10 Toxic Food Ingredients You May be Ingesting Everyday

In the food processing industry, most manufacturers manage to sneak in less natural ingredients and more chemically modified items to either increase production or to enhance flavouring and taste. This chemically modified ingredients may sound normal (who puts harmful ingredients names in packets anyway) disguised in highfalutin, scientific sounding names but reality is, it has been beating the nutrition out of the otherwise labelled as healthy foods.

Currently, there are 14, 000 man made preservatives that are added to food consumables. This is called as the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) additives by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although most of these have been recognized as safe, some controversy has existed over the cause and effect relationship between the additives and some medical conditions.

Having been used for a thousand of years, these additives are substances that aim to improve food tastes. They are generally classified as dye, antioxidants, emulsifiers, flavourings and preservatives. On record, these additives are listed in their Chemical Abstract Services numbers and in return, these numbers are the one listed in the food packets.

Natural vs. Artificial

Natural seems a better option in everything but then there can be certain natural additives that aren’t necessarily safe. These natural additives may also cause certain allergic type reactions from other people.

Food additive allergy may occur after eating certain foods especially in pre-packaged foods although each symptom may vary from person to person. Majority of which aren’t really allergic reactions but are just intolerances.

Some food additives though may not be listed in the food packets that we often bought.

supermarket aisle2

The 10 Offenders

Note: Although the products listed are in general, it does not mean that the whole line in the supermarket contains the toxic ingredient.When choosing products, its best to check labels first.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

Found in: Chewing gum, cereal, butter, chips, vegetable oil, sausages

chewing gum

BHT is used as an additive to prevent oxidation. It can be found in your chewing gum, butter, cereal, snack foods and beer. BHT is also used for food packaging, cosmetics and petroleum product. In large quantities, it can impair blood clotting and can promote tumour growth. This additive is banned already in countries like England, Japan, and other European countries. IT has been declared by theWorld Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen.

 High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Found in: Root beer, Juice drinks, corn flakes, cereals, Coca cola, Pepsi, Rice Kris pies, breakfast pastries, processed fruit and vegetable products

cereal

 These additives may lead to obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. HFCS is made out of modified corn and processed with genetically modified enzymes. Some HFCS samples were even tested to have contained mercury. HFCS is found in soft drinks, salad dressings, processed snacks and breakfast bars. For more reason why HFCS is a bad additive, you may read HuffPosts article on Why You Should Never Eat High Fructose Corn Soup.

Yellow 5 or Tartrazine

Found in: jam, ice cream, sauce, custard powder, cake mix, orange coloured cheese, candy, coloured marshmallows, popsicles

popsicles

Yellow 5 is a synthetic lemon yellow dye. It is used to colour food and is known as E102. It is derived from coal tar and contains lead and arsenic. Most coal tar colours are potentially known to cause cancer. One of the most notable products that use yellow no. 5 is Mountain Dew. Back in 2013, Kraft, a known food company, decided to ditch the yellow dye used in its Mac and Cheese after a petition has been launched in petition and had gathered 348, 000 signatures.

Propylene glycol alginate (E405)

Found in: fruit juices, beer, dairy products, yogurt, jelly, jams, ice cream, salad dressing

jelly

E405 is a known food thickener emulsifier and stabilizer. IT is derived from alginic acid which is esterified and combined with the propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is also used on runway de-icers and automotive antifreezes. It acts as preservative and lengthen shelf life. It has negative side effects according to report such as nausea and stomach problems. Sometimes it can cause hair loss, rashes and eye irritations. E405 is found in salad dressings, ice cream products and candies.

Polysorbate 60

Found in: dill pickles, baked goods, frozen desserts, snack cakes

dill pickles

Widely used as emulsifier, Polysorbate 60is consists of corn, palm oil and petroleum. This additive is used to replace the dairy products in baked goods and other liquid products.

1-Mehtylcyclopropene

Found in: apples, bananas

bananas

1-Mehtylcyclopropene is a gas that is often pumped into apple crates to prevent it from ripening. This gas can preserve fruits, apples and bananas, for up to a month. Although it won’t cause severe adverse effects among humans, eye irritation can happen once the 1 MCP isn’t handled rightly. Some evidences though say that it can be harmful if swallowed inhaled and absorbed through skin. Try to imagine that every time you eat fruits that are out of the season, you’ll be ingesting this.

Aspartame

Found in: diet soda, yogurt, chewing gum, Crisp, Drink powders, Flavoured water, Sugar free products, cereals, cooking sauces

flavored water

Aspartame is a sugar substitute. It has been sold as Equal and as NutraSweet. This same additive though has caused inability to metabolize phenylalanine in 1 out of 20, 000 babies. Phenylalanine is one of the two amino acids in the Aspartame. This product is banned among pregnant women.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Fund in: fast foods (McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, and Burger King), chips, sauces and seasonings, fermented packaged foods

fastfood

MSG is a flavour enhancer that can be found in processed foods. It is often used in salad dressings. Condiments, seasonings, and snack chips. Its common ill health effects includes headaches, burning sensations in neck and forearms as well as chest tightening.

