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When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

An Alert Over Additives

Haven't you heard of food additives? If not, you sure have seen it, smelt it, tasted it..., even fallen pray to its side effects! The consequences were perhaps, so minor that you ignored it. After all who takes a stomach upset, headache, or a tiny rash on the skin seriously, unless it persists?

Additives are present in every bite or sip that we take. Those in the business of feeding us, would justify it as the only way to keep food fresh and safe throughout its long journey from farms/factories to retail outlets. Fuelling its indiscriminate use is our own increasing demand on the variety, availability, and affordability of food items.

For long, the harmful potential of food additives has been a matter of research as well as debate. Debate, because of lack of credible and conclusive finding! For instance, afflictions caused by an additive in one person need not occur in another. Further, tests on additives performed in isolation, make it impossible to determine their combined effects in a particular food preparation.

The culprits could be any additive from the commonly used Colouring agents, Preservatives, Sweeteners, and Flavour Enhancers to the more potent Hydrogenated Oils (Crackers, Cookies and Cakes); High Fructose Corn (Baked products), MSG or Mono Sodium Glutamate (to stimulate appetite), Olestra (a substitute for fat), and so on. Their regular consumption can cause Digestive, Nervous, Coronary, and Respiratory disorders.

The food industry prefers to play down this negative perception. In terms of real health risk, they contend, food-borne micro-organisms and lack of hygiene pose far greater threats than additives.

The tragedy is the manner in which policies governing food production/processing are framed. In Europe, an additive is assumed to be harmful until proven safe. As the GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) rule in USA suggests, an additive is presumed safe until proven otherwise. These different approaches only serve to cause further confusion.

Let us not fall prey to these assumptions and presumptions. It is not only our right, but responsibility as well, to ensure safety for us and our children. Hence, do not hesitate to reject food that contains any additive about which you have any misgiving or reservation.

   'If it came from a plant, eat it;
if it was made in a plant, don't.'
                                                   — Michael Pollan