When it comes to food and nutrition, the FDA consistently gets it wrong. One the one hand, the agency allows dangerous additives in our food and tells us they are perfectly safe; on the other hand, consumers are warned about the dangers of saturated fat and dietary supplements, which piles of scientific evidence prove are safe and healthy.
The FDA is currently updating its guidance on the safety of food ingredients. The agency is considering significantly expanding the scope of the guidance to include nutritional supplements and supplement ingredients. The current version details what the FDA would expect to see from manufacturers who are seeking approval of a new food or color additive in terms of animal toxicological studies.
Artificial sweetener dangers
One of the most prominent categories of food additives are artificial sweeteners. Products containing artificial sweeteners bring in huge sales figures, and they’re touted as being a safe and healthful alternative to sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
However, an important study published in the journal Nature shows that all artificial sweeteners actually induce glucose intolerance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.
One widely used sweetener, aspartame (marketed under the names NutraSweet and Equal) is an ingredient in approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide, including instant breakfasts, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, frozen desserts, gelatin desserts, juices, laxatives, chewable vitamin supplements, pharmaceutical drugs and supplements, and yogurt—and of course in those little packets on your restaurant table, next to the sugar.
Dr. Joseph Mercola calls aspartame “by far the most dangerous substance added to most foods today” and says it accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious, including seizures and death. A few of the ninety different documented symptoms range from headaches, seizures, and numbness to depression, breathing problems, memory loss, and weight gain (particularly ironic for a “diet” product!). Researchers have found that many illnesses may be triggered or worsened by aspartame, including brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, lymphoma, and—another irony—diabetes.
Chlorocarbons like Splenda, another popular sweetener, appear to attack the human nervous system and can produce cancer, birth defects, and immune system destruction. In test animals, Splenda produced swollen livers (as do all chlorocarbon poisons), calcified their kidneys, shrunk their thymus glands (the biological seat of immunity) and produced liver inflammation. A Duke University study found that Splenda alters gut microflora, reducing it by almost 50%.
Wood pulp in grated cheese
A recent report reveals massive deception in the labeling of Big Food’s parmesan cheese products. Some companies are using cellulose, an anti-clumping agent made from wood chips, in grated parmesan cheese as a cost-saving measure. The FDA says that cellulose is safe and acceptable as an additive if it’s only two to four percent of the product. Yet a whole slew of cheeses may exceed these limits by leaps and bounds—one was nearly 9% cellulose!
One industry insider estimated that 20% of US-produced hard Italian cheeses are mislabeled. Grated cheeses are particularly liable to deceive consumers: in some cases less than 40% of the product is actually cheese.
Why does the FDA allow such widespread fraud to continue? It may be because they are too preoccupied with their recent witch hunt against artisanal cheeses made with real, raw milk.
Potassium bromate in baked goods
Potassium bromate, a chemical historically used to whiten and strengthen dough for baking, was declared unsuitable for use in flour by the World Health Organization and the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization in the early 1990s. In 1999 it was declared a possible human carcinogen by the WHO. There’s also evidence that the chemical damages kidney function in humans.
Despite the myriad health dangers associated with potassium bromate, the FDA continues to allow its use as a food additive in baked goods. The agency is also well aware of the chemical’s risks: the same year that potassium bromate was classified as a possible carcinogen, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA, urging the agency to ban the chemical from baked goods. The petition has been ignored.
Some companies have voluntarily removed potassium bromate from their products following a consumer backlash, but the replacements are just as bad. Some food companies such as Kroger now use a dough-conditioning additive called azodicarbonamide—a chemical that is also used in plastics, flip flops, and yoga mats.
So natural products like supplements are dangerous, but the FDA is fine with consumers munching on wood pulp and yoga mats? It only makes sense if we remember the theme: the FDA’s priority is Big Pharma (and Big Farma), not public health, and this perversion of the agency’s mission is why it is in such desperate need of reform.