Archive for the ‘Food Additives’ Category

Potassium Bromate Cancer Risk

Are you worried about the potassium bromate cancer risk? If so, you are not alone. The US is one of the few places that still uses this potentially unsafe compound in breads and pastry. Even though it has been clearly linked with thyroid, liver and other cancers in rats and mice.

Potassium bromate is used in flour and baked goods to increase volume and texture. It is banned in many other places like the EU, Brazil, Canada and China. Most bromate breaks down into the harmless bromide during baking. But even small amounts will increase cancer risk over a lifetime. If the bread or pastry isn’t baked at a high enough temp or for long enough, or if too much potassium bromate is added at the start, it may still be found in the final product.

Potassium Bromate Cancer Risk.

Google scholar has over 2,500 results for the term potassium bromate cancer and every one refers to a research study. Oddly enough the potassium bromate msds doesn’t mention any of these research studies. Perhaps because they involved rodents rather than humans. But why would there be so many studies if it was harmless?

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) data says potassium bromate is highly toxic. It caused;

  • Renal tumours in rats.
  • Thyroid tumours in rats.
  • Peritoneal mesotheliomas in male rats.
  • Renal tumours in hamsters.
  • Oxidative DNA damage in rat kidneys leading to kidney tumours.

Potassium bromate cancerSo is it really safe, or are we playing with fire by using it? Should we ignore this data just because the studies involve rodents and therefore don’t reflect the effect on humans. Or should we avoid the potassium bromate cancer risk? It’s up to you. It’s your health.

This post is part of our food additives to avoid series.

Sulphur Dioxide Health Risks

There are many serious sulphur dioxide health risks and yet this compound is still used in foods like soft drinks, juices, cordials, dried fruit, potato products,vinegar, beer and wine. Sulfur based additives are toxic and experts agree that Sulphur dioxide in food should not be eaten by children. In 1986, the FDA banned use of this preservative on raw fruit and veggies after its use was linked with several deaths.

Sulphur dioxide health risks include:

  • Breathing problems particularly in those prone to asthma and other lung conditions
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure),
  • Flushing tingling sensations
  • Anaphylactic shock.
  • Severe heachaches
  • Skin rashes

sulphur dioxide health risksAccording to FDA data, around 1% of people are sensitive to sulphur dioxide. Mainly those with asthma and other lung conditions. In severe cases, airways close totally, leading to suffocation or cardiac arrest and death. The International Labour Organization advises that those with conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease avoid E220.

Sulphur dioxide (E220) also destroys vitamins B1 and E.

If sulphur dioxide levels exceed 10ppm then it must be listed on the food label. But just because a label doesn’t list it doesn’t mean it isn’t there because if foods contain products like dried fruit treated with sulphur dioxide, labels don’t need to list it. The label need only mention that the product contain dried fruit even though the dried fruit has been treated with sulphur dioxide. The only way to avoid this is to buy organic.

According to the sulphur dioxide msds it has a suffocating odor and leaves an acidic taste in the mouth. It’s a toxic, corrosive gas that can cause severe chemical burns if inhaled or upon skin contact. If it comes in contact with the eye it will burn the cornea which may lead to vision loss. Inhaling it will burn and irritate the respiratory tract and mucous membranes. Excessive exposure may result in chemical pneumonitis (inflammation), pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding) and edema fluid buildup. It targets the airway, lungs, eyes, and skin.

View the sulfur dioxide msds here.

Even though they only affect around 1% of people, sulphur dioxide health risks are pretty scary. Would you want to take the risk of exposing yourself or your children?

This post is part of our food additives to avoid series.

Sodium Nitrite Dangers

When it comes to sodium nitrite dangers we first need to clarify which compound we refer to because there are two closely related compounds; Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2) and Sodium Nitrate (NaNO3). Sodium nitrate is a natural compound found in leafy green vegetables. Food companies use both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate in food to preserve color in many types of smoked fish and processed meats.

Sodium Nitrite Dangers

Sodium nitrite serves a twofold purpose in the food industry since it preserves the color of meat and fish and also prevents growth of the bacteria which causes botulism. Sodium Nitrite has an E number of E250.

sodium nitrite dangersWhile this compound prevents growth of the botulism bacteria, it can be toxic for mammals. Because of this, sodium nitrite sold as a food additive is dyed bright pink to prevent confusion. This has earned it the name “pink salt” in some circles.

Sodium nitrite dangers are well researched by scientists. Sodium nitrite is a known toxin. In the 1970s, the USDA tried to ban it but was vetoed by food companies because they had no alternative to preserve meat products. Why is it still used? Because this compound turns meats bright red. This makes old meat look fresh.

