At some point during my lifetime, the government quit watching over the ingredients that go into foods. I am sure that they quit doing a great deal of the great social things that the 1930s got started, but lately the loss of oversight in food manufacturing is having the biggest effect on our health and future. The children that are eating today’s food are suffering from life with parents too busy to make food from scratch, and packaged foods that contain ingredients that have never been checked for safety by a neutral third party (the US Government).
In 1958 there were around 700 added ingredients in manufactured foods. Legislation that year, the Food Additive Amendment, cut the approved number down to 188. However, new ingredients could go in that were not on the list, and by 1980 the number had grown to around 2000. In 2011 the Pew Charitable Trusts tallied the number again and it is over 5000. There is no comprehensive list of ingredients allowed to be added any more. The process of approving them has been ‘streamlined’ so that regulation need not get in the way of progress (or profit). This has left us with a system whereby ingredients may be approved as safe by the manufacturer, through a process dreamed up by the manufacturer, and added to your diet without even an email to the FDA that it has been done.
Well, at least we don’t have to worry about whether they are safe to eat over the long term or whether they are safe to be consumed by growing young bodies. The industry must get the FDA to approve their new ingredients as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). All that must be done in this case is to notify the FDA that a food safety assessment has been performed on a new ingredient. No approval or veto of this notification by the government is allowed for. If the FDA makes a company withdraw it’s notice, it can just ‘retest’ and resubmit the notification.
Can this cause problems?
Red Dye in foods was withdrawn from foods in the 1970s because it was found to cause tumors in lab animals. It came back recently and is now in your foods again due to the byzantine and ineffectual process of regulating additives described above. It is known to cause hyperactivity in some children (I know at least one) and may be the reason so many children are on hyperactivity drugs. Why would you cut out the cause of the hyperactivity when you can sell a pill to mask the symptom? There are numerous reports of this problem, here, and here, for instance, but don’t be surprised if you have been too busy to notice the warnings. Like all news it is all ‘balanced’ with reports of ‘scientists’ that don’t think there is a real problem. This from the Forbes article:
Not surprisingly, the Grocers Manufacturing Association, whose members includeCoca-Cola, Nestle and General Mills, questions the validity of these studies and claims made by groups such as the CSPI. While the FDA does not reject the proposition that the remaining approved artificial colors may carry adverse health effects, its representatives generally agree, stating that further evidence is needed before another ban is enacted. FDA scientists have theorized that bad reactions to artificial colorings in certain individuals may be similar to a food allergy, in that they only affect a small group of people and need be avoided by those select individuals only, as opposed to the entire public.
Yes, by all means, continue to study, even though there is no government group that is actually doing such a study, sequester and all. The best advice in the article is in that last sentence there…”need to be avoided by those select individuals only”. They are talking about dyes in foods. However, this advice applies to all 5000 ingredients. Noone is watching out for YOU. They will not be banned if they cause thousands of people mysterious problems, it is up to YOU to figure out which ingredient doesn’t work for YOU, we can’t penalize the rest of US and condemn the rest of US to slightly more expensive or slightly less long-lasting foods to help just the people who have a problem with an ingredient. Here is the bottom line. You may not have a problem with red dye or yellow dye, or even 4990 of the 5000 ingredients. You probably have a problem with one.
SO, the solution is not to wait for the government to pick up the job and perform the basic function of government and protect us all from the profit motive. The solution is to take matters into your own hands. Make your own foods from basic ingredients. There are no additives in eggs yet, no additives in oatmeal. Make your own cereal mixes, put them in quart jars, let your kids pour that into a bowl. Put whole milk on it or almond milk that you made, and once again no additives. Send fruits with them for lunch, and nuts, and maybe even make your own granola. None of this is hard, but it takes some planning. There need not be any added ingredients in foods you make for yourself. Maybe MS is from one of the 5000. Want to figure it out for yourself, or would you just like to go with me the easy route and make all your own foods?
There is a terrific book on this subject by Melanie Warner called “Pandora’s Lunchbox”. Well written and interesting beginning to end. If you read this book you will want to only consume food that you prepare from now on. Fair Warning.
Dan, long article. I am glad I made it through it. Lots of good information. Another good book is “The Pantry Principle”. If you want to know what’s lurking in the package food or if you just want the skinny on how to cook with great fats, you cannot afford to overlook this book! A must-read for all who care about what goes into their own and their family’s bodies.
Such a good post. My son breaks into an itchy rash if he has anything with red food dye and I used to do the same. I think you’re right we have to take responsibility for ourselves at some point.
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