Currently, more than 10,000 chemicals are allowed to be used in the foods that are sold in the US.
Some additives that are added to food are to fortify them with additional nutrients like vitamins and minerals that are essential in our diet. Most are added for non-nutritional reasons to make them look more appealing to the consumer, improve the taste, and preserve them so they have a longer shelf life.
Most additives are purposely added to foods. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, and sodium benzoate are common preservatives added to food. Guar gum and Carrageenan are added to foods as an emulsifier and thickening agent. Artificial food dyes such as red 40 and yellow lake 5 have no purpose other than making food look more appealing to the consumer. High fructose corn syrup and trans fats were developed to provide a cheaper way to produce foods. Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, sucralose, and aspartame allow foods to have that sweet taste while keeping the overall caloric value of the food lower.
There are also lots of chemicals and heavy metals that are in processed foods as a result of the food production and packaging process. These are produced as byproducts from high heat processing in food production. Acrylamide is a carcinogen produced when foods like potato chips are made using high
temperatures. Benzene, Ethanol, and Ethyl Carbamate are other examples of chemicals produced as byproduct of food production. During the canning process, high levels of heat force aluminum and tin from the cans into our food.
As for the 10,000 plus chemicals that the FDA allow to be used in our foods, around 99% of the chemicals introduced since the year 2000 have gone through no review by the FDA. Most are added into foods through a loophole that allows substances added to foods to be classified as “generally recognized as safe”. This loophole allows food manufacturers to determine if additives are safe and not
the FDA. The sad part is that most of these chemicals that are widely used are associated with health issues and increased risk of caner and endocrine disruption.
The bottom line is that it is up to consumers to stay knowledgeable and make the appropriate food choices to limit and eliminate toxic foods and additives from their diet. Consuming a diet of whole foods that include fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins is the recommended diet to optimize health and
long term well-being.