Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How Dangerous are these "Banned" Food Items--and why aren't they banned everywhere?

I received an email the other day from some organization I must have signed up with a while back for something.  You know how it is. Anyway, it contained a link to a list of food items - or ingredients in food products, really - that are banned in some countries of the world but still available here in the United States.  Curious, I clicked over to see the list.

Olestra was the first one I recognized.  It's that fat substitute invented by Proctor and Gamble that is supposed to pass through your digestive tract without being absorbed into your body.  This was supposed to allow you to eat fatty items - like potato chips - and not gain weight.  It also can act as a laxative to some people so it can have some not-so-nice side effects.
The problem with olestra is that the particles that are passing through the digestive tract attach themselves to certain vitamins and take those along for the ride.  Not so cool.  That reason is why it is banned in some countries of the world. In the US, it isn't used a whole lot - mostly because of the press surrounding the product.  Products that contain it must be labeled so you will always be able to know that it is in a product.
I, personally, avoid this item.  I don't want to take the chance of having digestive issues.  I think that it is fine to have fatty foods occasionally and in moderation so if you want chips, then have a few of the regular ones.

Next up was one I had never heard of, azondicarbonamide! It is used to bleach flour so it can be in breads, baked goods and other processed foods. The article claims it can induce asthma attacks!  This sounds very serious so I looked into it. Turns out that this is true - if it is inhaled.  This report explains that it is hazardous to people working with the substance if precautions aren't taken and it is inhaled. Prolonged exposure can cause skin irritation, as well.  There appear to be no problems with it being ingested, however.  It looks like this is a case of misunderstanding the problem with the chemical and over-reaction. I'm not going to concern myself with this one.

Let's look at one more item on the list, brominated vegetable oil (BVO). It is found in some sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas. The article states that it is banned in some countries because it contains bromine - which can be toxic.  Alright... let's take a look at this claim.  This Snopes article was helpful. Yes, bromine can build up in person's body and can cause some severe problems.  Loss of memory, skin lesions and nerve disorders can be caused by a buildup of bromine in your system.  You do have to consume an awful lot of the substance to have this problem, however.  Something like 2 to 4 liters of soda containing BVO a day would create a level of bromine in your body that could cause serious problems.
Personally, I don't drink sodas but drinking that amount of a sugary drink seems like a really bad idea even if it doesn't contain BVO.  A 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew contains 880 calories, itself!  I imagine an occasional soda might be alright, however, so if you enjoy an occasional soda I wouldn't worry too much.

I'm going to stop there and perhaps I'll revisit this list again next week.

I think that it's important to be aware of what is contained in products we consume. We should be careful not to fall for claims that might not be as accurate as they could be. We should also keep in mind that different countries have different regulations and may differ on what they consider safe.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid these issues is to avoid processed foods altogether.  I'll admit that this might not be possible for all of us but we should still make the effort to cut back on processed foods if at all possible. Finally, the best rule of thumb is to ingest food products in moderation.  It's clear that overconsumption of any one product can cause problems so we should eat a variety of foods throughout the day.  Let common sense be your guide.

Image found here - and now it's making me hungry for chips *sighs*

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