Food Ad­di­tives

Myths and truths

Consumer Voice - - Contents - – Com­piled by Richa Pande

Myths and truths

Food ad­di­tives are sub­stances that are not nat­u­rally present in the food but added to the food to pre­vent its spoilage, in­crease the shelf life of the prod­uct, and in­ten­sify or main­tain its taste and ap­pear­ance. Preser­va­tives, colours, flavours, emul­si­fiers, sta­bi­liz­ers, and sweet­en­ers are ex­am­ples of food ad­di­tives. Th­ese are added to the food at dif­fer­ent stages – pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing, treat­ment, pack­ag­ing – and it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to find any pack­aged food with­out some food ad­di­tive. With the ad­vent of pro­cessed foods con­tain­ing ad­di­tives, the mis­con­cep­tions re­lated to th­ese foods have also started do­ing the rounds. Let’s have a look at some com­mon myths re­lated to food ad­di­tives.

Myth 1: All food ad­di­tives are syn­thetic

Truth: All food ad­di­tives are not syn­thetic. In­gre­di­ents such as salt, sugar, and vine­gar are used as preser­va­tives. Colours such as an­tho­cyanins, carotenoids, xan­tho­phylls, cur­cumin, and caramel oc­cur nat­u­rally and are used to en­hance food ap­pear­ance.

Myth 2: Nat­u­ral ad­di­tives do not have an ad­verse ef­fect on health

Truth: If you think that food items that have nat­u­ral ad­di­tives can be con­sumed freely, then you are wrong.

Al­ler­gies re­lated to ad­di­tives It’s im­por­tant to note that any­body can be al­ler­gic to ad­di­tives—nat­u­ral or syn­thetic—and de­velop al­ler­gic symp­toms af­ter their con­sump­tion. An­natto, which oc­curs nat­u­rally and is added to give a yel­low­ish colour to food, has been proven to cause al­ler­gic symp­toms such as de­vel­op­ment of hives.

Keep the amount in check

Salt, sugar, and oils are some nat­u­ral food preser­va­tives that are used widely in many food items but their ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion is known

to cause life­style dis­eases such as di­a­betes, obe­sity, dys­lipi­demia, and hy­per­ten­sion.

Nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sub­sti­tutes of ad­di­tives are equally harm­ful

Con­sump­tion of cer­tain caloric nat­u­ral sweet­en­ers such as high-fruc­tose corn syrup (HFSC) is as harm­ful as con­sump­tion of sugar. Man­u­fac­tur­ers use hy­dro­genated oils in­stead of veg­etable oils or sat­u­rated fats to in­crease the shelf life of prod­ucts or to re­duce the pro­duc­tion cost. Hy­dro­genated oils con­tain trans-fats in large amount. Trans-fats block the ar­ter­ies and lead to se­vere heart dis­eases. In In­dia, ca­cao but­ter, which is used to make choco­lates and is an ex­pen­sive com­mod­ity, is re­placed by hy­dro­genated fats made from veg­etable oils of co­conut, palm, rape­seed, soy­bean, etc., which have large amounts of trans-fats.

Myth 3: FDA-ap­proved/GRAS ad­di­tives are safe and can be con­sumed freely

Truth: Gen­er­ally Recog­nised as Safe (GRAS) is a nom­i­na­tion given to a chem­i­cal/sub­stance added to food. It is con­sid­ered to be safe by FDA as their con­sump­tion over the years has not caused any health ail­ment. The in­ter­est­ing fact is that all the ap­proved ad­di­tives are not thor­oughly tested. The test­ing is done by man­u­fac­tur­ers in or­der to pro­vide an ar­gu­ment and ev­i­dence that the food prod­uct is safe for hu­man con­sump­tion.

Any ad­di­tive or even nu­tri­ent is safe for hu­man con­sump­tion only if it’s taken in a cer­tain amount. The Joint FAO/WHO Ex­pert Com­mit­tee on Food Ad­di­tives (JECFA) has set ac­cept­able daily in­take (ADI) lim­its for food ad­di­tives and it’s manda­tory for the man­u­fac­tur­ers to ad­here to it. The ADI is a mea­sure of the amount of a food ad­di­tive that can be in­gested on a daily ba­sis over a life­time with­out an ap­pre­cia­ble health risk. ADIs are ex­pressed in mg of the food ad­di­tive/kg body weight/day.

