Someone should be paying attention. You sort of just assume that someone is watching what goes into our foods. Artificial ingredients perform lots of different duties in your processed foods, they would be inedible without them, but are they safe?


I am the last person that you will ever hear say that something is unsafe until it has been proven to be safe. My understanding of safety is probably a little bit more nuanced than the average reporter in your big-city newsroom. I learned about safety in the United States Navy, where they taught us that safety wasn’t a yes or no thing, but it was a relative thing. You take radiation for instance, if you expose a shipload of sailors to radiation, and the level of exposure is low, it is relatively safe. It will not be harmless to all of them. One out of a thousand may get affected by it, but the benefit of the service the Navy is performing outweighs the risk that the individual is taking. Increase the exposure and the equation changes. At a point along the scale of possibility more people have a chance of being affected than is worth the service provided. The flip side of this is that you limit the exposure of the population by limiting the number of people exposed.

This is where food safety is different than nuclear safety. When a food additive manufacturer tests his products for safety and doesn’t do so on a large number of test subjects looking for any side effects, then the actual food safety testing is being done when the product is declared safe and the entire population is exposed to it. Like I said, you can’t call all food additives unsafe because their testing is not as thorough as the ideal safety testing program would be. However, you also can’t call them safe without this level of testing in humans. Testing additives like drugs would be expensive, but so is health care when there are side effects. Plus, it is very difficult for the average general practitioner to determine what is causing the average patient trouble, because he would have to examine your entire diet to determine¬†if it is a food interaction.

I can guarantee you that if you eat nothing but processed foods, you are probably having reactions to something in one or more of them. For instance, it is now suspected that a person that drinks diet soft drinks is having a reaction to the artificial sweetener. They interact with the microbes in the gut and cause an insulin resistance reaction, meaning that because of the sweetener, more of the energy in their foods are put into fat storage than normal. This kind of interaction may have been caught if food additives were tested for anything other than acute problems. Artificial sweeteners are not an immediate hazard to life or health, but it turns out that they are a long term hazard. Getting them pulled out of foods will be difficult.

I learned about the holes in the food additive approval system reading “Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal” by Melanie Warner. If you want to see a video discussing the issue, check out this’s Marion Nestle answering questions in a two minute video that lays out the problems.

When it is all said and done, you are responsible for your own food safety. I am confident in mine, because I only eat real, single-ingredient foods, cooked by me or my wife. There are no artificial ingredients in my pasture raised beef or pork. If you are eating boxed foods, if you are eating fast food, if you are eating stuff out of the refrigerator at Quick Trip, then you are giving the job of keeping you safe to the government, and the kind hearts of the food industry. Go ahead, not me.

Now to change the subject a little bit, yesterday’s meals were meat, meat and more meat. Breakfast was the normal eggs and ham, lunch was a half pound of breakfast sausage, and dinner was a ten ounce Kansas City Strip steak, fried in bacon grease and covered with a red wine reduction. It was very good, and only a little bit before dinner did I feel any hunger, and that is because of the seven hours between lunch and dinner. Overnight I felt no hunger, and not even really as I was cooking my breakfast this morning. I checked my urine for ketones using Ketostix and I am at the low level of ketones, which means that I am using fats for energy, but not excessively so. Tomorrow I expect that level to go up, but during this first week on meats I will lose a lot of water because carbohydrates require water in their conversion to energy, whereas fats do not. So far this test is working very well, I haven’t felt any negative effects yet.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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