COLORADO SPRINGS — Preservatives are found in many different types of American foods to give them a longer shelf life while driving down costs and they might be more common in what you eat than you know.
Frosted Flakes, Gatorades that contain certain food dyes and Mountain Dew are just some of the foods available in the U.S., that are banned in other countries.
Darren Gull is a Colorado Springs parent whose youngest son has type 1 diabetes. Gull says the U.S. food system makes it a challenge to select healthy items at the store for his son.
“I’ve seen that some of the preservatives that are on that ingredient lists have different names for the same type of preservatives but it doesn’t really say what the risk is of some those preservatives that are in our foods lists," said Gull.
But how does the FDA go about approving the ingredients in the food we eat?
Dr. Kristi Muldoon Jacobs, deputy director, office of food additive safety, FDA center for food safety and applied nutrition (CFSAN) explains.
“When the FDA evaluates substances, we hold a high safety standard for any ingredient added to food or for chemicals used in food packaging. There are two main factors that we look at, the first is how is this substance going to be used? And that’s important because it determines how much of this substance are people going to be consuming,” said Jacobs.
The FDA says it goes off the science that we have available.
“It’s important to reiterate that the safety of all ingredients added to food or that come in contact in with food must be supported by science that demonstrates its use, meets the FDA’s high safety standard,” said Jacobs.
Sharon Jacob is a registered dietitian at St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs and has been studying nutrition for several years.
Jacob says that over that time period, the number of ingredients she sees in food today has increased over the years, and it’s concerning.
“There are so many that we really don’t even understand the long-term effects of those or how they affect your body. They ultimately could affect your microbiome in your gut, so that alters how you absorb food, even your mood,” said Jacobs.
Jacob says the reason these ingredients have been added to our food is economical, giving them a longer shelf life. Another reason they’re popular is because they taste good.
“I do think that processed food also rewards our brain reward center. So that’s something else that we need to be aware of too. We all desire the taste of sweet, the sugar, the salt, that’s kind of an innate desire for survival so when have those foods that are high in sugar and salt, we kind of want more of it," said Jacob.
It can be overwhelming but when you look at the ingredient list, the goal is to find those items that are five ingredients or less.
Another tip when trying to eat cleaner is to choose one ingredient foods, otherwise known as whole foods.
It’s best to visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website to show you the whole foods recommended and how your plate should look for each meal.
However, when it comes to processed foods, Gull says he just wants a little more transparency on U.S. food labels.
“If you have a five-syllable preservative word on your ingredients list, does the average person really understand what that is? So, that’s what I think, that we need help, especially with everyone buying processed food in the store,” said Gull.
Those ingredient lists can be long but it’s best to look for those additives if you plan to eat them in moderation.
One additive found in U.S. foods is potassium bromate, which is banned in some countries in Europe and can be found in many baked goods.
The FDA says they go through a very long process of making sure our food is safe but if you do get sick you can report it on their website. For a full list of other additives found in our foods, visit here.
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