How Many Chemicals Are Found In Your Food?
Additives, preservatives and colourants have been components of regular foodstuffs for many decades. Food scientists claim that most of these are safe, but now concern is rising.
This is happening alongside a growing recognition of the harm pesticides cause in the food supply. Over the past decade, there has been a doubling of pesticide residues on food sold in supermarkets. Even though some scientists have tried to reassure the public that the pesticide concentrations are at levels below recognised danger points, there still is an unknown cumulative effect of a “pesticide cocktail” over time.
Bread as a Chemical Cocktail
Bread may be a simple product, but apart from increasing levels of sugar, it also contains chemicals such as calcium sulphate, calcium carbonate, potassium iodate and azodicarbonateamide. This last compound is sued to strengthen the dough but breaks down into products that are recognised carcinogens. Sandwich chain Subway is removing this compound from the bread it sells.
Butylated hydroxanisole is a compound used to preserve cereals and potato crisps, but it also is believed to have carcinogenic properties when ingested by humans. Propyl gallate is a preservative used to stop processed meats, mayonnaise and even chicken soup from oxidising and going bad. It is known chemically as an “endocrine disruptor”, meaning that it interferes with human hormones and could cause reproductive and neurological problems.
Pesticide residues have been recognised as a problem with fresh fruit and vegetables for generations. In the past this could be solved in part by washing everything thoroughly before eating. But is the contemporary fastfood culture, this advice is often ignored. Today pesticides are used not only to increase yields and for crop protection. They are important agents for keeping food blemishfree and attractive on supermarket shelves.
The most common pesticide found in British fruit and vegetables today is carbendazim. This compound is known to cause womb and birth defects as well as cancers in humans and animals. Residues of this compound can be found on apples, oranges, grapes, cucumbers, pineapples, spinach, beans, pods and prepacked salads.
The increasing use of pesticides is also believed to have caused the decline in the bee population that is vital for pollinating crops.
Most Food Supply Affected
The Pesticides Action Network UK has estimated that pesticide residues are present in nearly 97% of flour on sale in the UK as well as in 73% of its bread. Nearly 98% of supermarket oranges are contaminated, as are 96% of pears, 91% of grapes, 73% of carrots and 70% of peppers.
This problem is further compounded by fumigant pesticides that are applied to growing crops such as potatoes, strawberries and grapes to counter fungi and insects. The fumigants contain volatile chemical compounds that can travel through the air and affect neighbouring crops and humans. These don’t even show up as residues on the food.