Are These Common Food Additives Safe?

Most people associate food additives with harmful side effects and adverse impacts on health. However, this is not necessarily the case. Most food additives serve an important purpose, otherwise they would not be added to your food. From extending shelf life to improving texture and much more, they have a wide range of benefits. However, it is true that some are not so good for you – below I take a look at some of the most common food additives, and explain why they are or aren’t safe for you to eat.

EDTA

Also known as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (yep, I copied and pasted that), EDTA is frequently found in a wide range of foods, from shellfish to salad dressings and margarine. What could it possibly be doing in there? Stopping you from becoming ill, actually. It draws out and eliminates traces of metal that can actually cause a food poisoning-like sickness. Not only is EDTA safe, it actually makes you safer!

Aspartame

You probably want to avoid this stuff, if you can. It is an artificial sweetener commonly used as an alternative to sugar, and you may be putting it in your coffee everyday without realising that it is likely to be unsafe. Not only has research suggested that it is a potentially cancer-causing ingredient at normal dietary doses, many believe that it promote the development of brain tumours

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Carrageenan

Here’s one you’d probably steer clear of if you believed everything you read in the media, however there seems to have been a lot of confusion around carrageenan. It is a naturally derived additive that comes from seaweed, and it serves a range of purposes as a thickener, emulsifier, preservative and more. A similar product called poligeenan that is unsafe causes the confusion, however it is not used in food. The carrageenan in your milk, cold cuts or beer is fine for you to consume.

 

TBHQ

This additive is actually a kind of butane, a gas that is a known carcinogen. It is used to make chicken nuggets last longer in a range of fast food chains, and some main chains have been pressured into removing it from their products. However, if you do consume nuggets with TBHQ, you may have an increased risk of developing cancer – definitely best to steer well away in that case.

Hopefully this blog post has demonstrated how varied food additives can be; some actually help our health, whilst others aren’t quite as safe.

Almond Milk’s Mystery Ingredient – What Is Carrageenan?

If you are a regular consumer of almond milk, chances are that you are pretty conscious about what you eat and drink. Whether you’re dodging the dairy due to being lactose intolerant, vegan, or just as part of a lower fat diet, almond milk is a great alternative to milk from cows.

Homemade almond milk is the purest form you can get, as you can ensure no ingredients are added. The kind you can buy from the store is convenient and tasty, although it does contain a few other ingredients too, including a seaweed extract called carrageenan.

Carrageenan has been the victim of some vicious rumors and criticisms that are entirely unfounded. Some of this comes as a result of innocent misinformation, and some is a malicious, deliberate tactic carried out by health food companies who stand to make more money as a result.

Firstly, let’s understand why carrageenan is even in our almond milk in the first place. It acts as a stabilizer, meaning that it prevents the products from separating in the carton and keeps it desirable in that sense. It also gives it a creamier consistency that it would otherwise have, creating the indulgent almond milk we know and love.

So, why do people think it’s dangerous?

Well, a lot of the misunderstanding is due to there being two kinds of carrageenan, degraded and undegraded. Degraded carrageenan, also known as poligeenan, is treated with harsh acid during the production process and is thus rendered unsafe for human consumption. However, it is never used in the food industry and is therefore of no concern. Undegraded carrageenan has no contact with this acid and is fine to eat.

There is a misguided rumor that carrageenan can become poligeenan inside the body, due to the acidic conditions of the stomach. However, there acid used to produce poligeenan is far more potent than that found inside the body, so this is not possible.

Much of this information comes from Dr Joanne Tobacman, who has been researching carrageenan and its impacts for many years. However, she routinely uses poligeenan in her research rather than undegraded carrageenan, and when she does test the type used in food, she does so in totally unrealistic quantities and concentrations. She has even made bold claims that the ingredient can cause cancer, which is entirely untrue.

Government bodies and food safety authorities recognise this, and dismiss her findings as invalid. It is unknown why Dr Tobacman maintains this unfounded smear campaign against a totally harmless ingredient.

In short, the type of carrageenan found in almond milk is totally safe for you to consume. Those eating dairy-free already have a tough time finding what to eat and drink, and misguided science like this is entirely unnecessary – enjoy your store-bought almond milk without any concerns.