The Danger of Dye

Why do you like some foods, and dislike others? Are you a “texture person” who can’t stand the feel of cottage cheese or yogurt in your mouth, or do you not care at all how a food feels? Do you want your food to be yellow if it is lemon flavored, and orange if it is supposed to taste like oranges? There are a lot of factors that influence food preferences in people, so companies who make food have to create products that not only taste great, but are appealing to all of the senses. Food coloring is a large part of that process.

Food coloring itself is not a new invention, ancient Romans used spices and foods like saffron, carrots, beets, and spinach to color their dishes.  However in 1856, the first synthetic food coloring was created as a by-product of coal processing. The very first foods approved by the USDA to have food coloring added in were cheese and butter. By the year 1900, hundreds of foods, cosmetic products, and and drugs contained synthetic food dyes.

Unfortunately, it was discovered that many of the dyes being used were carcinogenic and contained very dangerous toxins, they were quickly banned by the US government. This set in motion a series of laws passed regarding what types of food coloring could be used, and what couldn’t. Currently, there are several approved dyes for use in the United States. The chart below is copied from the FDA website and shows what are currently approved:

Color Additives Approved for Use in Human Food
Part 74, Subpart A: Color additives subject to batch certification(4)
21 CFR Section Straight Color EEC# Year(2)Approved Uses and Restrictions
§74.101 FD&C Blue No. 1 E133 1969 Foods generally.
1993 Added Mn spec.
§74.102 FD&C Blue No. 2 E132 1987 Foods generally.
§74.203 FD&C Green No. 3 —- 1982 Foods generally.
§74.250 Orange B(3) —- 1966 Casings or surfaces of frankfurters and sausages; NTE(7) 150 ppm (by wt).
§74.302 Citrus Red No. 2 —- 1963 Skins of oranges not intended or used for processing; NTE(7) 2.0 ppm (by wt).
§74.303 FD&C Red No. 3 E127 1969 Foods generally.
§74.340 FD&C Red No. 40(3) E129 1971 Foods generally.
§74.705 FD&C Yellow No. 5 E102 1969 Foods generally.
§74.706 FD&C Yellow No. 6 E110 1986 Foods generally.

There are many more that are approved for use in drugs and cosmetic products, to view all of the approved food additives and dyes, click here.

While the USDA and FDA have approved the above food additives, there are many researchers who are worried about the side effects of ingesting these chemicals. In fact, the European Union has started placing warnings on foods that contain dyes to warn the consumers of health risks! According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens … Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.” Below is a summary of studies on food dyes directly from the CSPI report:

Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. Blue 1 may not cause cancer, but confirmatory studies should be conducted. The dye can cause hypersensitivity reactions.

Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats. It should not be used in foods. Citrus Red 2, which is permitted only for coloring the skins of oranges not used for processing, is toxic to rodents at modest levels and caused tumors of the urinary bladder and possibly other organs. The dye poses minimal human risk, because it is only used at minuscule levels and only on orange peels, but it still has no place in the food supply.

Green 3 caused significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe, this little-used dye must remain suspect until further testing is conducted.

Orange B is approved for use only in sausage casings, but has not been used for many years. Limited industry testing did not reveal any problems.
Red 3 was recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen in animals and is banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. All uses of Red 3 lakes (combinations of dyes and salts that are insoluble and used in low-moisture foods) are also banned. However, the FDA still permits Red 3 in ingested drugs and foods, with about 200,000 pounds of the dye being used annually. The FDA needs to revoke that approval.

Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small
number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children. Considering the safety questions and its non-essentiality, Red 40 should be excluded from foods unless and until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.

Yellow 5 was not carcinogenic in rats, but was not adequately tested in mice. It may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children. Posing some risks, while serving no nutritional or safety purpose, Yellow 5 should not be allowed in foods.Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals, though that is disputed by industry and the FDA. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. Yellow 6 adds an unnecessary risk to the food supply.

Virtually all the studies tested individual dyes, whereas many foods and diets contain mixtures of dyes (and other ingredients) that might lead to additive or synergistic effects. In addition to considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions, mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children. Because of that concern, the British government advised companies to stop using most food dyes by the end of 2009.

