Horrors d’oeuvres! There Are Toxic Chemicals In Our Food

Horrors d’oeuvres! There Are Toxic Chemicals In Our Food

May 13, 2014

By Alexandra Zissu, Editorial Director

May 16th is Food Revolution Day,  an annual celebration of the real deal, founded by chef Jamie Oliver in a effort to curb a food supply cluttered with over-processed products (and other crimes against taste and nutrition). It’s an occasion to talk about everything whole foods bring to the table, but that’s not the only dinner conversation worth having.

Whole foods are also an antidote to another mealtime challenge: the many hidden toxic substances mixed, intentionally and otherwise, into the things we eat. In honor of this year’s celebration, here’s our list of 10 unsavories found in food that are worth skipping supper to avoid.

1. Dioxins

These and other persistent organic pollutants like PCBs accumulate in fat. That—and their widespread presence in the environment—puts these carcinogens in most meat and dairy food products. Eating low- or no-fat foods helps take them off your menu.

2. Bisphenol-A (BPA)

This hormone disruptor is used in the linings of food cans and can migrate into the foods they contain. The solution? Ditch canned food. Choose fresh, dried or frozen varieties of those foods instead.

3. BHA & BHT

These common preservatives are at the center of a food fight—the FDA says they’re safe but organizations like the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption disagree. To be safe, check food ingredients panels and preserve everyone’s health.

4. Artificial food colors

There’s a rainbow of trouble in these ubiquitous dyes, which are linked to cancer, ADHD, and hyperactivity. Thankfully, they’re always listed on food labels. Read before you buy.

5. Brominated vegetable oil

This food additive pops up in fruit-flavored drinks and sodas. But the bromine it contains is toxic and can accumulate in our bodies. Banned in the E.U., drinking lots of brominated vegetable oil beverages has been linked to skin lesions, nerve disorders, and memory loss. Sure makes a glass of filtered tap water tempting!

6. Sodium Nitrite & Sodium Nitrate

Debate about the safety of these common processed meat preservatives continues, but many believe they contribute to childhood diabetes and many cancers. So-called “uncured” and “no added nitrate/nitrite” food products aren’t much better—they substitute naturally nitrate-laden celery juice.

7. rBGH (a.k.a. rBST)

This synthetic hormone increases milk production. But it also elevates the amount of IGF found in that milk, a growth hormone linked to multiple cancers. Look for dairy products and dairy-containing foods labeled rBGH/rBST-free. Organic is even better.

8. Sodium Benzoate & Potassium Benzoate

These preservatives are toxic to cells and DNA. When they mix with ascorbic acid, benzene is created, a carcinogen that causes all kinds of unpalatable health effects. Seek products and foods without these toxic chemicals.

9. Conventional Corn & Soy

Some 90% all U.S. corn and soy is genetically modified (GM). Studies have associated GM foods with allergies, organ toxicity, reproductive harm, immune, and digestive issues. Organic varieties, however, are GM-free.

10. Acrylamide

This suspected carcinogen forms when starchy foods like grains and potatoes are cooked at high temperatures to create products like bread and French fries. Until more is known, it’s a good idea to reduce your family’s consumption of such foods.

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