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What the heck is in my food?

By ARIELLE BREEN, Staff Writer

Aspartame
Sodium Benzoate
Butylhydroxytoluene
Red dye number 2
Red dye number 3
Red dye number 40

No, this is not a book review of the latest and greatest new Sci-fi titles. These are names of common, harmful ingredients found in the everyday foods and products we eat and use. These are examples of ingredients that are linked to such favorites as cancer and diabetes. Sign me up.

Apparently, there are 92 (and counting) side effects linked to aspartame, including memory loss, headaches, dizziness and seizures. Sodium Benzoate, a common preservative, can turn into Benzene, which has been linked with leukemia. The food additive Butylhydroxytoluene (BHT), which is used in embalming fluid, is often found in many foods. Polysorbate 60 causes hypersensitive reactions where the body overreacts and causes allergic reactions. Most common food dyes have been shown to increase your risks of cancer and other problems – especially in children. These are only a few examples of the many.

Hmmm … I really wonder how there are so many adults and children developing autism, diabetes and obesity.

The list really does go on. In many of the food products we use every day are ingredients that are less than normal or natural. This isn’t some rarity. It is the majority. You have to look really hard and be vigilant to find foods and products that don’t have these odd, unnecessary, often harmful ingredients that go in and on our bodies.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves these, and many other ingredients as “safe,” I tend to trust them about as far as I can pay them. I say this since many of the people who deal with these ingredients, companies and manufacturers etc., are directly involved in, have close ties with, or work for … you guessed it … the FDA. Skepticism validated.

Why? Why is it like this? While people are becoming more and more aware of the problem, there are still those who don’t know or understand. The food and product manufacturers (and others) benefit from easy, cheap ingredients with long shelf lives. They want their products to cost less to make, not be perishable, and this makes sense, however, not if you are the buyer of the products that are harmful.

What can you do?

  • Read the label – You’ve heard it before; look at what you are buying. You deserve your money’s worth.
  • Don’t eat junk – Choose foods that are less processed, and aren’t quick fix.
  • Be informed – Visit sites that can tell you what’s what, like foodsafetynews.com, naturalnews.com, or slashfood.com.
  • Stay up-to-date – Know that as you become more informed of what is harmful, so do food companies. They often change the name of said harmful ingredients since they know consumers refuse to buy it (ex: High Fructose Corn Syrup aka HFC, was simply renamed as corn sugar, and Aspartame is now AminoSweet.)
  • Request (or demand) – Ask places you frequent to give you access to healthier options not loaded with additives. They will do it if enough people ask. Smoothies can be made from real fruit if more people request it. Vending will carry fresh fruits and vegetable snacks if enough people are willing to buy it. It’s harder for them since these foods go bad faster, but if enough people buy them then they will carry them.
  • Shop better – You choose where, what, and how you get your food. Several towns throughout mid Michigan have health food stores. Most towns also have farmers’ markets open during summer months. Take advantage and freeze, dry, or can foods. Get to know an Amish family. They may sell you home-raised eggs, chickens, and more at a great price.
  • Shop on the peripherals of the store – Don’t go where the “bad” foods are, which is usually in the middle of the store. Stick to the produce sections and foods that are actually perishable. Dairy and meat sections can be good too, just read the labels.

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