4.20.2010

Preservatives - getting more than you bargained for.


If a company can make billions of dollars in sales every year, then why can't they use quality ingredients? The answer is fairly obvious. More and more, consumers are given less and less food quality while companies continue to get richer and richer. Most profits for companies like Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's are in the several billion dollar range (click on the company names to view profit reports). Cheap ingredients equal higher revenue for the food industries, but at what cost to you and me?

Adding benzene to food or beverages is illegal. Benzene is found in Styrofoam, detergents, and rubbers. Some natural sources of benzene are gas emissions, forest fires, and even volcanoes. When it's manufactured it is most often made from petroleum. No wonder you shouldn't digest it, it's a dangerous carcinogen. Yet many of us take in hazardous amounts of benzene daily.

I'm not just talking about smokers (who consume ten times as much benzene as non-smokers) and I'm not referring to regular exposure to benzene from car exhaust. I'm talking about about consuming it in soft drinks and many other food items. But I thought it was illegal to use benzene as a food additive?

In the race to sell products and make money, many food and beverage companies use cheap preservatives like sodium benzoate and cheap additives like ascorbic acid. In combination, sodium benzoate and any Vitamin C additive chemically react to make benzene. Therefore, the companies may not have put dangerous benzene directly into your food or drink, but it's in there anyway. This is true especially in soft drinks. Almost all soft drinks use sodium benzoate as a preservative because they must have long shelf-lives. But the longer a product sits on the self, the longer it has to chemically react creating more and more benzene. In sodas like Mt. Dew benzene levels are five times higher than the "safe" limit established by the FDA (1).

Furthermore, some have found that the preservative sodium benzoate is harmful enough on its own. Dr. Piper of Sheffield University, who has studied sodium benzoate since his first research paper on it in 1999, established that the additive damages the mitochondria of a cell to the point of completely inactivating it altogether. Mitochondria consume oxygen which in turn gives you energy; damage to this area of a cell can cause diseases like Parkinson's (2) .

As health and food agencies catch on to these problems, some food companies are trying to compensate. In soft drinks, EDTA, or calcium disodium, is added to combat the effects of sodium benzoate; specifically trying to stop it from forming benzene (although on labels it simply says that it is added to "preserve freshness"). Unfortunately, the effects of EDTA may be just as bad as the additives it's meant to combat. It's been found not only to be toxic, but toxic to one's genetic make up as seen in tests on rats. Consumption of EDTA is linked to reproductive defects (3).

With all these test results emphasizing the negative aspects of sodium benzoate and EDTA, why does the FDA and FSA allow substances like these to be used as food additives? Their stance is that these chemicals are "too new" to fully determine their long term effects. However, they do make it very clear that these chemicals should endure further testing and investigation.

Long story short, check your food labels. If you see sodium benzoate as an additive, stay away; especially if the product also contains acids that cause it to form benzene. You may think to yourself that you drink plenty of soda or eat plenty of food with additives like these in them, and you haven't gotten cancer or feel sick so what's the big deal? But I'd rebut by saying that you only have one body; you will never be able to go back and start anew, so why risk consuming these artificials on a daily basis just because you think they taste nice? At least consider having them only in moderation because the food industries are making us sick and getting rich from it, let's re-determine what we'll let them get away with.

***For my first post I want to give a special thanks to AttainableMind who helped in my decision to start my own blog and whose page helped inspire the formatting of my own.***

5 comments:

Mindbender said...

Blog looks great!!

Great first post:)

I personalty feel that these big food company's sit at the same dinner table with "Big Pharma" if you no what I mean. No Health issues = No pharmaceuticals. It's all about money and cheap additives in order to keep costs down and profits up.

Thanks for the props!

Jayna said...

Thanks for reading and commenting (My first comment woo hoo!)

I completely agree about the link with the pharmaceutical companies. A post about that link could be pages and pages long! Big Pharma is someting I hope to investigate and write about in the near future.

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