if consumed within the ADI

What Are You
Really Feeding Your Family?
7 Mistakes
Most of Us Make
When Trying To Shop
We all want to make healthy shopping choices for our families.
Why is it so complicated?
In the ‘old’ days of my childhood, mum’s weekly shop was relatively
easy. The supermarket choices were simple compared with those of
today. Everyone knew that a healthy diet consisted of fresh fruit &
vegies, sufficient ‘caveman’ proteins like meat, chicken and fish, limited
carbohydrates and minimal sugar, salt & fat. Mums also knew exactly
what ‘junk food’ was, and that it should be limited to parties and the
odd weekend or special occasion. The lines were well defined.
Since the introduction of modern convenience (or tertiary processed)
foods after World War 2, the world has gone convenience-mad.
Unfortunately, we’ve expanded way beyond those products our mums
knew to limit or avoid. We were told we were eating too much salt,
sugar and saturated fat, so we demanded alternatives. Manufacturers
responded and marketers had a field day. Suddenly we could have it
all: fast foods with low fat, savoury foods with low salt and soft drinks
with no sugar.
The result some 30 years later? Health gone haywire. Chronic Immune
disorders such as Lupus, Crohn’s, Graves’ and IBS; ADHD, Asthma,
Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity, allergies everywhere and the list goes on.
All common conditions, many among people we know. Within our
families, our friends and their children there are health conditions that
were either non-existent or rare in our parent’s day.
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Mistake No. 1
in our regulatory bodies
According to current legislation, additives in food
have been deemed safe if consumed within the
ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake). The ADI is not
proof of safety. It is a clinical assessment,
usually based on animal testing, and it is
Nearly a decade later, this ‘Draft Assessment’ is
nowhere to be seen. One would have assumed
it to be a matter of some urgency, given that
benzoates and sulphites are in a huge range of
foods, many of which are targeted toward kids.
impossible to control consumer consumption.
Benzoates and sulphites, for example, are
common preservatives in many of our foods. A
2005 Assessment Report1 indicated that the
level of exposure to sulphites in 2-5 year old
boys is 280% of the ADI (mainly via sausages,
dried apricots and cordial) and benzoates is
140% (mainly via cordial, non-cola soft drinks
and orange juice).
According to this report, “FSANZ will be
undertaking a full risk assessment…in order to
fully characterize the public health and safety
risks. FSANZ will consider appropriate risk
management strategies to limit exposure to
benzoates and sulphites for specific population
groups where necessary.” “This will be
undertaken as part of the Draft Assessment.”
None of these assessments, including the ADI,
are based on absolute proof of safety, and
nothing has been done to determine the long
term effect of these and all the other additives
we’re exposed to. There’s well established
evidence linking the western diet to modern day
chronic diseases, and the potential for damage
is significantly increased in the growing body of
a child.
Manufacturers will tell you “there’s no proof” that
these additives are harmful. Surely the onus is
on them to prove safety, not the other way
around. There are preservatives available which
pose no health risk. Benzoates, sulphites and
many other additives are just cheaper
alternatives. Do we really want to risk the long
term health of our children?
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Initial Assessment
Report Proposal P298 Benzoate and Sulphite Permissions in Food
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Mistake No. 2
‘naturally occurring’ means its ok
Manufacturers often claim that because certain
additives are naturally occurring in plants,
animals and/or the human body, they must be
The part about being naturally occurring is
correct. Sulphites, glutamates, aspartate,
benzoates and many other additives do, indeed,
occur naturally. Our bodies make sulphites from
protein; glutamate is the principle excitatory
amino acid in our central nervous system, vital
for metabolism and brain function; aspartic acid
(aspartame) also plays a major role in our
metabolism, and natural benzoic acid is found in
fruits and other plants. But the levels that
accumulate in our bodies via additives, which are
highly concentrated versions of naturally
occurring substances, are anything but natural.
They’re abnormal, and potentially highly toxic.
Renaissance physician and founder of the
discipline of toxicology, Paracelsus (1493-1541),
summed it up with his quote: “The dose makes
the poison”. Obviously a few sulphite-filled
sausages probably won’t do any harm, but eat
them every day over a long period of time and
the cumulative effect is???!!
One of the main reasons the additive debate is
so confusing is its paradoxical nature.
Everything is naturally derived originally, and
anything can be toxic, depending on the dose.
So the entire subject is many shades of grey and
can be argued either way, depending on who
one believes and how much money is at stake.
Given there are alternatives available that are
proven safe, such as preservative citric acid,
why take the risk? And why are our legislators
allowing it?