Myth 4: All sugar sub­sti­tutes are equally good/ harm­ful

Truth: Ex­ces­sive sugar con­sump­tion is as­so­ci­ated with health dis­or­ders such as di­a­betes, obe­sity, and den­tal prob­lems. Sugar sub­sti­tutes were in­tro­duced in the mar­ket with the in­tent to sus­tain the taste fac­tor in a food prod­uct with­out in­creas­ing its caloric con­tent. Sugar sub­sti­tutes are of two types: nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring and ar­ti­fi­cial. Some of them are low-caloric and some oth­ers are non-caloric; the in­ten­sity of sweet­ness varies too. Some of them have an ad­verse im­pact on health, while some are ac­tu­ally a good sub­sti­tute of sugar.

Ace­sul­fame-K is the sugar sub­sti­tute added to so­called diet drinks to re­duce the calo­rie con­tent. Its im­pact on health is still a sub­ject of dis­cus­sion and no clear ver­dicts could be given in favour or against it, al­though pa­tients suf­fer­ing from phenylke­tonuria must avoid its con­sump­tion.

Some sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments have cor­re­lated ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers like as­par­tame, sac­cha­rin, and cy­cla­mate to can­cer, due to which their con­sump­tion is avoided by many con­sumers and man­u­fac­tur­ers also tend to avoid their us­age in their prod­ucts. How­ever, th­ese are still are used in some parts of the world.

Su­cralose is an ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­ener that can be rec­om­mended to a di­a­betic since it has al­most no side-ef­fect. The most rec­om­mended sugar sub­sti­tute is nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring ste­via, which is about 250 times sweeter than sugar. Ste­via is a lit­tle ex­pen­sive but be­cause of its char­ac­ter­is­tic in­tense sweet­ness, very

less amount of it is re­quired for any food prepa­ra­tion.

Sugar sub­sti­tutes and gums

Man­u­fac­tur­ers of chew­ing gums have re­placed sugar with ar­ti­fi­cial and nat­u­ral sugar sub­sti­tutes to re­duce the calo­rie con­tent, to en­hance the sta­bil­ity of the prod­uct, and to pre­vent the oc­cur­rence of den­tal car­ries. Xyl­i­tol­based gums should be pre­ferred over other gums as xyl­i­tol is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sugar sub­sti­tute.

Myth 5: Names of the ad­di­tives are men­tioned on the food la­bel

Truth: Some man­u­fac­tur­ers men­tion the name of the food ad­di­tives on the food la­bel, while some men­tion their E num­bers or any other de­riv­a­tive of the food ad­di­tive. Monosodium glu­ta­mate (MSG) is a flavour en­hancer known for its umami taste. It oc­curs nat­u­rally al­though its con­sump­tion has been cor­re­lated to sev­eral ad­verse ef­fects on health. It is manda­tory to state that a prod­uct has MSG. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers di­rectly state that a prod­uct con­tains added MSG, while oth­ers only men­tion that a prod­uct has ‘hy­drol­ysed soy pro­tein’ as an in­gre­di­ent, which is ac­tu­ally MSG, or they men­tion it on the food la­bel as E621 (the E num­ber as­signed to MSG).

Myth 6: The ad­di­tives af­fect an­i­mals and hu­mans sim­i­larly

Truth: Ad­di­tives are added in very less amount in food items as per the reg­u­la­tory guide­lines. The re­sults of an­i­mal study are not rel­e­vant mostly be­cause a very large dose of ad­di­tives is given to the an­i­mals to as­sess the im­pact of ad­di­tives on an­i­mals. Also, the way an in­gre­di­ent is di­gested and metabolised by an an­i­mal is very dif­fer­ent from hu­man be­ings.

Myth 7: Ad­di­tives af­fect all hu­mans equally

Truth: The ac­tion of food ad­di­tives is greatly de­pen­dent on body weight and age of an in­di­vid­ual. Con­sump­tion of an ad­di­tive may lead to ad­verse ef­fect on a child weigh­ing 20 kg and may have no ef­fect on an adult weigh­ing 70 kg. A child must not be ex­posed to food ad­di­tives fre­quently, which means that the child must not con­sume food prod­ucts con­tain­ing ad­di­tives on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Sci­en­tific stud­ies have also proved that ad­di­tives are known to in­duce hy­per­ac­tiv­ity in chil­dren.

There are cer­tain food ad­di­tives that must be avoided by women dur­ing preg­nancy and lac­ta­tion. Th­ese in­clude monosodium glu­ta­mate, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers such as sac­cha­rin and as­par­tame, and food colours such as tar­trazine, quino­line yel­low, al­lura red, indigo carmine, pon­ceau 4R, and ery­thro­sine.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.