Potassium Bromate

 Found in: white breads, rolls, buns. Fast food and dough based desserts

bread

Potassium bromate is used by many manufacturers to increase the volume in flour, breads and rolls. Bromate is often used to lower cost of baking. It hasn’t been banned yet in the US, but it is banned from the UK and the Canada. Contact with bromate may cause skin and eye irritation and burning. It can induce coughing and wheezing once inhaled and can affect the nervous system causing headache, irritability and impaired thinking.

Olestra

Found in: barbecue sauce, potato chips, corn chips, oatmeal to go bars

potato

Olestra is used as a fat substitute, has no calories and cannot be absorbed by the digestive system. It often cause negative things on the digestive system, causing digestive troubles.

Other toxic ingredients includes

  • L-Cysteine – extends shelf life but is derived from human hair,
  • Castoreum – Vanilla flavoured ice cream has this and it’s made from a goo excreted by a beaver from its anus
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane – Anti caking ingredient used in coffees, chocolates and soft drinks but used in silly putty, caulk and industrial oils
  • Carmine – found mostly in red sodas, red candy, red yogurt and more, this additive is taken from the shells of parasitic insect that lives off from cacti
  • Shellac – used to make candies, fruits to look appetizingly shiny but has been common among furniture polish and in preserving cadaver
  • Tert-Butylhydroquinone – found in gums, crackers. Beverage whiteners and processed meats but mainly used for biodiesel fuels and nail polish.

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MERS Virus

Identified as a life threatening virus, MERS Corona have left the world struggling as to how it can be quarantined and be stopped from spreading.

First identified in the year 2012, MERS corona virus or the Middle Eastern Respiratory Corona virus causes acute respiratory illness, severe kidney failure and shortness of breath among the persons it affect. Medical experts identified the virus to be related to the once worldwide scare, SARS virus.

MERS in Numbers

Since its identification, the MERS corona virus has been reported to have caused deaths worldwide. Its origin is from the Middle Eastern countries which include Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

In the statistics of the World Health Organization and current risk assessment, there have been 401 people in 12 countries who were affected of the virus and 93 of whom have been reported to die from the said respiratory problem. The largest outbreak of the said virus has been noted in Saudi Arabia with 23 confirmed cases last April-May 2013 period.

In the past two weeks, heightened alert over the virus infection and spread has been given since cases have already been confirmed in countries like Greece, Malaysia, Jordan and the Philippines. And by May 3, the United States Health officials have confirmed that the virus has entered the states through a US citizen who went back to the country after living in Saudi Arabia. Tunisia, France and Italy have also been added to the list after cases have been identified in said countries.

The MERS virus has been feared to pose an outbreak panic like the SARS virus had in the year 2003 which has killed almost 800 people from around the globe. A person to person spread seems to be the most notable reason of the current outbreak although MERS can’t be easily spread, unlike SARS.

MERS CorVirus
The MERS CorVir under the microscope. Photo from NIAID Flickr.

Cause of MERS Virus

The first MERS virus has been identified back in April 2012 wherein it recorded its first death in November of the same year. For about some time, the virus’ origin has been a mystery, until some research has put a light to it. The possible cause —camels.

Researchers from the Colombia University, EcoHealth Alliance and the King Saud University has isolated MERS virus, live, from two single humped camels. These camels are known as the dromedaries. The virus from the said camels have substrains that matched those virus isolated from the humans affected of the MERS coronavirus.

This new findings has lead to various questions as to how much more of the animal kingdom is affected and will the strain be ever stopped? (More frequently asked questions for the virus can be found in CDC or the US’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, click here) . As we can remember, the SARS virus back in 2003 has been found in and spread by bats, as such, it has been feared that there can be possibilities that the MERS virus may also be carried by other animals. Further studies though has been undergoing. A few puzzles though has been posted for this side of the issue since many of the patients diagnosed with the virus has no contact with camels which lead to the circle that, yes, the virus may have been from another person or the camel may not be the only one carrying this virus that thrives in surfaces.

But until then, camel milk and food have been advised to be forgone or be properly washed and processed, peeled and cooked before one eats it.

MERS Virus Symptoms

Several symptoms may vary from one person to another. But here are some of the most common and most noted symptoms of the newly evolved virus.

