Austin video. My blog post today attempts to recapture to essence of Robyn’s message through a series of her quotes.
Continue reading…

New legislation is being considered in Europe with regards to the popular chemical sweetener, aspartame. The proposal would require warning labels on products containing aspartame stating that they may not be suitable for pregnant women. Specifically, the label would read: “Contains aspartame (a source of phenylalanine; might be unsuitable for pregnant women).”

The push to enact this labeling stems from two new aspartame studies. The first is a Danish study (Halldorsson et al., 2010) which examined the association between consuming artificially sweetened soft drinks and preterm delivery. The study concluded that, “Daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery…” The second, was an Italian study (Soffritti et al., 2010) which confirmed that aspartame is a carcinogenic agent in both male mice and rats (the same group conducted other rodent/aspartame studies in 2006 and 2007 both of which concluded that aspartame is a carcinogen). Despite the outcomes of these two new studies, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and France’s Agency for Food Safety maintain aspartame is safe and that warning labels are not needed.

Why is it that most government policies basically say, prove to us that the additive is harmful, when it should instead be, prove to us that this additive is safe? Even if research is conducted proving an ingredient safe, new studies should be viewed as equally important in determining if an ingredient continues to be safe. Technology changes, new advances are made, larger and more extensive studies are conducted. I suppose I should be impressed that any arm of a government is supporting adding warning labels since we, here in the US, are nowhere near the European levels of consumer food protection. Instead, I find myself wondering how many more studies it will take before aspartame is treated like a harmful chemical not suited for human consumption.

Sources:

Food Navigator
European Food Safety Authority
BFS Aspartame Ingredient Report

Image: David Salafia via Flickr

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?

Sources:
Harvard Health Publications
Image: Jonas Dalidd

The FDA’s Food Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday and Thursday (March 30-31, 2011) in Silver Spring, MD, to discuss whether there is a link between children’s consumption of synthetic color additives and adverse effects on behavior. This meeting is in part a response to a petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on June 3, 2008.

The CSPI petitioned the FDA to:

  • Ban the use of Yellow 5 and other food dyes.
  • In the interim, require a warning on foods containing these dyes
  • Correct the information the FDA gives consumers on their website and other publications on the impact of these dyes on behavior of some children
  • Require neurotoxicity testing of new food additives and food colors

For years, the Feingold Association, CSPI, consumer groups, activists, and parents have been trying to prove the link between artificial food colorings and wide array of adverse effects including hyperactivity, ADHD, skin rashes, sleep disorders and exacerbated asthma. In 2007, a University of Southampton study concluded that a diet with artificial colors increased hyperactivity in children.  In response to the study, the European Union now requires warning labels on foods containing specific dyes. To avoid the dreaded label, many European manufactures reformulated products with natural food colorings or removed dyes all together. In the US, artificial food dyes are found in hundreds and thousands of processed foods and it is extremely difficult for people to avoid. It will be very interesting to see what the Food Advisory Committee’s conclusion is and whether they will make any revised statements on food dyes or new requirements of food manufactures.

Sources:
FDA
CSPI
Lancet
Image: Jonas Dalidd

This Ingredient Spotlight is a regular feature from Be Food Smart. Check back regularly to see new ingredients.

Happy New Year! Today’s ingredient is an artificial coloring which has been linked to headaches, skin rashes, hives and hyperactivity in children. Skip the mint chip ice cream and go for vanilla next time!

Tartrazine

.

Names: FD&C Yellow No.5, Y4, E102

Uses: Coloring

Found In: candy, soft drinks, cereal, gelatin desserts, baked goods, ice cream, pudding, snack foods, energy drinks, flavored chips, jam, yogurt, pickles, dessert powders, custard

Description: This lemon yellow dye is derived from coal tar. It’s used for yellow, but can be mixed with other colors such as Brilliant Blue to create shades of green. The FDA requires that Yellow No. 5 be specifically identified on the ingredient line because some people are very sensitive to it. Due to several studies on children and hyperactivity, the European Union requires food containing this colorant to have a label which states: “may have an adverse effect on activity in children” (see full report for link). Also see Food, Drug & Cosmetic Colors (FD&C).

Possible Health Effects: Serious allergic reactions can occur in those with sensitivities to aspirin. Other effects include: asthma, hives, headache, skin…read more on Tartrazine.

Related Ingredient: FD&C Blue #1

Copyright August 8, 2010 Be Food Smart

.

Be Food Smart was created to educate and inform the public about what’s really in the foods we eat every day. The site has a huge database of food additives, chemicals, food colorings, sweeteners, and preservatives and allows one to search for over 400 ingredient names. Our unique ingredient reports contain simple and easy to understand descriptions, alternate names, possible health effects, and allergy information. The site is completely free and is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, health care professionals, dietitians, and concerned consumers.

This Ingredient Spotlight is a regular feature from Be Food Smart. Check back daily to see the ingredient of the day.

FD&C Red No. 40

The next time you are tempted to pop a candy cane in your mouth, think again. Red No.40 is the most commonly used artificial red food coloring used in the US today and is banned in many other countries.

.

Alternate Names: Allura Red AC, FD&C Red. No. 40 Calcium Lake, FD&C Red. No. 40 Aluminum Lake

E Number: E129

Uses: Coloring

Found In: soft drinks, candy, children’s medications, cereal, beverages, snacks, gelatin desserts, baked goods, ice cream

Description: An azo dye produced from petroleum to create shades of red. Also see Food, Drug & Cosmetic Colors (FD&C). One of the newest colors to be permanently listed by the FDA. It is extremely prevalent in foods and is one of the most commonly used of all the food dyes. Due to several studies on children and hyperactivity, the European Union requires food containing this colorant to have a label which states: “may have an adverse effect on activity in children” (see In the News section on full ingredient report). This can be problematic for parents since this food dye is found in thousands of products marketed specifically to children. Red No. 40 is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Sweden and Switzerland. The safety of this colorant is highly controversial.

Possible Health Effects: Known to cause hyperactivity in children. Some animal studies indicate that chemicals used in the preparation of this colorant are carcinogenic and may cause cancer. Developmental… Read more on Red No. 40

Related Ingredient: Tartrazine

Copyright August 8, 2010 Be Food Smart

.

Be Food Smart was created to educate and inform the public about what’s really in the foods we eat every day. The site has a huge database of food additives, chemicals, food colorings, sweeteners, and preservatives and allows one to search for over 400 ingredient names. Our unique ingredient reports contain simple and easy to understand descriptions, alternate names, possible health effects, and allergy information. The site is completely free and is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, health care professionals, dietitians, and concerned consumers.

If that soda can had a warning label which stated “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children,” would you give it to your child? This is the decision parents in the European Union (EU) now have. After numerous studies indicated that artificial food dyes caused behavioral and hyperactivity issues in children, the EU finally took action. On July 20, 2010 new food coloring legislation went into effect in the EU which requires special labeling of foods containing six colorants.

Here are the six offending dyes:

In the US, it is very difficult to avoid consuming synthetic food dyes. Virtually every type of brightly colored candy contains food coloring as does soda, sports drinks, cereals, packaged snacks and most medication designed for children.  Food colorings in general, whether artificial or natural, have one thing in common: They are added to the food ONLY to make it look more appealing. Now, I try to avoid processed snacks and junk food as best I can, but throw a few Red Vines, gummy sour watermelons, or Peanut M&Ms in my line of sight and watch my willpower crumble.
Continue reading…