I like to know what I’m eating (and what my kids are eating, too.) If I were a parent looking at the menu for today and advising my child what to choose (as the schools and the USDA say you should be doing) I wonder what I would advise my child to have for breakfast or lunch? First of all, there doesn’t seem to be much choice. Second of all, I’m not too pleased about any of the items served. There are a LOT of additives, and none of these items are things I’ve ever allowed in my house, or if I ever did, so rarely I can’t recall. I might have bought chocolate milk a few times. Some items, like the black beans and the pineapple have no labeling or information so I don’t know what’s in them. One would hope for the best, however, I don’t have that confidence.
No Photo for the items not identified, the black beans or pineapple.
How I found out what’s in the food – I looked up the items and the additives – it took me days.
I like the non-profit, Center for Science in the Public Interest; they seem to have no qualms giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down to an ingredient, although I take a far more cautious approach than they do! I also don’t like to click and read all day, so I’ll give you their information here, or if they don’t have it, I’ll cite where I found it. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a nice one page printable chart about the Safety of Additives, divided into safe, caution, cut back, certain people should avoid, and avoid.
That being said, there is much controversy about ingredients, even those listed as SAFE by the CSPI. Several ingredients listed safe are said to contain MSG, free glutamate or free glutamic acid. (You’ll never find the last two labeled – they are contained in additives or combinations of additives and the FDA does not require them to be labeled as MSG. Generally you’ll see it as autolyzed yeast extract, but there are dozens of sources.) Several emulsifiers are sources of trans-fat, and their is no labeling law that requires companies to list them. There is concern about high fructose corn syrup, modified foods, genetically altered foods, foods containing gluten and on and on. Most health minded individuals also attempt to cut out or reduce artificial colors, artificial flavors, and most preservatives. I’ll also try to sum up and provide clicks for the alternative view. I’ve only briefly (In two days) scratched the surface of these additives and what they do.
My personal thought on additives? I’ll sum it up in one word. Why? Why give this stuff to our kids? And if your kids are eating school lunches, they aren’t getting a small amount of these ingredients now and then, at least not in my school district, or many that I casually viewed online. These kids are often eating two meals a day, five days a week, for months on end, sometimes 10 months, sometimes longer. Now I know there always seems to be a lot of “teacher planning days,” but even with those days off, that’s a lot of additives. In many weeks, kids eat 10 meals out of their possible 21 meals a week at school.
(I also like LabelWatch – put in a food and they spit out the information about what’s in it and what that ingredient is, and have become quite interested in what Natural News has to say – they remind me a little of my “rants!”) Read a bit, and find out what YOUR views are, and what you want to build your child’s mind and body with.
This page, so far, is Breakfast only – so many additives, such little time.
Ultimate Breakfast Round:
- palm oil – Not listed by CSPI, this is a highly saturated fat, but beyond that, this product is boycotted in many areas by those who cite the mass clearings and evictions of indigenous peoples in many countries – clear cutting to plant. TLC says to look for the ingredient on your labels and “cut it out.” In the Safe column by CSPI. My general summation – this is an oil that is highly saturated and used to enhance food taste by the food engineers.
- soy lecithin (an emulsifier) - A common constituent of animal and plant tissues, lecithin is a source of the nutrient choline. It keeps oil and water from separating out, retards rancidity, reduces spattering in a frying pan, and leads to fluffier cakes. In the Safe column by CSPI, but “Natural News” has a host of information on this product – saying to eat soy sparingly and only organic.
- inulin – It’s a naturally occuring soluble fiber. Inulin doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, so it may help people with diabetes. It also stimulates the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine. In the Safe column. Natural News talks a bit more about inulin: Inulin is a carbohydrate belonging to a class of compounds known as fructans and is closely related to fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). Although they aren’t the same, you will often find them used interchangeably. These are all starches (carbohydrates), just varying in structure. Since inulin is not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, it is considered to be a fiber. It is a soluble fiber as opposed to cellulose which is insoluble. Inulin/FOS also goes by names such as Neosugar, Alant Starch, Atlanta Starch, Alantin, Dahlin, Helenin, and Diabetic Sugar. It also has a slightly sweet taste and is very low on the glycemic index making it suitable for diabetics. There are even some claims it can be used as a sugar substitute.
- modified corn starch – a common additive used as a thickener. Corn starches are modified (generally by an acid) so they won’t lose their thickening properties when heated. In the Safe column. My note: this is very likely made from genetically altered corn.
