Artificial Flavors – A blanket term referring to over 100 possible chemical additives. Side Effects: Allergies and behavioral reactions. Found in: Nearly every processed food product.
Azodicarbonamide – A synthetic yellow-orange dough conditioner. Side Effects: Used most often in the production of industrial foam plastic, azodicarbonamide is labeled as a potential cause of asthma in the UK. The FDA has approved its use for food in the US. The WHO concluded from a review of 47 studies that “exposure levels should be reduced as much as possible. Found in: Dunkin’ Donuts bagels, McDonald’s burger buns.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) – Petroleum-derived antioxidants and preservatives. Side Effects – The Department of Health and Human Services says BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” yet the FDA allows its use. BHT is considered less dangerous but it still causes cancer in animals in lab research. The chemicals aren’t even always necessary and in most cases they can be replaced with vitamin E. Found in: Goya lard, Golden Grahams, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Orbit gum.
Carrageenan – A thickener and emulsifier extracted from seaweed. Side Effects: Although seaweed is good for you, this is a seaweed byproduct linked to cancer, colon trouble and ulcers. Found in: Weight Watchers Giant Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream Bars, Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches, Creamsicles.
Caramel Coloring – An artificial pigment created by heating sugars and usually includes ammonia. Side Effects: When made from straight sugar it’s relatively benign but when produced with ammonia it puts off 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, chemicals that have been linked to cancer in mice. California has categorized 4-methylimidazole as “known to cause cancer” earlier this year. Companies are not required to disclose how the coloring is made. Found in: Colas and other soft drinks, sauces, breads and pastries, La Choy soy sauce, and Stove Top stuffing mix.
Beaver Anal Gland Juice – Catoreum is a bitter, smelly, orange-brown substance that in nature beavers combine with their urine to mark territory. Side Effects: There are no known adverse health effects, but it is an animal’s anal excretions. Found in: Food and beverages, typically as vanilla or raspberry “natural flavorings”.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) – A toxic flame retardant chemical initially used to keep plastics from catching fire. For decades the food industry has been adding it to some sodas, juices and sports drinks to keep artificial flavoring chemicals from separating from the rest of the liquids. Side Effects: Leaves residues in fat cells and has caused tumors in lab animals, as well as skin discoloration and lesions on at least two humans. Found in: Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple and some Gatorade and Powerade flavors. Banned in Norway, Austria and Germany.
Cloned Cow’s Stomach – Traditionally, cheese makers used rennet derived from the mucosa of a veal calf’s fourth stomach in order to create cheese. Cost and limited availability of calf stomachs have led to the development of several rennet alternatives, such as vegetable, microbial, and the most popular – a genetically modified version derived from a cloned calf gene. Side Effects: The long term health effects of eating genetically engineered foods has never been studied in humans. Found in: A vast majority of cheese sold in the U.S. Regardless of the rennet variety used, it will be listed as “enzymes” on the ingredient label, so it can be very hard to know exactly what kind you’re eating when you buy cheese.
Food Dyes – Petroleum-derived chemicals used to substitute natural ingredients and make food appear fresher, healthier and more appealing. Side Effects: Toxic to brain cells, hyperactivity, asthma, migraines, cancer, allergies, sinus congestion, and deception. Found in: Nearly every processed food product. Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast contains zero berry and cherry juice, instead using Red 40. Betty Crocker (General Mills) Carrot Cake Mix is actually carrot-free, using “carrot flavored pieces” made from corn syrup, flour, corn cereal, partially hydrogenated cottonseed or soybean oil (most likely from GMO crops), and artificial dyes Yellow 6 and Red 40. Mt. Olive and Vlassic pickles are artificially greener looking from Yellow 5. Pepperidge Farm Pumpernickel Bread uses fake caramel coloring to darken the bread, instead of natural ingredients used in traditional recipes. Blue #2 Side Effects: An increase in tumor development in the brain and mammary glands was found in lab rats in a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The FDA dismissed the finding. Artificial dyes are in the most heavily processed, nutritionally bankrupt foods in the supermarket. Found in: Fruit Loops, Skittles, Betty Crocker Rainbow Chip frosting. Tartrazine (a.k.a. Yellow #5 and E102) – coal tar derivative from industrial waste that was linked to hyperactivity in children in a 2007 UK study, now all products with it must use a warning label anywhere in the EU. Side Effects: Asthma, migraines and cancer. Found in: any orange or yellow artificially colored foods like soda, cheese-flavored products, flavored chips, pickles.
Glyphosate – The active chemical ingredient in the weed killer Roundup is a hormone disrupting chemical used GMO crops and at private homes. Nonorganic farmers used 57 million pounds of glyphosate on food crops in 2009, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Side Effects: Linked to obesity, learning disabilities, birth defects, infertility and potentially irreversible metabolic damage. Found in: Streams, the air, rain, and in the very food we eat because it is a systemic herbicide that is actually taken up inside the plant. The legally allowed amount in food is alarming scientists. It is found in most nonorganic and “all natural” packaged foods because most contain GMO corn- or soy-derived products; both crops are the most heavily doused with Roundup.
L-cysteine – A non-essential amino acid made from dissolved human hair (often from China) and/or duck feathers. Food manufacturers use it as a commercial dough conditioner to improve the texture of breads and baked goods. Side Effects: Although there are no known adverse health effects, it is gross and violates religious and ethical beliefs of several groups, including Jews, Muslims and vegans. Found in: Several processed grain products.
Parabens – Used to prevent mold and yeast formation in food, they are also used in cosmetics, toothpaste and personal lubricant. Althought parabens exist in nature, the ones used in commercial products are created synthetically. Side Effects: It has been well documented that parabens act as mild estrogens that can disrupt the natural balance of hormones in the body. Found in: Baskin Robbins sundaes.
Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil / Trans Fat – A semi-solid fat created when food processors force hydrogen into unsaturated fatty acids. *Foods listed as ‘0 Trans Fat’ can contain up to .49 grams per serving in accordance with FDA labeling regulations; and, nutrition labels are only averages that can be off by as much as 20%. Side Effects: A Harvard study estimated that trans fat causes 70,000 heart attacks every year. The maximum daily serving is 2 grams, per the American Heart Association. Found in: The principle source of trans fat in the American diet they are beginning to be weaned out of foods, but there are still plenty that use it. At Long John Silver’s, 17 menu items have more than 2 grams of it; that’s the maximum daily amount to consume, according to the American Heart Association. Found in: McDonald’s McChicken, Long John Silver’s Broccoli Cheese Soup.
Potassium Bromate – A compound that conditions flour and helps bread puff up during baking. Side Effects: Causes thyroid and kidney tumors in rats and is banned from food use in many countries. In California, products containing it are required to carry a cancer warning label. Found in: Johnny Rockets Hoagie Roll. (negative publicity has made it more rare, but it is not banned by the FDA so always be on the lookout for it)
Preservatives – TBHQ Side Effects: Tinnitus, nausea and vomiting. Polysorbates (60, 65 & 80) Side Effects: Infertility, immunosuppressant, and anaphylaxis. Sodium Benzoate Side Effects: Allergies, cancer.
rBST (Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin) – A genetically engineered synthetic sex hormone that is banned in most countries, other than the U.S. Side Effects: Prostrate, breast and colon cancers.
Found in: Any milk in the U.S. that’s not labeled as organic or rBST free. Fortunately, many dairies are moving away from it due to consumer demand.