A calorie-free artificial sweetener 200 timessweeter than sugar. It isoften used with other artificial sweeteners to mask a bitter aftertaste.
FOUND IN More than 5,000 foodproducts worldwide, including diet soft drinks and no-sugar-added icecream.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOWAlthoughthe FDA has approved it for use in most foods, many health and industryinsiders claim that the decision was based on flawed tests. Animalstudies have linked the chemical to lung and breast tumors and thyroidproblems.
Denotes any of hundreds of allowable chemicals such as butyl alcohol,isobutyric acid, and phenylacetaldehyde dimethyl acetal. The exactchemicals used in flavoring are the proprietary information of foodprocessors, used to imitate specific fruits, butter, spices, and so on.
FOUND IN Thousands of highlyprocessed foods such as cereals, fruit snacks, beverages, and cookies.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW The FDAhas approved every item on the list of allowable chemicals, but becausethey are permitted to hide behind a blanket term, there is no way forconsumers to pinpoint the cause of a reaction they might have had.
A near-zero-calorie artificial sweetener madeby combining two aminoacids with methanol. Most commonly used in diet soda, aspartame is 180times sweeter than sugar.
FOUND IN More than 6,000grocery items including diet sodas, yogurts, and the table-topsweeteners NutraSweet and Equal.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Overthepast 30 years, the FDA has received thousands of consumer complaintsdue mostly to neurological symptoms such as headaches, dizziness,memory loss, and, in rare cases, epileptic seizures. Many studies haveshown aspartame to be completely harmless, while others indicate thatthe additive might be responsible for a range of cancers.
AKA, Butylated HydroxyAnisole and ButylatedHydroxytoluene are petroleum-derived antioxidants used to preserve fatsand oils.
FOUND IN Beer, crackers,cereals, butter, and foods with added fats.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Of thetwo, BHA is considered the most dangerous. Studies have shown it tocause cancer in the forestomachs of rats, mice, and hamsters. TheDepartment of Health and Human Services classifies the preservative as“reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
A corn-derived sweetener representing more than40 percent of allcaloric sweeteners in the supermarket. In 2005, there were 59 poundsproduced per capita. The liquid sweetener is created by a complexprocess that involves breaking down cornstarch with enzymes, and theresult is a roughly 50/50 mix of fructose and glucose.
FOUND IN Although abouttwo-thirds of the HFCS consumed in the United States is in beverages,it can be found in every grocery aisle in products such as ice cream,chips, cookies, cereal, bread, ketchup, jam, canned fruits, yogurt,barbecue sauce, frozen dinners, and so on.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Sincearound 1980, the US obesity rate has risen proportionately to theincrease in HFCS, and Americans are now consuming at least 200 caloriesof the sweetener each day. Some researchers argue that the bodymetabolizes HFCS differently, making it easier to store as fat, butthis theory has not been proven.
A semi-soft fat created by chemically blendingfully hydrogenated andnon-hydrogenated oils. It was developed in response to the publicdemand for an alternative to trans fats.
FOUND IN Pastries, pies,margarine, frozen dinners, and canned soups.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Testingon these fats has not been extensive, but the early evidence doesn’tlook promising. A study by Malaysian researchers showed a 4-week dietof 12 percent interesterified fats increased the ratio of LDL to HDLcholesterol. Furthermore, this study showed an increase in bloodglucose levels and a decrease in insulin response.(think diabetes)
The salt of the amino acid glutamic acid, usedto enhance the savoryquality of foods, MSG alone has little flavor, and exactly how itenhances other foods is unknown.
FOUND IN Chili, soup, andfoods with chicken or beef flavoring.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Studieshave shown that MSG injected into mice causes brain-cell damage, butthe FDA believes these results are not typical for humans. The FDAreceives dozens of reaction complaints each year for nausea, headaches,chest pains, and weakness.
A manufactured fat created by forcing hydrogengas into vegetable fatsunder extremely high pressure, an unintended effect of which is thecreation of trans fatty acids. Food processors like this fat because ofits low cost and long shelf life.
FOUND IN Margarine, pastries,frozen foods, cakes, cookies, crackers, soups, and nondairy creamers.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Transfathas been shown to contribute to heart disease more so than saturatedfats. While most health organizations recommend keeping trans-fatconsumption as low as possible, a loophole in the FDA’s labelingrequirements allows processors to add as much as 0.49 grams per servingand still claim zero in their nutrition facts. Progressivejurisdictions such as New York City, California, and Boston haveapproved legislation to phase trans fat out of restaurants, andpressure from watchdog groups might eventually lead to a full ban onthe dangerous oil.
Food dyes that are orange-red and cherry red,respectively. Red #40 is the most widely used food dye in America.
FOUND IN Fruit cocktail,candy, chocolate cake, cereal, beverages, pastries, maraschinocherries, and fruit snacks.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW The FDAhas proposed a ban on Red #3in the past, but so far the agency has beenunsuccessful in implementing it. After the dye was inextricably linkedto thyroid tumors in rat studies, the FDA managed to have the lake (orliquid) form of the dye removed from external drugs and cosmetics.
An artificial sweetener 300 to 500 timessweeter than sugar. Discoveredin 1879, it’s the oldest of the five FDA-approved artificialsweeteners.
FOUND IN Diet foods, chewinggum, toothpaste, beverages, sugar-free candy, and Sweet ‘N Low.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Ratstudies in the early ‘70s showed saccharin to cause bladder cancer, andthe FDA, reacting to these studies, enacted a mandatory warning labelto be printed on every saccharin-containing product. The label wasremoved after 20 years, but the question over saccharin’s safety wasnever resolved. More recent studies show that rats on saccharin-richdiets gain more weight than those on high-sugar diets.
The secondand third most common food colorings, respectively.
FOUND IN Cereal, pudding,bread mix, beverages, chips, cookies, and condiments.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Severalstudies have linked both dyes to learning and concentration disordersin children, and there are piles of animal studies demonstratingpotential risks such as kidney and intestinal tumors. One study foundthat mice fed high doses of sunset yellow had trouble swimming straightand righting themselves in water. The FDA does not view these asserious risks to humans.