- artificial flavor – CSDI: This is a concern, particularly as it is unidentified. Hundreds of chemicals are used to mimic natural flavors; many may be used in a single flavoring, such as for cherry soda pop. Most flavoring chemicals also occur in nature and are probably safe, but they are used almost exclusively in junk foods. Their use indicates that the real thing (often fruit) has been left out. Companies keep the identity of artificial (and natural) flavorings a deep secret. Flavorings may include substances to which some people are sensitive, such as MSG or HVP. In the Avoid column. My note: May contain MSG in the form of additives.
Trix Yogurt (I find it very interesting when I wrote this in February 2012, I didn’t add a photo. When I went to Trix Website on March 24th to add a a photo, they show a box that clearly states no artificial ingredients, no hfc, etc. I guess I’ll have to look at it again when I go to the store. Maybe you can teach an old rabbit new trix.)
- Whey Protein Concentrate – from Wiki – A significant portion of the population experiences severe digestive issues following consumption of whey protein powder. These may include gas, bloating, cramps, tiredness, weakness, fatigue, headaches, and irritability. The cause of these digestive problems has not yet been determined, but is reported frequently on strength training forums.These digestive problems, however, may be primarily caused by the user’s lactose intolerance and not the whey protein itself. My note: Whey protein contains glutamate, processed free glumatic acid, MSG.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – CSPI has it on the “cut back” list, primarily because American’s eat an average of 131 pounds of sugar a year, but others have many concerns. Here’s a list of concerns from Almost Fit, eating real food in moderation. Natural News cites several articles about high fructose corn syrup samples being contaminated with mercury due to the chemicals used in processing. My thought – sweeter tasting than sugar, this is one ingredient to be avoided – it’s on my list of engineered products made to entice one to eat more. In the Avoid column,
- Potassium Sorbate – prevents growth of mold, Sorbic acid occurs naturally in many plants. These additives are safe according to CSPI.
- Red 40 – Artificial Coloring: Used in soda pop, candy, gelatin desserts, pastries, pet food, sausage. The most widely used food dye. While this is one of the most-tested food dyes, the key mouse tests were flawed and inconclusive. An FDA review committee acknowledged problems, but said evidence of harm was not “consistent” or “substantial.” Red 40 can cause allergy-like reactions. Like other dyes, Red 40 is used mainly in junk foods. On the Caution list.
- Blue 1 – Artificial Coloring: Used in Beverages, candy, baked goods. One (unpublished) animal test suggested a small cancer risk, and a test-tube study indicated the dye might affect neurons. It also causes occasional allergic reactions. Blue 1 might be safe for people who are not allergic, but it should be better tested. On the Caution list.
- Artificial Flavor – This is unknown because it isn’t identified. Hundreds of chemicals are used to mimic natural flavors; many may be used in a single flavoring, such as for cherry soda pop. Most flavoring chemicals also occur in nature and are probably safe, but they are used almost exclusively in junk foods. Their use indicates that the real thing (often fruit) has been left out. Companies keep the identity of artificial (and natural) flavorings a deep secret. Flavorings may include substances to which some people are sensitive, such as MSG or HVP.
- Potassium Sorbate, Added to Maintain Freshness (see above)
- Yellow 5 – Artificial Coloring: Gelatin dessert, candy, pet food, baked goods. The second-most-widely used coloring causes allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions, primarily in aspirin-sensitive persons, and triggers hyperactivity in some children. It may be contaminated with such cancer-causing substances as benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl (or chemicals that the body converts to those substances).
- Modified Cellulose – CSDI: cellulose is a safe and inexpensive carbohydrate that comprises the woody parts and cell walls of plants. Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) is a safe thickening agent that is made by reacting cellulose (wood pulp, cotton lint) with a derivative of acetic acid (the acid in vinegar). It is also called cellulose gum. CMC is not absorbed or digested, so it might be included in with “dietary fiber” on food labels (it isn’t as healthful as fiber obtained from natural foods). Natural News says it replaces both good and bad oils in the diet.
- Modified Cornstarch – (see above)
- Glycerin – generally considered safe, In nature, glycerin forms the backbone of fat and oil molecules. The body uses it as a source of energy or as a starting material in making more-complex molecules.
- Dextrose – A sugar, it is a source of sweetness in fruits and honey. Added to foods as a sweetener, it represents empty calories and contributes to tooth decay. Dextrose turns brown when heated and contributes to the color of bread crust and toast. Americans consume about 25 pounds per year of dextrose — and a total of about 150 pounds per year of all refined sugars.
- Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids – CSPI: PGPR is one of those mysterious chemicals that manufacturers use in food production. It stabilizes low-fat, high-water margarines and helps the “flow properties” in candy production. Despite its long chemical name, PGPR is safe.
