Friday, May 21, 2010

The Issue of Food Additives

One of the reasons that I started to bake all of my own bread at home was the fact that I was bothered by what I was reading on the bags' labels. I'm sure each of you have read a label at some point while shopping and thought... "what IS this stuff and why can't I even pronounce it?" Ever since my bread making venture first started, I've become more curious about reading all labels while shopping. I also started to do a little research on what the FDA has allowed manufacturers to do (and to add) to our food. Here is an article by Sustainable Table that I'm sure will surprise some of you!

The Issues: Additives

Americans spend about ninety percent of their food budget on processed foods, which, unlike whole foods, have been treated in some way after being harvested or butchered.1Almost all of these processed foods contain additives, substances intended to change the food in some way before it is sold to consumers. Additives include flavorings that change a food's taste, preservatives that extend its shelf life, colorings that change the way it looks, and dietary additives, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other supplements. Packaging is considered an indirect food additive and, in fact, many kinds of packaging actually add substances to the food they enclose.

Preparing Greens
By eating fresh, unprocessed foods grown by local farmers, you avoid preservatives and additives because these foods are not transported thousands of miles. Photo by Jason Houston.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has approved more than 3,000 food additives for use in the United States.2 However, while approved for human consumption, food additives may still threaten our health. This is one of many reasons why it is better to purchase whole foods, or those that have been minimally processed and treated.

Regulation and Categories of Food Additives
The FDA regulates all food additives, breaking them into three categories. "Indirect Food Additives" include packaging materials such as paper, plastic, cardboard and glue that come into contact with food.
3 "Direct Food Additives" include preservatives, nutritional supplements, flavors and texturizers that are added to food. "Color Additives" are used to alter color.


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