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Tag: The Center for Science in the Public Interest

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.

On Wednesday, consumer advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the FDA for their failure to address the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed. Factory farms  include antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs in animal feed to fight against the myriad of illnesses that cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys suffer from as a result of their CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) lifestyle (horrendous living conditions, restriction of natural behaviors, use of  unnatural feed and growth hormones). The antibiotics can also help increase production in food-producing animals which is an obvious plus for farmers. The major concern with this practice is that humans and animals will eventually become resistant to these drugs and then they will no longer be effective when they are really needed. The FDA itself has acknowledged that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics contributes to antimicrobial resistance in humans and has urged the meat industry to phase out antibiotics in feed. The FDA issued a draft guidance for the industry and recommends “judicious use” be applied. Specifically, the “FDA recommends that all antimicrobial drugs for animals and people be used only when necessary and appropriate.”
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Image: Vinni/Flickr

Yesterday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) formally petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to change legislation on a very popular additive, caramel coloring. Specifically, CSPI requested that the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for caramel coloring produced with ammonia be revoked:

“…request the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to revoke sections 21 CFR 73.85 and 21 CFR 182.1235 (generally recognized as safe or ‘GRAS’ regulation),… which authorize the use in foods of caramel colorings that are produced by means of an ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process and contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, both of which are carcinogenic in animal studies.”

This includes Caramel Coloring III (used in soy sauce, gravy, beer) and Caramel Coloring IV (used in beverages and colas), both of which are produced with ammonia. In the petition, CSPI indicates that reactions occur when carbohydrates and ammonia are used to produce caramel coloring and form by-products including 2- and 4-methylimidazole (“2-MI” and “4-MI” or “4-MEI”).  This chemical pair have been shown carcinogenic in animal studies. One interesting point that CSPI makes is that caramel coloring in soft drinks are typically used to make the soda its customary brown color. This is purely cosmetic and could be substituted with something else or omitted from drinks such as Coke and Pepsi without sacrificing much taste.

The CSPI petition also requested that the FDA change the names which are permitted for these types of caramel coloring and not allow caramel coloring in products which are labeled “natural,” due to the highly processed and chemical nature of these additives.

“… the FDA immediately should change the name ‘caramel coloring’ to ‘chemically modified caramel coloring’ or ‘ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring’ …and should not allow products to be labeled ‘natural’ if they contained any type of caramel coloring.”

To read the full petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest which includes references, click here.

This information is very relevant to today’s shopper since caramel coloring is found in thousands of foods INCLUDING so called health food.  Start paying attention to this additive as you study your ingredient labels. To read a full report on the different types of caramel coloring, other possible health effects and allergy information, click here.

Sources:
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Image: Vinni via Flickr

Today, the US Senate voted in favor of the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), which passed the Senate by a 73 to 25 vote. The House passed a version of the bill with support from both sides of the political aisle back in July 2009, but was held up in the Senate. The good news is that S.510 was passed with provisions (from the Tester Amendment) to exempt small farms and food producers from the new legislation if they sell directly to consumers and bring in less than $500,000 in annual sales.

There has been a ton of support and opposition for this bill. Some report that this is the end of gardening, saving seeds and it will only be a matter of time before small farms are included under the larger FDA controls of the bill. Opposition comes from the folks at Natural News (they nicknamed it the “Food Tyranny Act”), the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the John Birch Society. Others support the move saying the FDA currently has very little power to actually do anything to prevent or address major food outbreaks. Interestingly, the movement has gained support from very unlikely allies including: Center for Science in the Public Interest, author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation).

The bill now moves back to congress so the former bill and the new bill can be reconciled. All indicators are showing that the newly revised bill will be passed by the House quickly  in an attempt to try to get it completed by the end of the year (before new Congress members take their seats).  Stay tuned…