- Artificial Flavor – (see above.)
- Citric Acid - Citric acid is versatile, widely used, cheap, and safe. It is an important metabolite in virtually all living organisms and is especially abundant naturally in citrus fruits and berries. It is used as a strong acid, a tart flavoring, and an antioxidant. Sodium citrate, also safe, is a buffer that controls the acidity of gelatin desserts, jam, ice cream, candy, and other foods.
- Potassium Sorbate – (see above)
- Sucralose – Splenda, Artificial sweetener: No-sugar-added baked goods, frozen desserts, ice cream, soft drinks, tabletop sweetener (Splenda). Considered safe by CSPI, but I find it a concern, and so does Natural News. They site a whole host of issues that have been suggested through independent study: “Independent studies aren’t nearly so positive. Questions about the negative impact sucralose has on male fertility, red blood cell count, kidney health, gut flora balance and body weight are serious concerns generated from the results of these studies. Many researchers and health experts are convinced that sucralose should never have been deemed safe for human consumption.”
- Blue 1, Yellow 5, (see above)
- Red 3 – As a result of efforts begun in the 1970s, in 1990 the U.S. FDA had instituted a partial ban on erythrosine, citing research that high doses have been found to cause cancer in rats. In June 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA for a complete ban on erythrosine in the United States. A series of toxicology tests combined with a review of other reported studies concluded that erythrosine is non-mutagenic. Up to now, erythrosine can be used in colored food in USA without any restriction. CSPI considers this Safe.
- ascorbic acid – (see above)
- malic acid – L-Malic acid is an important metabolite present in all living cells and is abundant in apples. It is sometimes called “apple acid.” The food industry uses malic acid as an acidulant and flavoring agent in fruit-flavored drinks, candy, lemon-flavored ice-tea mix, ice cream, and preserves. While adults can probably utilize D-malic acid (the unnatural form), infants may not, so synthetic DL-malic acid should not be added to baby food. Safe
- Whey protein concentrate – see above
- isolated soy protein -used to be considered quite safe, Natural News has a few more things to say about it, including the manufacturing and growing process. Hexane is an industrial waste by-product of gasoline that, according to the EPA, can cause polyneuropathy in humans. Hexane is primarily used as a solvent to extract edible oils from seed and vegetable crops, such as soybeans, as well as a solvent for glues, varnishes and inks. Hexane is also used as a degreaser in the printing industry and as the liquid in low temperature thermometers. If you’re wondering why you rarely see “organic” soy protein, this is one of the reasons. Additionally, soy protein typically comes from genetically modified plants. Even non-genetically modified raw materials may contain small amounts of GMO-parts, claims GMO-Compass.org, because a total separation of conventional and GM soybeans is technically impossible
- vegetable shortening – My notes: contains trans-fat – enough said, I think. I use shortening a few times a year at home, but the results are spectacular – I use it in my pumpkin bread which I usually make once or twice a year, and in my snickerdoodles that I will make every few years for Christmas. If your kid is eating this several times a month it adds up, and will be limited, partially, under the new law next school year.
- palm oil, soy lecithin – (see above)
- butter flavor – generally contains:
- WATER, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, AND FD&C YELLOW 5. (See above for the artificial flavor and dyes.)
- Propylene Glycol – Again, from Natural News: “..The real question is, does it make a difference which one is used, since it is used in everything from hydraulic and brake fluid to snack foods? The answer is: it does and it doesn’t. It is a toxin regardless of which strength is used. Propylene Glycol is a form of mineral oil, an alcohol produced by fermentation of yeast and carbohydrates. This gives it the designation of carbohydrate when used in foods.” CSDI says “Safe” Alginate, an apparently safe derivative of seaweed (kelp), maintains the desired texture in dairy products, canned frosting, and other factory-made foods. Propylene glycol alginate, a chemically-modified algin, thickens acidic foods (soda pop, salad dressing) and can stabilize the foam in beer.
- dough conditioner (whey, ammonium sulfate, l-cysteine) -
- Ammonium sulfate – Odorless, colorless crystals with a strong astringent taste. Used in purifying drinking water; in baking powders; as a buffer and neutralizing agent in milling; and in the cereal industries. Used also for fireproofing and in the manufacture of vegetable glue and artificial gems. In medicine, it is an astringent and styptic (stops bleeding). Ingestion of large amounts may cause burning in mouth and pharnyx, vomiting, and diarrhea. CSDI says Safe (and I use baking powder all the time – Ammonium compounds are sources of ammonia, which is used in the body to synthesize nitrogen-containing compounds and to adjust the acidity of bodily fluids, with an excess converted to urea and excreted in the urine. Ammonia is widely available in natural forms.