The major concerns is the formation of cancer causing N-nitrosamines when sodium nitrite reacts with amino acids in a warm, acidic environment like the stomach. These compounds enter the blood stream and damage several organs like the liver and pancreas. Sodium nitrite may also trigger migraines.

Research has also found a link between high processed meat consumption and colon cancer, possibly due to preservatives such as sodium nitrite.

Recent studies also indicate people who often eat meats cured with nitrites have increased risk of the COPD form of lung disease. Many years ago, I was requested to mix this compound with water to be used in sausages at my work. Inhaling the fumes almost caused my death because it closed my airway.

Because of sodium nitrite dangers, use of sodium nitrite is closely regulated in the US, and concentration is limited to 200 ppm.

Sodium Nitrate in Food

Sodium nitrate is found naturally in leafy green vegetables and has antimicrobial properties when used as a food preservative. Sodium nitrate shouldn’t be confused with the related compound, sodium nitrite.

sodium nitrate msds
sodium nitrite msds

This post is part of our Food Additives to Avoid series.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene in Food

BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) are preservatives found in cereal, vegetable oil, potato chips, chewing gum, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy and jello/jelly. Butylated hydroxytoluene in food is used mainly to prevent oil from going rancid, as is BHA and to keep foods from changing color or flavor. In fact, any processed food that contains some type of oil most likely contains one of these.

BHT has an E number of E321, BHA has an E number of E320. There are many BHA and BHT side effects… and both are linked to cancer.

Is butylated hydroxytoluene in food safe?

Butylated hydroxytoluene in food has been observed by the NTP to cause increased liver weight & abnormal cell behavior.

Is butylated hydroxyanisole safe?

BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Animal studies that exposed mice, hamsters and fish to BHA showed increased stomach cancer in mice and hamsters, and liver cancer in fish.

Sadly, BHA and BHT side effects mean they can also cause allergies, effect the brain, alter behavior, and may even cause cancer. BHA and BHT are oxidants which can form cancer-causing compounds in the human body.

butylated hydroxytoluene in foodFood producers can put these toxins in our foods as long as they remain within so-called ‘safe’ limits. But is there a safe limit? Is it okay to expose ourselves to ‘just a little bit’ of a substance that causes cancer? Or should we avoid it?

Every chemical has what is called a ‘material safety data sheet (or MSDS) which lists potential side effects. I have included these below so you can understand butylated hydroxyanisole side effects and those of BHT also.

Butylated hydroxytoluene MSDS (BHT)
Butylated hydroxyanisole MSDS (BHA)

This post is part of our Food additives to avoid series.

Sodium Sulfite Hazards

Why should we avoid sodium sulfite? What are the sodium sulfite hazards?

Sodium sulfite is a preservative with an E number of E221. E numbers are used to identify food additives. It is also known by these other names; Disodium Sulfite; Anhydrous Sodium Sulfite; Sulfurous acid, disodium salt.

Sodium Sulfite (also spelled ‘sulphite’) is used in wine, dried fruit, cut potatoes, beer, fruit jelly, syrup, maraschino cherries, soup, baked goods, canned and frozen fruits & veggies, sauce, spices, fruit juice, seafood, packaged lemon juice, soft drinks, tomato products and parmesan cheese.

sodium sulfite hazardsAccording to FDA figures, around one percent of people are sensitive to sulfites. Mostly those who suffer from asthma which suggests a link between asthma and sulfites. People who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, shortness of breath, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can cause death by closing airways totally, leading to cardiac arrest.

Sulfites are also known to destroy the vitamin B1.

In 1986, the FDA banned use of this preservative on raw fruit and veggies after several deaths that were linked to it’s use. Sulfites are also found in packaged foods. If sulfite levels exceed 10ppm (FDA) and 10mg/kg (EU) then it must be listed on the label.

Sadly, just because a label doesn’t list sulfites doesn’t mean none are present because if foods contain products like a spice mix that contains sulfites, labels don’t need to list it on the label. This is why I added a list of products that contain sulfites. This means, for example, that a product containing dried fruit (which is treated with sulfur dioxide) need only state “dried fruit” on the ingredient list.

Sodium Sulfite Hazards – Possible Health Effects

According to the California Department of Public Healh:Some people are allergic to sulfites. Many asthmatics may have breathing problems within minutes of eating a food that contains sulfites and the reaction can be fatal.

Other hazards include: migraine headaches, hives, anaphylactic shock, and nausea. See this report And they’re putting this stuff in our food!

Are these sodium sulfite hazards enough to make you want to avoid the dangers of this additive? Want to find out about some more additives to avoid? See our series on Food Additives to Avoid series.