The Eight Most Damaging Ingredients to Watch for on Food Labels

The Eight Most Damaging Ingredients to Watch for on Food Labels

Processed foods are loaded with preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavorings, which is one of the reasons that I recommend avoiding them. Once you become a label reader, you’ll realize just how ubiquitous they are.

The best way to avoid toxic chemical additives is to consume only fresh whole foods. But practically speaking, this can be difficult for many people to accomplish, at least 100 percent of the time. Chances are that, despite your best efforts, you’ll have a processed food or two somewhere in your diet.

Therefore, it’s good to know which of the thousands of chemical additives are the most dangerous and should be avoided at all cost when you spot them on a food label.

An article recently posted on One Green Planet1 highlights eight particularly pernicious ingredients that you and your kids are probably eating. There seems to be good consensus about the worst of the worst, as seven of those were also dubbed the “Scary Seven”2 by Andrea Donsky of Naturally Savvy.

If you notice any of these on a food label, put it right back on the shelf! While I agree with all of One Green Planet’s choices, here I’ve selected my own “worst of the worst” ingredients found in processed foods.

1. Artificial Sweeteners


The Many (Food) Colors of Adult ADHD

Are food dyes linked to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder? It depends who you ask. A recent Dutch study suggests yes; while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staunchly denies it.

Perhaps a more pertinent question is, “Are food dyes linked to ADHD in adults?”

Five million US children now have a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the numbers keep rising. For decades, there’s been a sneaking suspicion that petroleum-based food dyes (substances the FDA politely terms “food additives”) play a significant role.

Two widely-used food dyes, Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 6, have been shown to cause hyperactivity in kids. Pediatric allergist Dr. Benjamin Feingold first raised the alarm about this in the 1970s when he successfully treated hyperactive patients with a diet free of food coloring.

These dyes are virtually ubiquitous in US packaged foods and beverages. (more…)

What’s up with food dyes and hyperactivity?

I’ve been waiting to see what the FDA panel did before commenting on last week’s hearings on food dyes and hyperactivity in young children.

According to reports from CNN and from the New York Times, the panel decided—to do nothing.

Research, says the FDA panel, is insufficient to conclude that food dyes cause hyperactivity. Despite much concern about this issue in Great Britain, the FDA will not put a warning label on foods that contain the dyes.

This is déjà vu all over again. When I first became interested in nutrition in the mid-1970s, food dyes were a big issue. (more…)

Choose organics to avoid artificial dyes, pesticides linked to ADHD

The US food supply is riddled with petroleum-based, artificial food dyes and synthetic chemical pesticides, both of which have been linked to causing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral problems in children. So in order to avoid them, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is urging parents to shop certified organic, as this is the only food category that is designed to be free of these harmful toxins.

A 2007 study conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK is what initially prompted a review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into the safety of artificial food colors and pesticides. That study found a direct correlation between consumption of artificial additives and a spike in ADHD rates among children (…).

In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also petitioned the FDA to ban nine specific color additives used in the UK study that were linked to causing problems. Though CSPI has not always shown favor to the natural health industry, including in 2010 when the organization made proposals that threatened freedom of health speech (…), its efforts to eliminate harmful food dyes are noteworthy.

Another study published in the journal Pediatrics found that exposure to common organophosphate pesticides at typical levels is associated with higher levels of ADHD in children (http://pediatrics.aappublications.o…). This study prompted the 2010 US President’s Cancer Panel Report to make suggestions that consumers avoid conventional foods and choose only those grown without the use of chemical pesticides, growth hormones, and other synthetic additives.

“Organic food production and processing represent the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that synthetic food dyes and chemicals are not used,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO. “Those seeking to minimize their exposure to these chemicals can look for the USDA Organic label wherever they buy food.”

Sources for this story include:…

Thursday, April 14, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer