The media prints more advice today about chemicals in our food than ever before. It is confusing, knowing which chemicals occur naturally, which are man-made additives, which are actually beneficial and most importantly, which are harmful and to be avoided.
A comprehensive list of all the chemicals that occur in food would be far too long and complicated to explore here, so the information below outlines some of the main food types and situations where chemicals occur, and how concerned we should be about awareness and avoidance in our daily lives.
Because individuals are increasingly health-conscious, a lot of people are looking for ways in which to avoid chemicals and additives in their food. These tips will assist you in avoiding an excess of additives in your diet.
Acrylamide– is a natural chemical found in starchy foods, most notably fried foods such as chips and crisps. Excessive exposure to acrylamide can be harmful, but limited as part of a balanced diet, its effects are harmless. Semicarbazide– this is not actually found in food, but is a by-product of the process used to manufacture the sealants on glass jars, which may react with the food inside. Scientists advise that this chemical has been present in small quantities in food contained in glass jars for over thirty years, with no discernable health risk. Mercury– another chemical that occurs naturally, and is often found in fish. Predatory fish, which live longer, such as sharks, tend to have higher levels of mercury in their bodies, as do trout fished from rivers near volcanic activity, that live in water with higher mercury levels. The average adult has nothing to worry about – the human body disposes of mercury naturally, but foetuses can be sensitive during early development, so pregnant mothers are advised to avoid large intakes of fish.
Arsenic– although alarm bells ring at the mention of this chemical, it does occur naturally in almost all food sources as a result of long-term distribution into the earth and water supplies from pesticides. Obviously, high-level exposure is dangerous, but the normal encounters found in standard food consumption are at harmless levels, and not a cause for concern.
As people become increasingly health-conscious, the move is towards finding healthier diets and lifestyles – some of these points will guide you towards a more chemical-free diet.
Eat Organic Food
It is more expensive to buy in the shops because organic food is more expensive to produce, but at least you can cut down or even eliminate chemical content in the food you eat.
Legislation demands that manufacturers include lists of additives on food container labels, so read before you buy. The dreaded ‘E numbers’ should be avoided where possible, especially,
E2ll– artificial sweeteners E220– sulphur dioxide
E104– quinoline yellow colouring
E133– brilliant blue colouring
E110– sunset yellow colouring
Eat Seasonal Produce
Eating ‘in season’ foods will reduce or eliminate the likelihood of your food having been chemically treated to either preserve or force-feed it.
Wash All Fresh Fruit And Vegetables
Washing all fresh food before cooking will remove surface-sprayed pesticides, and should be done with all food, even if the package advises ‘washed and ready to eat’.
Trim Excess Fat
Pesticides in a food-animal’s diet can remain stored in the animal’s fat, so remove any additional fat before cooking.
Reduce Egg Intake
Even free-range and organic eggs may contain lasalocid – research is discovering that the occurrence of this growth-promoting antibiotic is increasing.
Watch Out For Label Wording
Orange juice labelled ‘orange juice drink’ may not necessarily contain oranges, the flavour may be artificial. Similarly, ‘cheese flavour’ does not indicate the present of cheese, but ‘cheese flavoured’ does.
Check The Picture
Legislation dictates that if a food product does not contain a certain fruit for example, it is not permitted to show a picture of that fruit on the outside packaging – this applies to yoghurts among other products.
No-one wants to be obsessive about chemicals in food, but the more organic and natural a diet you and your family can eat, the less likely you are to encounter side-effects from chemical enhancements added to make your food visually more appealing. Your eyes may enjoy the sight of ‘enhanced’ food – your body may not.