The most worrisome thing of all? So many foods made specifically for children contain dyes! When buying food for your family, look for alternatives that don’t contain any unnecessary additives. Sure, they may not look as neon and bright, but they will without a doubt be healthier for you. Plus, there still ARE crazy and fun colored foods out there that are naturally colored, all you have to do is look for them. Natural food colorings often appear on ingredient labels as beets, turmeric root, annatto, saffron, paprika, elderberry juice, and caramel coloring (made from caramelized sugar).

If you are baking or cooking and want to color something without using spices or other food products, there are natural dyes you can purchase! Neither Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s carry products that use artificial dyes and depending on the location, they may even sell all-natural food colorings. Other all-natural food coloring options are:

By Courtney Perry

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Sleeping Organic

We have discussed the benefits of eating organic, but did you know there are ways you can go organic other than food and beauty products? Switching to an organic mattress is a great way to cut down on your repeated chemical exposure. Now don’t panic, to get an organic mattress you don’t have to run outside and gather leaves, straw, and animal hide like our neanderthal ancestors did. Organic mattresses are increasing in popularity and mainstream companies have started adding organic options to their already existing mattress lines.

So what does it mean if a mattress is organic? It means that the materials used to build the mattress come from organic sources, and are chemical-free. A typical mattress is comprised of many layers (depending on it’s quality and price) and often contain polyurethane foam, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), chlorinated tris, and boric acid. Let’s break each one down:

Polyurethane Foam: While polyurethane foam can be found in a multitude of places (carpeting, walls, shoes, beds), it has been linked to nervous and immune system illness. A material that contains formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and other toxins is not something that should be omitted from your home safety radar, especially when it may be what you and your loved ones are sleeping on every single night. Some other dangers of sleeping on a mattress with polyurethane foam are allergic reactions, irregular heartbeat, headaches, body aches, dizziness, and fatigue. Here is a link that provides more detail about the dangers of polyurethane foam.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE): PBDE is used as a flame retardant. Exposure to PBDE has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and impaired fetal brain development. It is especially dangerous for pregnant mothers to be sleeping on mattresses that contains PBDE, as Dr. Mercola outlines in this fantastic article.

Chlorinated Tris: Chlorinated tris is a carcinogenic flame retardant. In animal studies, chlorinated tris caused infertility, decreased semen quality in men, and cancerous tumors on the kidneys and testes. The unfortunate thing about chlorinated tris is that it doesn’t stay localized to your couch or bed, the chemical floats in microscopic sized pieces around the house.

Boric Acid: Again, boric acid is used in mattresses as a flame retardant. In animal studies, boric acide caused testicular damage, lower semen quality, and tumors. Regarding boric acid use in products, the EPA has stated, “that manufacture, process, or use of the substance without dermal protection may result in serious chronic and developmental effects.”

So how can you find an organic mattress, and how do you know what to look for? More than likely you won’t be able to ask your salesperson “hey, does this mattress contain boric acid or polybrominated diphenyl ethers?” You’ll probably get a blank stare from your salesperson, followed by a carefully scripted speech about how their mattresses have been tested for safety and comfort. Thecleanbedroom.com has a great suggestion for questions to ask your salesperson to help you determine if the mattress is safe for you:

  1. Is the outer cover made with certified organic cotton? Be sure it has not been treated with stain resistant chemicals like formaldehyde.
  2. How does the mattress meet the U.S. Fire Resistant Code #1633 that took effect on July 1, 2007? If the mattress is organic, in most cases a layer of organic or untreated wool is placed under the outer cover to pass the burn test. Wool self-extinguishes when exposed to a flame. Some manufacturers use non-chemical flame retardants like corn husks and baking soda; ask how these are processed to be sure they are truly toxin-free.
  3. Is the innerspring coil system sprayed with oils or a rust-proof treatment? An organic innerspring mattress system is untreated.
  4. Is the inner core of a latex mattress made with 100% natural rubber? If the sales person hedges, the latex core is probably a blend of 60/40 natural rubber and petrochemical-based synthetic. The percentage of natural rubber in the core of an organic mattress should be 90+%.

We spend about one-third of our lives in bed, so making sure we are not being exposed to toxins while our bodies are supposed to be resting and recovering is crucial to our well-being. Here are some suggestions for organic mattresses:

 

By Courtney Perry

FAQ: What Is rBGH?

Q: Sometimes I see dairy products labeled “made with milk from cows not treated with rBGH.” What is rBGH, and should I only be buying products that do not contain it?

