As artificial and engineered ingredients have replaced the natural ones
our grandmothers used to cook with, we’re increasingly finding ourselves
exposed to potentially harmful chemicals. The problem is many of these
chemicals aren’t listed on food packaging either because they’re part of
the packaging or because they’re involved in the manufacturing process.
Learn more about some of the harmful chemicals you might be consuming.
This derivative of plastic is found in a wide variety of foods, but especially dairy products.
While the reason is unclear, it’s thought the plastic tubing used to
milk cows contains the chemical that then ends up in the dairy.
Phthalates are related to BPA and masquerade as estrogen in your body,
leading to hormonal disruption and a host of other effects.
was very publicly removed from plastic bottles, but is still widely
present in the environment and in certain foods. Cans are often lined
with BPA, which can then contaminate the food inside. Microwaving
plastic food containers can also cause BPA to leech into the foods inside.
Like phthalates, this chemical is similar enough to estrogen to act
like a hormone in the body, which can disrupt normal hormonal action.
Brominated Vegetable Oil
This chemical is commonly used in drinks
and helps keep ingredients from separating on shelves. The problem is
it’s been banned as a food additive in several countries and has been
linked to neurologic symptoms like headaches, fatigue and a loss of
muscle coordination and memory.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
While the FDA has deemed this chemical to be
safe for human consumption, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has
said it’s reasonably likely to be a carcinogen. The chemical is a
preservative used in a wide variety of fast foods to prevent oils and
butters from going rancid. In animal studies, the additive has been
found to cause cancer in high doses and its effects on humans at lower
doses are unclear.
Look on the side of any soft drink or candy bag
and you’re likely to see a colorant. Blue 2 (brain tumors), Green 3
(bladder and testicular cancer), Red 3 (thyroid cancer), Red 40 (immune
system tumors), Yellow 6 (adrenal tumors and allergic reaction) have all
been linked to a variety of cancers in animal studies. While companies
claim that low doses of these colorants are harmless, the chemicals are
often put in food without significant, long-term testing in humans.
This chemical is used in the manufacture of tea
bags and sausage casings and is part of the factory process of breaking
down proteins often seen as “hydrolyzed soy protein.”
It’s also been found in oyster sauce, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. The
chemical is a known carcinogen and may disrupt fertility in males. It’s
rarely if ever listed as an ingredient.