Saturday, July 23, 2011

Be alert to additives


Every day we consume food additives that could be harming us and our children, so what can we do about it?

A few months ago I wrote about how much we are exposed to chemicals in our day to day lives – in our food, our homes, in the products we buy, and the clothes we wear.
It’s no wonder rates of cancer, asthma, ADHD and other behavioural disorders have climbed to alarming rates.
To make things even more bleak, problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes are also adding to Australia’s health crisis.
While we can take steps to eliminate many of the chemicals we come into contact with, we should also be taking a much closer look at what we put in our mouths.
Obviously a healthy diet and regular exercise is a good start, but have you ever stopped to consider what food additives you are unknowingly putting into your body?
None of us would ever intentionally harm ourselves or our children, but hidden in a multitude of foods are toxic chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic (can cause cancer), mutagenic (capable of mutating into something else) and teratogenic (can cause birth defects).
These toxins are primarily in food additives which aim to give food a technological function (such as improving taste or texture) or for aesthetic reasons (better appearance).
 “Vibrant colours are added to appeal to children,” writes mother of two Julie Eady in her renowned book Additive Alert.
“Flavour enhancers are used to give extra taste to otherwise tasteless products.
“Thickeners are added to make watered-down products seem more substantial.
“Ongoing research and scrutiny is showing substantial scientific and anecdotal links between the growing use of certain food additives in our over-processed diets, and the explosion of a multitude of physical and behavioural health problems in our society.
“Even if you don’t have any specific health concerns at the moment, it makes sense for each of us to make some informed decisions about the food we eat and feed our families.”
Some food additives are natural and safe to consume (such as Vitamin C, also known as additive 300), some are necessary and beneficial (for example, they help prevent food from decaying), while others are entirely synthetic and produced by a chemical process.
Unfortunately, there are numerous additives permitted in Australia, and widely used in our foods, that are poorly tested, or known to be harmful.
“Research over the past 40 years has linked many artificial food colours derived from petrol with ADHD and certain allergic reactions,” says Dr Peter Dingle, who is quoted in Eady’s book Additive Alert.
“The chemicals that form the preservatives put into processed meats definitely cause cancer and are directly linked with childhood leukaemia.
“This scares me because I see many children eating lots of processed meats in the form of luncheon meats, sausages, frankfurts and party sausages.”
It is estimated that Australians consume at least five kilograms of food additives each year.
There are at least 30 that are known or suspected carcinogens that are permitted in Australia but may be banned in other countries.
The regulatory body, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), says if a food additive is approved in Australia, then it is safe to consume. 
However, there are many additives that have been banned in other countries, yet FSANZ permits them in our food.
Testing of food chemicals in Australia is not as rigorous as it is in other countries.
If an additive is found to cause cancer in laboratory mice, it can still be approved in our food at a “safe level”, based on the projected average adult intake.
But there is no daily intake guideline for children which means they are likely getting more than a “safe level” of this toxin in their diet.
The other astounding disregard for consumer safety is a gaping hole in the legislation that means manufacturers can get away with not listing additives if they are present in an ingredient that comprises 5% or less of the product.
So what can parents do to reduce their intake of additives?
Firstly, buy the book Additive Alert because it is truly an eye-opener that will help you learn how to avoid products with suspect additive ingredients.
Don’t expect a list of good versus bad products - the aim is to teach you how to read a product label, what food additives are and what they are used for, how to spot hidden additives and which ones are particularly nasty and should be avoided.
There is also an excellent contact list at the back where you can go for further information.
Secondly, before you feel too overwhelmed and confused by all the product labels additive numbers, get along to tomorrow’s Additive Alert seminar hosted by Sue Montgomery at Brother’s Leagues Club.
You will learn which food additives are linked to health problems, especially in children, where harmful additives are hiding in our everyday foods, how to shop smarter, avoid harmful additives and improve your health, and learn how to make a safer, healthier lunchbox.
Additive Alert seminar is at Brothers World of Entertainment tomorrow from 2pm to 4pm (doors open at 1.30pm). There will also be information stalls and goodie bags.
Tickets cost $22 presale or $27 at the door. You can purchase tickets at Enviromart, Neils Organics, Healthy Life, Baby Yeti, or Where Your Health Matters. 

* Additive Alert by Julie Eady is available at good book stores and health food shops. ISBN: 0646499165.

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