Food Additive Regulation started in Congress in 1958. Over 10,000 chemicals are now in use that prevent spoilage, enhance flavor and texture. Safe additives where those that didn’t acutely make you sick, cause birth defects or cancer. Yet safety and testing are in the hands of manufacturers. The Pew Health Group estimates that over 97% of chemicals used in foods get rubber-stamped for use in food without much testing. The expedited approach began in 1995 due to a lack of resources by the FDA. As a consumer, you aren’t even allowed to comment.
Companies don’t have to tell the FDA about research after approval that may discredit the chemical’s safety. And the overt testing does not show any more subtle affects on our hormone systems which can occur at very low levels. These may have an impact on hormones, obesity, infertility, and sexual development. The status quo continues to downplay these concerns, saying more research is needed.
One more notorious example was consumers taking it to the company. A 15-year-old girl asked Pepsi Co to remove bromenated vegetable oil (BVO) from Gatorade. It was banned in products years ago by the European Union and Japan after learning it caused skin rashes and neurologic issues. Yet they kept it in their American product until Sarah Kavanagh started a petition that over 200,000 people signed. BVO is still used in Coca-Cola’s Powerade, Fanta Orange and Fresca.
As women, we need have the more delicate hormone cycles so it is important to pay attention to your food. If you have irregular cycles, or problems getting pregnant, this may be contributing. Sadly it doesn’t look like we can wait for the FDA to take the lead. Scientists are encouraging companies to test for hormone disruption, but whether they will head remains to be seen. In the mean time, my rules for grocery shopping:
- If you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t be eating or drinking it
- If it has more than 5 ingredients, it most likely also has food additives
- Fortified foods are not always better foods
- Try to shop on the outside lab of the grocery store where most fresh ingredients are.
Are you diligent about reading your labels?