Saturday, November 22, 2008

7 Food Preservatives That Are Unsafe

Following is a list of seven food preservatives that have serious safety concerns. Anytime you buy a processed food product, make sure to read the label and make sure it does not contain any of them.
1. Propyl Gallate
This preservative, used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling, might cause cancer. It's used in vegetable oil, meat products, potato sticks, chicken soup base and chewing gum, and is often used with BHA and BHT (see below).
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2. BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used similarly to propyl gallate -- to keep fats and oils from going rancid. Used commonly in cereals, chewing gum, vegetable oil and potato chips (and also in some food packaging to preserve freshness), these additives have been found by some studies to cause cancer in rats. If a brand you commonly buy uses these additives, look for a different variety, as not all manufacturers use these preservatives.
3. Heptyl Paraben
This preservative, found in beer and non-carbonated soft drinks, is relatively uncommon. Although studies suggest it is safe, it has never been tested in the presence of alcohol, so it may pose unknown safety risks.
4. Sodium Nitrite (Sodium Nitrate)
Sodium nitrite (or sodium nitrate) is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. These additives can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines. Some studies have found a link between consuming cured meats and nitrite and cancer in humans
5. Sodium Benzoate (aka Benzoic Acid)
This preservative is used in fruit juice, carbonated drinks and pickles to help prevent the growth of microorganisms in these acidic foods. Sodium benzoate may cause hives, asthma, or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, and may adversely effect behavior in children, particularly those with ADHD.
Further, when sodium benzoate is used alongside ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in an acidic solution, a reaction occurs that causes the formation of benzene, which causes cancer.
Though generally safe for most people, sulfites used in wine and dried fruits can cause severe allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to it.
U.S. officials and members of the beverage industry have known about this problem for some 15 years, and drink makers were supposed to reformulate their products to prevent the problem over a decade ago.
However, tests have uncovered that some beverages still contain high levels of benzene, particularly when exposed to high heat, raising consumer concerns and prompting the filing of a class-action lawsuit.
6. Sulfites (Sulfur Dioxide, Sodium bisulfite)
This preservative prevents discoloration in dried fruits, wine, processed potatoes, and some fresh shrimp. Sulfiting agents destroy vitamin B-1 and may cause severe allergic reactions, particularly among people with asthma.
7. Ultra Pasteurization
Not technically an additive, ultra-pasteurization refers to a type of high-temperature processing that gives milk and dairy products an extended shelf life of up to 50 days. Also known as "ultra-high temperature" (UHT), this process may damage the fragile components of milk, for instance flattening milk proteins so that enzymes can no longer help break them down.
According to Lee Dexter, microbiologist and owner of White Egret Farm goat dairy in Austin, Texas in a Weston A. Price article, "If such proteins pass into the bloodstream (a frequent occurrence in those suffering from "leaky gut," a condition that can be brought on by drinking processed commercial milk), the body perceives them as foreign proteins and mounts an immune response. That means a chronically overstressed immune system and much less energy available for growth and repair."