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Food Toxics and Health Hazards

Copyright (c) 2008 Stephen Lau

Food toxicology is a health issue. You should worry about toxic chemicals in your food simply because certain chemical contaminants have been implicated in major health hazards, ranging from cancer to birth defects to asthma.

Understandably, high doses of toxic chemicals can be lethal. But how safe are low doses of these toxic chemicals? If high does are dangerously deadly, why should you be exposed to even the low doses?

Nearly all the food you consume may contain a trace of heavy metals, pesticides, and toxic chemicals. Some of these contaminants are not added to your food: they are naturally occurring contaminant substances due to the environment. However, most of them are added by food manufacturers to make your food more lasting, more appealing, and more palatable.

Most food manufacturers give their products a face-lift or makeover to make them look fresher or of higher quality. For example, cold cuts, hot dogs, and beef jerky are all dyed red to make them look fresh and tantalizing. Even children’s candies, popcorns, and cereals are heavily dyed to make them more fun and enticing to young children.

Studies in rats and animals have shown that certain food dyes are toxic and carcinogenic. Certain food colors were banned, and certain food dyes have been approved by the FDA due to insufficient evidence to prove a cancer risk.

Although artificial food colors may not pose a major health risk, other than susceptibility to allergies, there is no regulatory limit on how much a food manufacturer can use in a food product, that is to say, self-regulatory, which in some cases mean “no regulation.”

It is sometimes difficult to avoid food colorings totally, given that so many food items in the supermarket are colored to some degree. However, if you are concerned with your health, maybe you should pay more attention to food labels, and select products that use the natural color agents derived from beets, carrots, and spices, instead of those chemical food dyes.

In addition to food dyes, food toxics can also derive from dietary hormones, which are growth-enhancing hormones found in most meats. Residues of these hormones may affect how children mature sexually.

There has been much controversy over growth-enhancing dietary hormones in animals. Canada and some European countries believe that hormones and their metabolites in beef can be toxic and mutagenic; however, the United States insists that the hormones in beef are safe. There you go!

As a wary consumer, simply eat less beef, or buy only “certified organic” beef. Chicken and pigs are not fed growth-enhancing hormones. Another alternative is to get protein from beans and grains.

Of course, farmers apply millions of pounds of pesticides to the crops you eat. However, the risk from pesticides is relatively low to make food toxicity a major health concern. The best way to avoid pesticide toxicity is to buy organic produce. In addition, peel vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, although their skins are most nutritious; this is a decision you have to make regarding the trade-off. It should be noted that washing the produce will not do much to get rid of the pesticides, which are already in the peels and the vegetables.

But do these food toxics, even in small does, compromise your food safety? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to be responsible for food safety. Given that it is a complex and difficult job, does the FDA rise to the occasion? A consumer may be at a loss as to what to eat or not to eat. The bottom line: Always eat natural and go organic.

Source by Stephen Lau

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