Generally Safe or Potentially Dangerous?

  • Generally Safe or Potentially Dangerous?

    The FDA oversees the safety of the ingredients in our food supply. However, there is a little loophole for food manufacturers to make their own “secret” determinations of an ingredients safety.

    An ingredient labeled “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS qualifies as “any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to pre-market review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excluded from the definition of a food additive”.

    Here are a few potentially dangerous GRAS food ingredients lurking in your pantry:

    Sources: Colas, bakery items, pre cooked meats, beer, infant multi-vitamins

    Why you should avoid: Caramel coloring, when produced with ammonia, contains contaminants, 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole. Those two contaminants cause cancer in male and female mice and possibly in female rats. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, concluded that 2- and 4-methylimidazole are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”


    Sources: Candy, beverages, baked goods, gelatin, jelly, sausage, pet foods.

    Why you should avoid: Artificial colored food dyes are made from synthetic chemicals that do not occur in nature. Side effects from food dyes include increasing hyperactivity in sensitive children and causing allergic reactions. Animal studies have found food dyes to cause many types of cancer. Always look at the ingredient list.


    Sources: bacon, ham, lunch meat, smoked fish, corned beef

    Why you should avoid: Adding nitrite to food can lead to the formation of small amounts of potent cancer-causing chemicals (nitrosamines), particularly in fried bacon. Several studies have linked consumption of cured meat and nitrite by children, pregnant women, and adults with various types of cancer. Although those studies have not yet proven that eating nitrite in bacon, sausage, and ham causes cancer in humans, pregnant women would be prudent to avoid those products.


    Sources: Cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, vegetable oil

    Why you should avoid: Some research studies demonstrate that it causes cancer in three different animal species.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration still permits BHA to be used in foods.


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