I pay pretty close attention to what I eat and that means I try to take note of each and every ingredient in the foods I buy. I mean think about it, ingredients are a given and for centuries, they have served useful functions in a variety of foods. You can't very well have a cookie without some flour, butter, eggs, sugar, salt...well you get the picture, the list goes on and on. Ingredients are everywhere and unless you are eating something in it's raw or natural state, ingredients are essential.
Something went awry though in the second part of the last century and today those ingredients aren't always essential. Actually sometimes they could be detrimental and in the scheme of things they often play no role in the quality of the product at all. Today we have additives, many, many additives. Many of which we can’t identify, or even pronounce, and as a thoughtful eater, and consumer, I can’t help but wonder what many of them are for.
Additives are something added to our food supply for a number of reasons – some of them are natural, some are not. Consider this, there are currently 3,000 chemicals added to our food supply – that covers everything from the seed to the table. 10,000 chemical solvents, emulsifiers, and preservatives are used in food processing, and over 1,000 new chemicals are introduced each year. When you look at that in conjunction with the increasing numbers of cancers, immune system disorders, neurological problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivities, allergies, and hormonal disturbances, it is hard not to take notice.
Navigating the ingredients list in the foods found on our grocery store shelves is important – more so now than ever. But truthfully, with over 1,000 NEW additives, preservatives, and chemicals added to our food supply each year, how on earth can the average consumer hope to keep up with it all.
For example, let’s look at Xanthan Gum – sounds safe enough, right? Wrong. Xanthan gum is produced from fermented corn syrup and used as a thickening agent. This substance is most likely made from genetically modified corn as in the U.S. over 80% of the corn crop has been genetically modified. High fructose corn syrup worries aside, concerns about GMOs range from the unknown long term health effects on human and animal health to the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds. Only products labeled 100% organic contain no genetically modified substances.
Then look at Decanoic Acid – sounds scary, right? Well, not really. Decanoic Acid is a flavoring substance found naturally in anise, but can be produced synthetically for use in food and other products.
It’s a jungle out there because no longer is a cookie just a cookie.
To stay informed, me and my iPhone that I love oh-so-much happened across a FANTASTIC App called “Don’t Eat That!” This App, which cost $1.99, put in the palm of my hand a database that can be the key to understanding the ingredient maze and help me shop smarter.
The App, which is downloaded to your iPhone (or iPod Touch) gives you access to 1500+ food additives, ingredients and chemicals, including those that are carcinogenic, unhealthy for children, or are commonly known allergens. The database is stored on your iPhone so no wi-fi or 3G access is necessary, just download, hit the grocery store and investigate.
The ingredient search can be done several ways, and users can look at:
All Ingredient Names
Harmful to Kids
Additives/E numbers for food additives named in Europe
If I was on the fence about buying an iPhone, or even an iPod Touch, this App alone would cinch the deal. In the palm of my hand I have the power to choose the foods that will serve me, and my family, and put the foods that can harm us back on the shelf. Loved my phone before the App, but now – wow – it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever had!