What kind of chemicals are in processed foods?

Chemicals

Do you know what’s in your food? Can you even pronounce all of the ingredients on the package?

Last week consumers were shocked to learn that an ingredient in Subway sandwich bread is a chemical also found in yoga mats. The chemical, azodicarbonamide, is also used in manufacturing flip-flops and foam insulation. It’s a foaming agent. Though the chemical is now being phased out of Subway bread (by the way, they’re not the only restaurant or food manufacturer that uses it), the news story raised a lot of questions about what’s in the food we eat.

There are a number of troubling ingredients and additives found in processed foods. Here are just a few:

* Dark red food colouring (Alura Red AC) is made from coal tar.

* Some processed foods and fast food items get fibre from “cellulose,” which is better known as wood pulp.

* A form of silicone found in Silly Putty can also be found in many fast food items.

* Ammonium sulfate, which is used as a soil fertilizer, is also used as an ingredient to feed yeast in leavened breads and other bakery goods.

How do you find out what’s in the food you’re eating? That’s a problem the Environmental Working Group is tackling with their new food database. You may have used their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to find out what chemicals were hidden in your beauty products (they analyzed almost 80,000 products for the database), but soon they’ll be able to tell you about the chemicals in the food you eat as well. EWG’s new database is going to detail nutritional value, as well as questionable additives, untested chemicals and dangerous contaminants.

Check out this speech from EWG’s Ken Cook about the new database.

(Photography: WikiCommons/Kuebi)