It can be difficult sometimes to really know what you’re seeing when looking at food labels (and they do that on purpose), but there are some ingredients in processed foods that should instantly clue you in on how nasty the product really is. Are you eating the leftovers of petroleum manufacturing? Is that a pharmaceutical in your cheese?
I was completely unaware of the depth of involvement and size of the flavorings industry until reading “The Dorito Effect, The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor” by Mark Schatzker. Eye-opening, to say the least. I highly recommend it! (Find it in the “Shop” section under “What I’m Reading“.) The flavorings industry is expected to reach $15.2 billion by the year 2020. This, of course, doesn’t even include preservatives, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents, dyes or antioxidants.
Put on your sleuth hat, get out the magnifying glass, and let’s get to work!
A word ending used in the medical and chemistry industries, -Mycin refers to a branch of bacteria and fungus derived antibiotics. Mycins are used frequently in hospitals – Oh, and added to cheeses as a ‘mold-inhibitor.’ Still hungry?
Found in: four vaccinations, eye drops, pet food, and your cheese!
Better uses for Mycins than in food: disinfecting toilets, pharmaceutical use, sterilizing surgical equipment.
“Could I get some cheese with my mold…? You know what – nevermind.”
Listed among the top ten ‘food’ allergens, sulfite additives are all over the place. These can cause severe reactions in people with asthma, but are also known to cause ‘allergic reaction’ symptoms, although they say it’s “not an actual allergic reaction.” Which is super comforting. Nothing gets the stomach growling more than the “CONTAINS SULFITES” warning labels.
Found in: wine (really high amounts), dried fruits, molasses, coconut-containing products, most restaurant foods.
Better uses: We can’t really think of a good use for these chemicals… maybe in the military and space travel?
“Aaaah…. an elegant black currant note and firm, citrus pith finish. Oh! And – do tell me sir – do I detect a hint of Sodium Metabisulfite? Always a crowd pleaser!”
Hydrogenated Anything Oil (Especially Soy / Cottonseed oils)
Artificially altered, linked to cardiovascular and heart disease, and derived from genetically modified nutrient-deprived crops, Hydrogenated (and partially hydrogenated) oils wreak havoc in the body. The food industry loves hydrogenated oils because of infinite shelf-life (think ‘immortality’), but your body won’t be happy. Please… Don’t eat immortal foods.
“You mean to tell me I can actually sell them seeds?”
Found in: practically every frozen processed food product. Especially the greasy ones. Also found in cattle feed.
Better uses: you could use it to make really effective oil-slick traps for your enemies.
Synthetic chemicals that poorly imitate real flavors, artificial flavors confuse the metabolism, cause false hunger signals and cravings, and have a broad variety of known and unknown effects in the body. Most artificial flavors aren’t tested for human consumption, and none of them are proven safe – unless you count the ‘it hasn’t killed me yet’ theory! PS: Some flavors have been linked to the growing Man-Boob Epidemic… don’t say we didn’t warn you!
“Woops… that label was supposed to say ‘cherry tropical vacation paradise flavor.’ But don’t throw away the ‘poison’ label… we might need that later. You never know!”
Found in: since they’re so widely used, we can pretty much say that they’re found in nearly all modern foods. Grocery stores are warehouses for artificial flavors, and restaurants are practically dispensers for the flavor chemical industry.
Better uses: have you ever met someone with a totally useless research-based career? You know, where they research something like ‘the best ergonomic handles for filing cabinets to reduce finger strain?’ We could have someone like that study these chemicals. There’s not a “good” reason, but everyone needs work.
GMO Soy and Corn
Pretty much every packaged food is made of corn and soy, with some colors, flavors, and sprinkles added to transform it into ‘Salisbury steak’ or whatever else. More than half of all corn and soy produced is genetically modified – sort of like Captain America, except instead of super-strength, the plants are given new untested chemical toxins to destroy things that try to eat them. Supposedly that’s ‘totally safe for us to eat.’ I’m not buying it. Unless you want to be part of this grand human experiment, avoid these ingredients!
“Alrighty – we’re just going to change one little DNA sequence and… wait… what happened?”
Found in: nearly every product in the average grocery store.
Better uses: we could make bricks or something out of the fiber, and use it for building houses.
The many names of MSG
Of course! This list couldn’t be complete without MSG. We all know it’s bad for us. In fact, it’s a known neurotoxin (something that kills nerve cells, such as in the brain). But did you know that it has more nicknames than a high school kid going through an identity crisis? The food industry is well aware that you don’t want MSG in your food, so they’ll use the nicknames instead. Here’s the three most common: yeast extract, beef concentrate, and ‘spice.’ For a full list of names and important info on MSG, see our article on Ingredient Splitting.
What they’d love you to imagine when they say ‘spices.’ Unfortunately not the case.
Found in: anything that tastes delicious when it really shouldn’t. In a multitude of fast food restaurants, usually under disguise. (I finally understand why people are addicted to Chick-Fil-A and will wait in a double-wide, mile long, drive through line for their sandwich.)
Better uses: since it’s a neurotoxin, we could dust our doorways with it to keep the bugs out of the house. Maybe in gardening also?
BHT & BHA
Last on the list but no less beastly than the others, BHT and BHA are chemicals often found in breakfast cereals. Also, we use it to embalm dead people. And in jet fuel and rubber and petroleum products. But it’s in children’s breakfast cereals too. It’s linked to cancer, mental disorders, and various diseases but is – unsurprisingly – still allowed for use in the USA. These chemicals are banned in Japan, Australia, Sweden and a few other smart countries.
To learn more about the chemicals in our food, read Robyn O’Brien’s “The Unhealthy Truth.”
“WARNING: MAY CONTAIN BREAKFAST CEREAL INGREDIENTS.”
Found in: primarily breakfast cereal, rice products, food bars, candy.
Better uses: well, I mean, they already use these chemicals to embalm dead people and for jet fuel. Seems like decent uses to me. We should just keep it away from food.
Nutrition labels are for more than just lying about calorie content or terrifying the misinformed about cholesterol and saturated fat. Next time you pick up a packaged food, scan the ingredients, and take extra time to look for these Deal-Breaking Food Additives! If you’re currently looking at your pantry in horror, and have never done any detoxing, check out our Cleansing and Detoxing post for a great introduction on how to rid your body of these nasty chemicals!