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Mistake No. 3
hidden nasties
By now, most of us know to avoid MSG. We
check that our local Asian restaurant doesn’t use
it and we scan for it in ingredients listings,
assuming it’s easy to spot. Some of us have
figured out that it’s not usually listed as MSG, but
rather as a “flavour enhancer”, usually followed
by the number 621 or another of its close
relatives: 620, 622, 623, 624, 625, 627, 631 and
Unfortunately, MSG is only one ingredient which
contains processed free glutamic acid (the active
ingredient in MSG). It is hidden in over 40
different ingredients in hundreds of everyday
foods ranging from vegemite to breakfast
Ingredients that always contain processed free
glutamic acid include anything with the name
‘glutamate’ in it, anything ‘hydrolysed’ (such as
hydrolysed vegetable protein) and anything
‘protein’ (such as whey and soy protein).
Also steer clear of Calcium and sodium
caseinate, yeast extract, autolysed yeast, gelatin
and anything ‘enzyme modified’.
Ingredients that frequently contain processed
free glutamic acid include flavours, natural
seasonings and spice extracts. Low sodium or
low salt foods frequently contain MSG or its
equivalent to give them a satisfactory taste.
NB. Watch out for added MSG in soy sauces.
Many contain flavour enhancer 621. Your Soy
Sauce should only contain 4 simple ingredients:
Whole soy beans, water, grain alcohol, sea salt.
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Mistake No. 4
of what they won’t tell you
What exactly is MSG?
Monosodium Glutamate is the sodium salt of
glutamic acid. It was discovered in 1908 by
Professor Kikunae Ikeda, who isolated glutamic
acid as a new taste substance from a seaweed
called Kombu. He called it “umami”, which
translates as “pleasant savoury taste”, and
named the product Monosodium Glutamate.
We experience the umami taste through
specialized glutamate receptor cells present on our
tongues. Glutamates play an extremely important
role in our bodies and are also naturally present in
all sorts of foods. When naturally occurring they are
usually bound to proteins. Once processed, they
are separated from the protein and as ‘free
processed glutamates’ are concentrated into ‘salts’
which are then added to many of our foods in much
larger doses than would occur in nature. This ‘salt’
is what makes these foods so addictively tasty,
which leads to overeating (“You can’t say No!”).
Because glutamate plays such an important role
as the most prominent neurotransmitter in our
bodies, there is major concern amongst credible
professional bodies that the concentrated
presence of added processed glutamate in our
food is highly dangerous. As a brain chemical
that communicates information throughout our
brain and body, Glutamate should be present in
the right place, in the right amounts, at the
right time, not added to our foods in large
doses. When we consume foods which contain
MSG, the level of free glutamates in our blood
rises dramatically. Studies have shown that
these free glutamates can cross the blood brain
barrier and cause major short and long term
problems, including hormone disruption and cell
Unfortunately MSG isn’t the only additive that
has a hidden horror story. It’s just one example.
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Mistake No. 5
in ‘natural flavours’
We’ve seen how MSG and its siblings are
hidden in many of our foods under various
different guises. And manufacturers are legally
able to make the claim: ‘No Artificial Flavours’
whilst including MSG because it’s a ‘flavour
enhancer’, not a’ flavour’, and it’s also ‘natural’.
Please ignore claims like ‘No Artificial Colours,
Flavours or Preservatives’. All flavours are
combinations of chemicals, and their only
purpose is to make foods so tasty, ‘you can’t say
no’. The primary objective of flavour companies,
at their own admission, is to make flavours
‘addictive’. And we wonder why obesity is such a
Generally speaking, artificial flavours are manmade and natural flavours are derived (prior to
processing) from nature, but not necessarily
from the source stated on the label. According
to a 60 Minutes report on Swiss flavouring
company Givaudan, “strawberry and vanilla
creations can come from a gland in a beaver’s
backside.” Delicius. Check out the report via
the link below.
‘Natural’ flavours also have to be processed to end
up in our food, which means they can be anything
but natural depending on the extraction processes
used. According to the United States Code of
Federal Regulations (CFR),”Natural Flavors
include the natural essence or extractives obtained
from plants…and substances listed” (in the Code).
According to the Organic Trade Association¹, “this
includes every kind of flavor from squeezing
orange oil out of an Organic orange peel, to flavors
that are the product of genetically modified
organisms followed by processes that change
the molecular structure of the flavor”. In other
words, not natural at all.
‘Natural’ flavours are often processed using
synthetic solvents, such as petroleum-based
propylene glycol and hexane. Propylene Glycol
is an extremely popular additive in everything
from snack foods to personal products and brake
fluid. It is inexpensive, extremely versatile and
multi-functional as a solvent, humectant,
preservative and emulsifier. It is also used as an
additive in cattle feed to fatten them up, which
begs the question: does it make us fat too?