  1. Shortness of breath.
  2. Fever.
  3. Cough.
  4. Pneumonia
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Kidney Failure

The Business Insider Australia has outlined the virus’s journey during its course of infections in the body. Jennifer Welsh, the writer, summarized it into 8 points as it is currently understood:

  • First Contact
  • Incubation
  • symptoms Appear
  • Symptoms worsen
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory condition worsens, intubation is required
  • Multiple organ dysfunction
  • death

5 Things you Need to Know

Knowledge of the virus is still the best key in preventing the condition. Although it is expected that MERS may undergo still some genetic changes, several health experts and facilities all over the world have been collaborating to find some possible cure.

The NBC news through Maggie Fox has listed five things you need to remember about the virus.

    • It’s new.
    • It’s deadly.
    • It doesn’t spread easily.
    • It has no treatment (yet)
    • No one knows its exact origin.

To discuss above things in our point of view, it must first be remembered that MERS virus is still undergoing some changes and some genetic change.

Since it’s relatively new, a lot of health care professionals and scientist are still grappling at the idea of the virus. But one thing though has been sure, it is deadly. Although it might be a little assurance, its condition of being not able to be spread easily can help a lot in slowing down its effect. Unlike SARS, as we mentioned above, MERS virus may take time to be spread although a person to person contact is the best possible way to have it in your system.

Different studies on how to cure the virus have been vastly widespread all over the world. The study of which has been joined in by Hong Kong and Chinese experts who were trying to subdue the condition and help in the outbreak control. While two antibodies have been isolated and deemed to help the quest for anti-dote as found by researchers based in Harvard and China, nothing’s been confirmed yet.

Although it is said that camels might be its possible carrier, experts are still trying to fathom its origin and how it evolve into something like the corona virus.

Another thing though pointed out in a CNN article by Ashley Hayes, officials have noted that the virus may be a “spring thing” since similar increase of cases have been noted last spring in 2013. Seasonal patterns have been looked into as to why the virus has been easily transmissible during a certain season.

How to Prevent and Avoid MERS Virus Infection

Although one can’t really tell whether the person next to you has it, there can be precautionary measures you can do to strengthen your immunity and to prevent its spread in case you are suspected of having it.

    1. Cover mouth when sneezing. Make sure you dispose your tissues properly. And have your nose covered when in public places wherein you will be meeting persons from different countries like in airports.
    2. Wash hands frequently. Use soap and water. Have your alcohol or sanitizer ready in hand.
    3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    4. Avoid meats that are undercooked or uncooked since they might be affected. Unwashed fruits and vegetables as well as drinks that aren’t possibly safe should be forgone. Eat only at restaurants that you trust especially if you are abroad.
    5. When you have traveled abroad and have exhibit symptoms after, seek medical advice. Some common symptom you should be alert to is fever, sore throat and runny nose. Diarrhea too can be a possible signal.
    6. Wear surgical masks if you are already exhibiting symptoms.
    7. Avoid public gatherings if it is unnecessary.
    8. If the symptoms has all been there and have been heightened, go to the nearest medical facility, seek for medical attention and inform your doctor especially if you have been travelling within 14 days of acquiring the symptoms.
    9. Prior to these all, strengthen your immune system by eating the right food, getting fit through exercise, and getting the right supplement. Although it can’t altogether push away the virus, but in case you get in contact to it, your immunity against it may save you and may give you some time until you get medical help.

People who are in higher risk for the condition include those who have diabetes, chronic lung disease, those who have prior kidney failure or those who have low immune system. Countries all over the world has been doing some medical response to lower the effects of the virus and to prevent its spread while the anti-dote has yet to be developed. The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health had put up efforts to combat the MERS virus, outlined data is found here.

Government Warnings on MERS Virus

Health advice has already been issued by countries all over the world to help travelers avoid contact of the virus. The UK has travel advice especially to its citizens who will be participating in the incoming Hajj and Umrah, find the advice here. The Australian government’s health department too has put a heightened alert and seeks awareness among its traveling citizens in accordance to the WHO’s travel restriction advice. Australian government has special info and factsheet for advice for those who will travel as pilgrims for the Hajj and Umrah in the Saudi Arabia. Singapore has called for heightened vigilance against MERS while the Philippine government urged its citizen to get clearance from Middle Eastern countries where they came from before going back to the Philippines.

The Saudi Government on the other hand has issued advice for the incoming Hajj and Umrah wherein pilgrims who are at higher risk of contracting the virus are asked to take more precautionary measures or are discouraged from going, some would have their visa denied. This has been applied to those who are 65 years and older, children under 15 years old, those with the kidney, heart diseases and those who have low immune system. Pregnant women too are in the list of those who will get no visa as a precaution.

Image Credit: Eneas via Flickr

Beating Summer Temp, Surviving Heat Stroke

The sun used to be a getaway from usual school, work and home routine. It put summer as the most anticipated season for vacations. But due to some climate changes, summer sun isn’t up for a half day lounge in the beach nor a sand castle play for kids, at times, it presents threat to health once it becomes unbearable.