- L-cysteine – While some L-cysteine is directly synthesized in laboratories, most of it is extracted from a cheap and abundant natural protein source: human hair. The hair is dissolved in acid and L-cysteine is isolated through a chemical process, then packaged and shipped off to commercial bread producers. Besides human hair, other sources of L-cysteine include chicken feathers, duck feathers, cow horns and petroleum byproducts. Most of the hair used to make L-cysteine is gathered from the floors of barbershops and hair salons in China, by the way. While the thought of eating dissolved hair might make some people uneasy, most Western consumers ultimately have no principled objections doing so. For Jews and Muslims, however, hair-derived L-cysteine poses significant problems. Muslims are forbidden from eating anything derived from a human body, and many rabbis forbid hair consumptionfor similar reasons. Even rabbis who permit the consumption of hair would forbid it if it came from corpses — and since much L-cysteine comes from China, where sourcing and manufacturing practices are notoriously questionable, this is a real concern. In one case, a rabbi forbade the consumption of L-cysteine because the hair had been harvested during a ritual at a temple in India. See Kashrut.com
- maltodextrin – it’s made from starch and consists of short chains of glucose molecules. Normal maltodextrins are easily digested and absorbed by the body. But companies also use “resistant maltodextrin” to simulate dietary fiber. That form of maltodextrin is made by treating starch with enzymes, heat, or acids and cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. That makes the additive an “isolated fiber.” Resistant maltodextrins may help lower blood sugar levels, but don’t help prevent constipation. Safe – but often hides MSG. (my note)
- modified food starch – not listed by CSPI -, Modified food starch is a starch that has been treated physically or chemically to modify one or more of its physical or chemical properties. The ‘starch’ could be from corn, wheat, potato, rice or tapioca–it depends on the manufacturer.
- fumaric acid – A solid at room temperature, inexpensive, highly acidic, fumaric acid is the ideal source of tartness and acidity in dry food products. However, it dissolves slowly in cold water, a drawback cured by adding DIOCTYL SODIUM SULFOSUCCINATE (DSS), a detergent-like additive that appears to be safe.
- textured vegetable protein -
- Isolated soy protein is simply protein purified from soybeans. Textured vegetable protein is soy protein that has been combined with chemical additives and processed into granules, chunks, or strips that resemble meat. These proteins are used in some imitation meat products, which are generally healthful, but may contain flavor enhancers, thickening agents, emulsifiers, and artificial colorings.
- Caramel color – Caramel coloring is made by heating a solution of various sugars, often together with ammonium compounds, acids, or alkalis. It is the most widely used (by weight) coloring added to foods and beverages, with hues ranging from tannish-yellow to black, depending on the concentration and the food. Caramel coloring may be used to simulate the appearance of cocoa in baked goods, make meats and gravies look more attractive, and darken soft drinks and beer. Caramel coloring, when produced with ammonia, contains contaminants, 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole. LISTED AS AVOID by CSDI
- dextrose – Dextrose is an important chemical in every living organism. A sugar, it is a source of sweetness in fruits and honey. Added to foods as a sweetener, it represents empty calories and contributes to tooth decay. Dextrose turns brown when heated and contributes to the color of bread crust and toast. Americans consume about 25 pounds per year of dextrose — and a total of about 150 pounds per year of all refined sugars. Cut Back by CSDI
- sodium triplyphosphate - according to InBelly, May cause or aggravate these conditions: allergy, asthma, hyperactivity, metabolic disorders, Salts of sodium/potassium/calcium with phosphates. All are produced synthetically from the respective carbonates and phosphoric acid. High concentrations may disrupt some metabolic processes, because phosphates are important for metabolism.
- citric acid – see above
- artificial mozzarella -
- modified food starch, see above
- rennet – from Wiki: is a complex of enzymes produced in any mammalian stomach to digest the mother’s milk, and is often used in the production of cheese. Rennet contains many enzymes, including a proteolytic enzyme (protease) that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). They are also very important in the stomach of young mammals as they digest their mothers milk. The active enzyme in rennet is called chymosin or rennin (EC 184.108.40.206) but there are also other important enzymes in it, e.g., pepsin and lipase. There are non-animal sources for rennet that are suitable for consumption by vegetarians. My note: has been used for centuries in cheese making.