A: rBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and is a man-made hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production by 10 to 15 percent. rBGH (sometimes also listed as rBST) has been legal in the U.S. since 1993, but several other countries including Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have completely outlawed the hormone, not willing to take the risk of ingesting milk from cows pumped full of chemicals and genetically engineered hormones. When the FDA approved rBGH use for dairy cows, there had only been one study done regarding its safety for human consumption. The study was done on 30 rats, and lasted only 90 days. The company who conducted the study was none other than Monsanto, the same group who has been heavily protested for years due to its GMO-filled products.

monsanto

When deciding whether to buy rBGH-free dairy products or not, you should consider the possible side effects of drinking milk from cows treated with this hormone. Two of the biggest questions are:

1. Does consuming products of rBGH-treated cows increase the growth hormone IGF-1 in humans?

“Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). While humans naturally have IGF-1, elevated levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Although no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.” source 

2. Cows treated with rBGH develop udder infections more often than those that aren’t treated with it, meaning they are put on antibiotics more often. When humans ingest milk of the cows injected with large amounts of both rBGH and antibiotics, are they potentially putting themselves in danger of antibiotic resistance?

“To treat mastitis outbreaks, the dairy industry relies on antibiotics.  Critics of rBGH point to the subsequent increase in antibiotic use (which contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria) and inadequacies in the federal government’s testing program for antibiotic residues in milk.” source 

In addition to potentially being harmful to humans, I also worry about the animals’ safety when treated with rBGH. This fact sheet lists the side effects of using rBGH on cows, for me it is even more motivation to quit buying products containing milk from rBGH animals altogether.

Like always, I believe it is best to go with your most natural option when buying food. Because rBGH is required to be listed on the label if included in the product, it is not hard to avoid. Also, check out the chart below created by the Center for Food Safety to see a list of products made without the milk from rBGH-treated cows. 

Certified Organic Produced Without rbGH May be Produced with rbGH
Alta Dena Organics
Butterworks Farm
Harmony Hills Dairy
Horizon Organic
Morningland Dairy
Natural by Nature
Organic Valley Dairy
Radiance Dairy
Safeway Organic Brand
Seven Stars Farm
Straus Family Creamery
Stonyfield Organic
Wisconsin Organics
National
Alta Dena
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Brown Cow Farm
Crowley Cheese of Vermont
Franklin County Cheese
Grafton Village Cheese
Great Hill Dairy
Lifetime Dairy
Stonyfield Farms
Yoplait yogurtsWest Coast
Alpenrose Dairy
Berkeley Farms
Clover Stornetta Farms
Joseph Farms Cheese
Sunshine Dairy Foods
Tillamook Cheese
Wilcox Family FarmsMidwest
Chippewa Valley Cheese
Erivan Dairy Yogurt
Promised Land Dairy
Westby Cooperative CreameryEast Coast
Blythedale Farm Cheese
Crescent Creamery
Derle Farms (milk with “no rbST” label only)
Erivan Dairy Yogurt
Farmland Dairies
Oakhurst Dairy
Wilcox Dairy (rbST-free dairy line only)
Colombo (General Mills)
Dannon
Kemps (aside from “Select” brand)
Land O’ Lakes
Lucerne
Parmalat
Sorrento

 

Look for the "not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST " label!

Look for the “not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST ” label!

Carrageenan: Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

This day and age, it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to read an ingredients label before buying a product. Many times I have been shocked by the preservatives and unnecessary additives that are put into foods, especially when they are labeled in a way that makes them seem healthy and all natural. If an ingredient looks like a rocket ship launch code, complete with numbers and obscure letters that don’t actually form words, I put it back on the shelf immediately.

But what if the words you skip over because they look like real foods are actually harmful to your body? A common word that is brushed off, mostly because many people don’t even know what it is, is carrageenan.

Image

Are you having flashbacks to the box of ice cream sitting in your freezer, or your tube of toothpaste in the bathroom? That’s right, carrageenan can be found in hundreds of different products. It comes from a natural source, so technically a product can still be called “all natural” if it contains carrageenan. The problem is that just because it’s “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

 First, let’s look at all the different names for carrageenan: Algas, Algue Rouge Marine, Carrageen, Carrageenin, Carragenano, Carragenina, Carragheenan, Carraghénane, Carraghénine, Chondrus crispus, Chondrus Extract, Euchema species, Extrait de Mousse d’Irlande, Galgarine, Gigartina chamissoi, Gigartina mamillosa, Gigartina skottsbergii, Irish Moss Algae, Irish Moss Extract, Mousse d’Irlande, Red Marine Algae.