Heat Stroke or Heat Stress

As said, it’s one thing to be hot, but it’s another thing to get sick from too much heat. Heat Stroke or Health Stress is a medical condition caused by unbearable warmth from the sun.

In January 2014, the world has experienced intense heat waves which are the 4th warmest on the world’s record. In Australia, the heat wave did not only last for a day but has covered five consecutive days breaking the country’s temperature records. This phenomenon has been first time to happen since the country’s recording of temperature begun in 1910. January 7 specifically is Australia’s hottest day recorded, averaged over the entire country.

These happening have given rise to the abovementioned medical condition that has affected many, many of whom often are unaware of the sun’s repercussion. Minor symptoms can include heat rash while worst case scenario may result to death. There can be ways to prevent these from happening though. First, being aware that that simple dizziness isn’t just a normal day spell but rather a start of something serious might save you from further demise. See heat stress symptoms below.

Heat Stroke Symptoms

Heat stroke symptoms may be experienced by both young and old people alike. Young kids though may start their heat agitations by showing irritability, restlessness. Older people may have fainting spells, or may start feeling confused and feeling weak.

Back in 2009, when heat wave lashed in Australia, 374 people are recorded to die from heat related causes aside from those affected by bush fires. Here are the known symptoms of heat stroke which at times are mistaken for a heart attack.

    • One may experience nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Headache
    • Muscle aches
    • Weakening
    • Dizziness
    • High body temperature
    • Lack of sweat and skin flushing
    • Breathing difficulty
    • Rapid pulse
    • Hallucinations
    • Confusion, agitation, disorientation
    • Seizure
    • Coma
    • Death

Heat exposure may not only result to heat stroke; rather, it can result to other condition such as heat edema, rashes, cramps, exhaustion and syncope.

At Risk of Heat Stroke

Everybody who gets to be exposed under the sun can be at risk of heat stroke, but there are just those who have higher risk for it. Those who are deemed to be more susceptible include infants and kids, elderly with prior ill health condition, athletes who train under the sun and individuals who work outside a shelter.

Workers who lack proper hydration in workplaces such as construction sites, farms, food canneries, mining pits, etc also gets to have a high likelihood of heat stress. These people usually are in hot, cramped spaces, workplace which have little air circulation, and workers are even exerting more effort due to manual labor which induces exhaustion.

Workers in these kind of workplaces who are 65 years and older may have even higher peril. One’s medication may also have some effect on certain person under the heat exposure. For example, people who are under medication for mental illness may have higher chances of having the condition. Pregnant and nursing mothers should also watch for the sun since they are at the top of those who are at risk.

Reducing Heat Stress Risk

Reduction and prevention of heat stress among those who are at risk is necessary to save lives and avoid health complications. Now what do you have to do about it?

Employers and employees both have the accountability in this kind of situation. Some companies offer preventive measures through training of workers for them to understand heat stress which includes its definition, proper understanding, and health and safety measures as well as how it can be prevented.

For better measure, here are more tips to prevent it or what first aid to administer in case it happens.

    • Avoid dehydration. Drink water from time to time especially if you are under the sun. Fruit juices can be good as well. IF it isn’t work related, avoid physical activities which may lead to exhaustion.
    • When performing physical activities avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee and soft drinks. Stay away from alcohol. These may lead to dehydration. Instead, have some more water.
    • Replenish on electrolytes since it usually is lost when one sweats excessively.
    • Use sunscreen and slip on some sunglasses.
    • Avoid hot foods, instead eat cool foods.
    • Use fans for cooling.
    • Wear light clothes, protect self with hats or umbrellas, and keep your outfit loose.
    • For workers, taking a break, fanning yourself a little while replenishing fluids can be few simple tips.
    • Never leave infants on locked cars. And when about to use a car, make sure the heat has been let out before you get inside it.
    • Shorten periods of time under the sun.
    • In case of heat exhaustion, fan patient and wet skin his or her skin while calling emergency number.
    • Icepack on a patient’s groin, neck, back and armpits can lower temperature and cool down the body.
    • Bath the person and immerse them in an ice bath.
    • Call the hospital for additional instruction if help has not yet arrived.
    • For the patient, after recovery, avoid any sun and vigorous activities until advised otherwise.

Heat stroke is a deadly hazard for summer, the right and proper action to combat it is needed to avoid its repercussions. Death and permanent disability can be avoided as long as one is attuned to one’s own body, tracking any feeling of discomfort which starts to arise during a hot day.

And in case emergency arises, always ask and call for help. And with unpredictable weather changes, the advent of crazy heat waves, there comes the difference between enjoying the sun and getting yourself victimized by its heat.

Image Credit: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr