Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chemicals in Food...Yum Yum!

Although we may not notice it, many of the foods we eat contain coloring and bleaching agents to change the appearance of what we eat. Using these additives entices consumers to buy these products, that might otherwise appear boring or unappetizing. There are seven food colorings that the United States as certified to be acceptable for use. These colorings are: Blue No.1 and 2, Green No. 3, Red No. 40, Red No. 3, Yellow No. 5 and 6. The first, Brilliant Blue FCF, has a bright blue hue and is commonly used in beverages, dairy product powders, jellies and syrups. Indigotine (Blue No. 2) has a royal blue hue and is commonly used in baked goods, cereals, ice cream, and cherries. Fast Green FCF (Green No. 3) has a sea green hue and is also used for beverages, ice cream, sherbet, etc. Allura Red AC (Red No. 40) has an orange-red hue and is found in gelatins, condiments, and some beverages as well. Erythrosine (Red No. 3) is a cherry-red color and is found in canned fruits, confections, and snack foods. Tartrazine (Yellow No. 5) is a lemon yellow color and is found in custards, cereals, and confections. Lastly, Sunset Yellow (Yellow No. 6) is an orange color, found in dessert powders, baked goods, and beverages. Some colorings have been found to be carcinogenic, and these have been banned from use.
Thickening agents and texture modifiers are also used to alter the way food appears. Some are natural, such as carrageenan which comes from a moss in Ireland. Other natural agents include xanthan gum and locust been gum. For similar reasons, these agents are commonly used in many of the foods we eat. However, the most important additives in food are the flavor enhancers. MSG is more widely understood and popular than it was, and is found in many soups and Chinese cuisine. MSG, monosodium glutamate, is “the sodium salt of the naturally occurring amino acid glutamic acid.” Many people get very ill after consuming MSG, and minor symptoms are headaches and swelling. There are other flavor enhancers as well, but MSG is the most widely used. Flavor enhancers enhance the foods flavoring, allowing manufacturers or producers to use less-quality goods, or less amounts of goods.
Antioxidants- a substance that prevents the occurrence of oxidative damage from free radicals
Emulsifiers- substances that are soluble in two substances which are insoluble in each other and that enables them to form an emulsion
Although it is understandable to me why certain companies would see the benefits in using these additives with their foods, the use of these modifiers and agents in food is unhealthy and unnecessary. I have had personal negative experiences from eating food with MSG, such as severe headaches and an upset stomach. I believe, with the recent trend of environmentally-friendly products and going green, and just an overall desire to be more healthy, the use of these additives will decrease somewhat. Already we are seeing more and more products be “organic,” and while I realize that that term is quite vague, it is a step in the right direction.

Baird, Colin. Chemistry in Your Life. W.H. Freeman and Company: New York, 2006.

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