Food Additives: How at Risk are our Children?

Health - March 6th, 2009
FoodAddit_5

by Elise Mori

Last year, a conclusive link between additives and hyperactivity in children was found in a study published by the UK’s Food Standards Agency IFSA). The study looked at six artificial food colors and the preservative sodium benzoate. The FSA recommended that children showing signs of hyperactivity or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should avoid these food colorings: sunset yellow (E110), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E1041), carmoisine (E122), and ponceau 4R (E124). The last three are already banned in the US (the land that gave the world Kool-Aid) and Canada and have restricted use in Australia.

Sodium benzoate (E211) is used most in acidic foods such as salad dressings, sodas, jams, fruit juices, and condiments. People who suffer from asthma or who have recurrent urticaria (commonly called hives; a kind of skin rash), may be sensitive to sodium benzoate and have allergic reactions.

Even more worrying, in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may form benzene, a known carcinogen. Professor Peter Piper of the University of Sheffield in the UK claims that sodium benzoate by itself can damage and deactivate vital parts of DNA. There are many illnesses now tied to DNA damage, including Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, including the aging process in general.

Furthermore, according to the FSA’s report, a high consumption of sodium benzoate is associated with a reduction in IQ (of approximately five-and-a-half points!). Professor Jim Stevenson from Southampton University, author of the report, warns: “Parents should not think that simply taking these additives out of food will prevent hyperactive disorders. We know that many other influences are at work but this at least is one a child can avoid.”

Or can they? Jeya Henry, professor of human nutrition at Oxford Brookes University in the UK, says: “You cannot ban them [additives] all because they are necessary for processing, preservation, and to reduce the risk of microbe growth and toxicity.”

The irony seems to be that the more

processed and chemically enhanced

a food product is, the cheaper it is,

and vice versa.

And Richard Ratcliffe, executive secretary of the UK-based Food Additives and Ingredients Association concurs: “There is an undercurrent of hysteria around food additives. To say they are unnecessary is a bit like saying: ‘Let’s get rid of half of our food ingredients.'” Which in itself shows that the hysteria, as Mr. Ratcliffe calls it, is not one-sided. Indeed, the Coca Cola Company is in the process of phasing sodium benzoate out of Diet Coke and plans to remove E211 from its other products—including Sprite, Fanta, and Oasis—as soon as a satisfactory alternative is discovered.

So where does that leave concerned parents? The bottom line is that if food is not made from scratch with all fresh, natural ingredients, it is most likely to contain additives of some sort. And even then, cranberries naturally contain close to the maximum allowable quantity of E211 and tomatoes are a source of monosodium glutamate. But making every single food item you serve your children yourself and spending even more time in supermarkets scrutinizing labels is just not feasible for today’s parents. The irony seems to be that the more processed and chemically enhanced a food product is, the cheaper it is, and vice versa. It’s a balance that most families find hard to establish and another source of pressure to add to the list. But if the Coca-Cola company is taking steps to reduce the additives in its products, maybe consumer demands can lead to fewer nasties in our children’s food. Now then, Choco Pie, anyone?

PARENTING
TIP
Avoiding the baby blues
A study at the University of California shows that measuring levels of a hormone midway through pregnancy may predict a woman’s risk of postnatal depression and once post-partum depression is identified, it can usually be treated very well. Find out more at http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/health/7861203.stm.

“The FSA recommended that children showing signs of hyperactivity or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should avoid these food colorings: sunset yellow (E110), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), and ponceau 4R (E124).”

What foods do I need to avoid so my child doesn’t eat these colorings?

El 10: Sunset Yellow E129: Allura Red
Found in: Found in:
• hot chocolate mix • cereals
• packet soups • baked goods
• breadcrumbs • drinks
• ice cream • medications
• canned fish • cosmetics
• many medications • nacho chips
• various candies (esp. • JELLO (esp. strawberry)
Cadbury Creme Eggs) • salad dressings
• cheese-flavored snacks • flavored yogurt
E124: Ponceau 4R E122: Carmoisine
Found in: Found in:
• dessert toppings (esp. • jams and preserves
raspberry and strawberry • sweets
sauces) • brown sauce
• salami • flavored yogurts
• fruit pie fillings • packet soups
• packet cake mixes • jellies
• cheesecakes • breadcrumbs
• soups • cake mixes
E102: Tartrazine E104; Quinoline Yellow
Found in: Found in:
• soups • popscicles
• sauces • cough drops
• ice cream • candy (esp. jelly/gummy
• chewing gum varieties)
• mustard • lemon-flavored drinks
• yogurt • scotch eggs
• products with glycerine • smoked haddock
(esp. with temon and honey)

With information from: www.ukfoodguide.net and www.actiononadditives.com.