Although recognized as a low level toxin by
legislators, it is deemed ‘Generally Recognised
as Safe’ (GRAS) by the FDA in America.
Personally, I’d rather avoid it. And it certainly
doesn’t fit my definition of natural.
The only natural flavours you can trust are those
in Certified Organic products, which use ethical,
sustainable, non-toxic and GMO-free processing
practices. It’s interesting to note, that very few
organic products use ‘flavours’ anyway. Take
chocolate as an example:
Every single chocolate brand in the supermarket
aisle contains ‘flavours’ except those which are
certified organic and contain a fully disclosed list of
ingredients. What’s more, the companies won’t tell
you what they put in their flavours because it’s
‘proprietary information’ (i.e. trade secret), so
there’s absolutely no way of knowing.
I prefer to go with something that lists exactly
what the ingredient are. I bypass all foods
with added flavours, including ‘natural’
flavours, unless it’s a certified organic
product by a certifier that I know is reputable.
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Mistake No. 6
This snack food is endorsed by the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy.
Foundation endorsements 
This is an example of the worst possible product
we could feed our kids, ever.
It contains a cocktail of insidious ingredients
Flavour Enhancers: Monosodium Glutamate
(621), Disodium 5’-guanylate (627) and
Disodium 5’-inosinate 631. Prohibited in foods
for infants. As previously discussed, MSG has
potentially wide-ranging effects including
behavioural problems, allergic reactions, links to
obesity and who knows what else.
Flavours: We have no idea what these are and
no way of knowing, so just say “no thanks”.
Colour (150C): aka Caramel III, Ammonia
Caramel. Prohibited in foods for infants. May
affect the liver and cause gastro-intestinal
problems. Contains sulphites and ammonium
compounds.** Also potentially carcinogenic
according to studies conducted by the University
of California.
Preservative 223: Sodium Metabisulphite. One of
many of the sulphite family of preservatives
discussed earlier. Prohibited in foods for infants.
Suspected respiratory, kidney and immunotoxicity; irritant; harmful to aquatic organisms 2
2 Source: The Chemical Maze 2nd Edition, Statham & Schneider,
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Mistake No. 7
without comparing nutrition
I was working with a supplier not long ago who
was extremely chuffed with the ‘fabulous’
organic lollies he’d sourced from the USA. He
enthusiastically exclaimed they had “less
calories than an apple” and behaved as though
someone had just re-invented the wheel.
Just because it’s organic and low in calories
doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact it’s often quite the
opposite. My general rule of thumb is “Say No to
Low”, because invariably when fat, sugar or salt
are reduced in a product, they are replaced by
something else in order to maintain acceptable
taste and texture. Often these replacements are
far worse than the original ingredient. Low fat
often means increased sugar and/or the addition
of fillers such as maltodextrin (see below). Sugar
is often replaced with alternative sweeteners
such as Aspartame, which, whilst touted as
‘natural’ by manufacturers, has been linked to
adverse reactions ranging from seizures to
multiple sclerosis and cancer. And reduced salt
often means the addition of MSG to recreate
Tread carefully with low-anything diet alternatives.
Personally speaking, one of the key problems I’ve
found is that whilst they might be low in calories,
lack of nutritional value means they just don’t fill
you up, which translates into eating more. Good
fats are good for us and we need them. Nuts are
full of fat, fabulously nutritious, and they satisfy our
appetite. The perfect afternoon snack.
Compare nuts to a low calorie packet soup which
only satisfies whilst you’re eating, then leaves
you wanting more. That’s because the only part
of your body its satisfying is your taste buds.
It’s worth including some information here on
maltodextrin, a processed food additive made
from the hydrolysis (breakdown) of starch. It is
GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) by the
FDA, inexpensive, multi-functional and widely
used. It gives texture back to fat-reduced foods,
acts as a binding agent (e.g. providing flakes and
clusters in breakfast cereals) and improves
‘mouth feel’.
Whilst it’s not the healthiest substance in the
world, my verdict is ‘OK in small doses’, but I’d
prefer to avoid it wherever possible. It’s
interesting to note that top quality premium
breakfast cereals don’t use it, but most ‘trusted’
mass consumer brands do. Below is an excerpt
from the Grain Processing Corporation website.
You decide. I prefer milk fat.
Improve the Quality of Low- Fat Ice Cream
and Other Frozen Desserts with MALTRIN®
Maltodextrins and Corn Syrup Solids.
By adding MALTRIN® M040 maltodextrin to
replace the solids lost by removing some of the
milk fat, you’ll get the satisfying mouth feel and
creaminess expected as that ice cream melts in
your mouth.
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