Additives in the foods we eat

Saturday, Apr 12, 2008 at 09:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

At my kids school this week I attended a talk by Julie Eady - author of a book that has been out for a couple of years called "Additive Alert" which has just been released in its 2nd edition. The talk was arranged as a fundraiser for Chardae's kindy class and I didn't really think I was interested but heard that numbers were low and so felt I should go to support the school. Well - I have just learned something new and I am very surprised. I even bought a copy of the book! Let me explain...

Additives that are known carcinogens (cause cancer in animal testing) and additivities that are banned in other countries are OFTEN allowed in Australian foods. Seems incredible doesn't it? I am not normally susceptible to scare tactics but decided to check this out for myself and sure enough once you know what the numbers are on the back of the labels the evidence is there. Problem is, who has ever really bothered to learn what all those numbers mean!

I have a confession to make - I am guilty of blindly believing that Australian food regulations would be stringent enough to not allowing anything in our food that was actually HARMFUL. More fool me.!

In my cupboard I found butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) in my kids favourite sandwich spread - Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter. That's additive 320. The Japanese have banned this additive in foods in their country since 1958 as there were serious concerns about carcinogenic and estrogenic effects and it is not permitted in foods for infants and young children. Peanut butter is still sold in Japan, just without this additive. Manufacturers still find a way to produce the food as the additive itself is not a consituent of the food. Are Australian kids believed to be resistent to this additive? I think not. And that's the end of Kraft peanut butter from my cupboard.

And then I learned that some additives will actually damage your DNA. Surely I don't have foods like that in my cupboard? Oh yes I did. Ice-cream cones have artificial colours that are linked to hyperactivity, suspected or known carcinogens that are banned in the US and/or are known mutagens (agents that damage DNA). And just to top it off also contain BHA.

I am stunned to learn that of the 300 or so permitted additives in Australian foods at least 30 are KNOWN or SUSPECTED carcinogens and many others are banned in other countries because of known adverse health effects.

Can you believe that in Australia our testing of food chemicals isn't at stringent as in other countries. As I said earlier, I am simply stunned to learn this, and I must say extremely disappointed.

Initially, I thought none of this mumbo jumbo wouldn't apply to me as I consider myself to be rather careful with the foods we buy. We rarely (ie. twice a year?) eat takeaway food for dinner and I always send the kids off with a packed lunch and we don't even have soft drinks or chips and rubbish in our cupboard.

The thing that was surprised me is how many of the listed harmful additives in this book are in the foods that I do have in my cupboard and fridge. Things like tin tomatoes, fresh pasta, biscuits, noodles, soy sauce, stock cubes, and wait for it... Vitamin C tablets (kids chewable) which has a known weak human carcinogen called Saccharin. So for the sake of making the kids like the Vitamin C tablet they put in this artificial sweetner that could mortally harm them? I just don't get it.

So, for anyone like me that is stunned by this and wants to know more. Julie Eady the author has a website -

She has found that lobbying the manufacturers tends to bring about change and as such she publishes specific letters targetting different products one at a time appealing for the makers to remove the harmful additives which she lists in the letter. Interested people can copy the letter and send to the manufacturers email addresses she supplies. In her experience, this brings about change but she has had no luck lobbying the Government. Fancy that! I just check the Nov 07 Newsletter and she she was targetting Arnotts over their use of 102 and 4 other harmful additives that have creapt into Tim Tams. It's a great idea actually and she should be supported for making an effort. It is amazing that one person CAN indeed bring about change with the help of others.

Her book Additive Alert is widely available from bookstores. Let me know if you think we should stock it.

David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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