Just a few to remember, right?

Carrageenan comes from boiling a type of seaweed that is commonly found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is used to thicken, stabilize, and make foods or products gelatinous. It has zero nutritional value and is purely used to hold things together, which is why it’s often found in otherwise healthy products like yogurt and protein shakes. The main health concerns associated with carrageenan are gastrointestinal related. Those with gastrointestinal disorders like IBS are often cautioned by their physicians to avoid carrageenan whenever possible. According to Dr. Joanne Tobacman of University of Illinois School of Medicine, “Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding.” Dr. Tobacman even found in her research with lab animals that carrageenan can be linked to gastrointestinal cancer. 

The following is an excerpt from beyondpesticides.org regarding their conclusion that carrageenan is NOT healthy and should be banned from foods:

“Results from the 2005 Marinalg Working Group’s tests clearly show that degraded carrageenan, a substance that is known to cause colon inflammation and is classified by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen,” was present in all samples of food-grade carrageenan. Therefore, all carrageenan should be prohibited from foods, especially organic foods.” The full report is located here, and it is worth reading. It will make you wary of ever purchasing a product containing carrageenan again.

So where else can carrageenan be found?

  • chocolate
  • cottage cheese
  • yogurt
  • milk
  • cheese
  • ice cream
  • almond milk
  • soy milk
  • rice milk
  • deli meat
  • toothpaste
  • juice
  • chip dip
  • frozen pizza
  • protein shakes
  • salad dressing
  • infant formula

The list could keep going and going. Thankfully, the Cornucopia Institute has put together a fantastic list of organic foods to avoid due to carrageenan as an added ingredient. It can be found HERE. If you would like to save the list to your computer for future reference, click here to download the PDF:  Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan.

If a product contains carrageenan, a company is legally obligated to put it on the ingredients label so thankfully that makes it not too difficult to avoid. From major organizations and groups to individual people, there are thousands protesting the use of carrageenan in foods, and you can help! Sign this petition to tell the FDA that you don’t agree with carrageenan in your food, and there ARE other alternatives. Every person and every voice (or electronic signature) counts!

 

By Courtney Perry

Does Organic REALLY Matter?

It happens every time you go to the grocery store and peruse the produce section. You stop in front of two bins of apples, one of them marked “organic”, and you wonder does it really matter?  The answer is yes and no. Anytime you eat non-organic fruits and vegetables, you are risking ingesting small amounts of pesticides that were used on the food during growth. While eating 100% organic is a great thing to do, it’s not always realistic for families on a budget. Organic food does tend to be a bit more expensive, so thankfully the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases an annual statement about which fruits and veggies are the most important to eat organic, based on studies showing pesticide levels found in them per year. 

14 most contaminated foods according to EWG

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash

15 least contaminated foods according to EWG

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Sweet corn (only frozen- also remember you are risking GMO corn if you don’t buy organic)
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Sweet potatoes

So, what are the benefits of eating organic? Here are a few:

  • Organic foods, especially raw or non-processed, contain higher levels of beta carotene, vitamins C, D and E, health-promoting polyphenols, cancer-fighting antioxidants, flavonoids that help ward off heart disease, essential fatty acids, and essential minerals.
  • Levels of antioxidants in milk from organic cattle are between 50% and 80% higher than normal milk. Organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce have between 20% and 40% more nutrients than non-organic foods.
  • Organic food contains qualitatively higher levels of essential minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium), that are severely depleted in chemical foods grown on pesticide and nitrate fertilizer-abused soil.
  • Organic food isn’t genetically modified. Under organic standards, genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are prohibited.
  • Organic animals aren’t given drugs. Organic farming standards prohibit the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified vaccines in farm animals. Source

Again, while it’s important to try and eat some of your veggies from the organic section, the EWG says eating non-organic fruits and vegetables is better than eating none at all! Also, remember that organic does not always mean more expensive. If you stay on top of sale items at your grocery store (or shop at the farmers market), you may end up not spending more than you would on non-organic items.

USDA_Organic

 

By Courtney Perry