- casein – CSDI – Casein, the principal protein in milk, is a nutritious protein containing adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. People who are allergic to casein should read food labels carefully, because the additive is used in some “non-dairy” and “vegetarian” foods. CSDI has it labeled CAUTION
- Sweet Whey – Serum is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a by-product of the manufacture of cheese or casein and has several commercial uses. Sweet whey is manufactured during the making of rennet types of hard cheese like cheddar or Swiss cheese. Acid whey (also known as “sour whey”) is obtained during the making of acid types of cheese such as cottage cheese.
- sodium aluminum phosphate – a leavemer
- carrageena – CSDI says SAFE in small quantities, “Carrageenan is an indigestible family of large molecules obtained from seaweed. Large amounts of carrageenan have harmed test animals’ colons; the small amounts in food are safe.” My note: It does contain unlabeled Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG):
- The next few items appear to be “enrichments or chemical vitamins of some sort:
- magnesium oxide – CSDI Magnesium is a mineral that is a crucial component of many enzymes in the human body and plays a unique role in muscle contraction. We get about half our magnesium from nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, but it’s also in many other foods. About half of the body’s magnesium is stored in bone.
- ferric orthophospate,
- vitamin a palmitate,
- zinc oxide,
- pyridoxine hydrchloride,
- Cheddar cheese: annatto (color) Annatto is a widely used food coloring obtained from the seeds of a tropical shrub. Its hue is yellow to orange. Unfortunately, natural does not always mean perfectly safe. Annatto causes hives in some people. In fact, allergic reactions to annatto appear to be more common than reactions to commonly used synthetic food dyes. CSDI - CAUTION – May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid.
- fibersol2 – Fibersol-2 is digestive resistant maltodextrin. Fibersol-2 is a soluble fiber that easily dissolves in water, is almost tasteless, and is not affected by heat (so it can be used for cooking). Fibersol-2 is included in many foods, drinks, meal replacement powders and weight gainer powders as a source of soluble fiber. It is also sold in fiber drink mixes either alone or in a blend along with other sources of fiber. Contains Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG)
- maltodextrin – see above
- natural and artificial flavors – see above
- guar gum – CSDI – Gums are derived from natural sources (bushes, trees, seaweed, bacteria) and are poorly tested, though probably safe. They are not absorbed by the body. They are used to thicken foods, prevent sugar crystals from forming in candy, stabilize beer foam (arabic), form a gel in pudding (furcelleran), encapsulate flavor oils in powdered drink mixes, or keep oil and water mixed together in salad dressings. Gums are often used to replace fat in low-fat ice cream, baked goods, and salad dressings. Tragacanth has caused occasional severe allergic reactions. CAUTION – May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid.
- cellulose gum – see Guar gum
- carrageenan – see above
- citric acid – see above
- ascorbic acid – see above
- modified soy protein – see soy protein, contains Processed Free Glutamic Acid
- FD&C yellow #5 – see above
- FD&C blue #1 – see above
- FD&C red #40 – see above
Chocolate Milk: Possible Ingredients
- high fructose corn syrup – see above
- Artificial Flavors – see above
- corn syrup solids – Corn syrup solids, (C6H10O5)n•H2O, CAS Reg. No. 68131-37-3, are defined by the FDA as dried glucose syrup (21 CFR 168.121) in which the reducing sugar content is 20 DE or higher. Corn syrup solids are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) as direct human food ingredients at levels consistent with current good manufacturing practices (21 CFR 184.1865). From the Grain Processing site. May contain Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG):
- sodium caseinate = from LIVE STRONG - Sodium caseinate is the biochemical name for casein, which is a type of protein found in the milk from all mammals. Casein, which is Latin for “cheese,” is a major component of commercial cheese and its principle source of protein. Casein is also used as a food additive and for industrial purposes. Some people are allergic to sodium caseinate, and it has been linked to some human diseases, mainly autism and gastrointestinal problems. Consult with an allergy specialist if you suspect an allergy or intolerance to any casein-based product. My note: May contain Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG):
- dipotassium phosphate – According to the EPA Fact Sheet: This active ingredient is commonly sprayed on leaves as a fertilizer, and seems also to help control certain fungal diseases on ornamentals. When used in association with another fertilizer, dipotassium phosphate is approved for use in the manufacturing of pesticide products intended to control certain fungal diseases on ornamentals. When label directions are followed, this active ingredient is not expected to harm people or the environment.
- propylene glycol monostearate – see above
- mono and diglycerides – CSDI – Safe: Makes bread softer and prevents staling, improves the stability of margarine, makes caramels less sticky, and prevents the oil in peanut butter from separating out. Mono- and diglycerides are safe, though most foods they are used in are high in refined flour, sugar, or fat.
lecithins – see above