Advice Opinion

Your food could be unsafe, check the ingredients

A scale weighing out a star (the lighter item), representing good food, versus a collection of circles (the heavier item), representing unhealthy food

Jose Gonzalez-Campello/The Cougar

Despite the wide variety of food options available, the majority of the U.S. grocery market is actually controlled by just 10 companies. In the name of profits, many of these companies include harmful ingredients in the food they produce, so you may want to consider taking a closer look at the labels on your groceries.

While some of these companies have been around for more than a century and market their goods around the globe, selling food and beverage merchandise in the United States requires going through America’s specific regulation procedure.  

In order to sell in the U.S, these companies must abide by the Food and Drug Administration’s standardsThe FDA aims to be responsible for protecting the general public’s health by promising safety, efficacy and security of our nation’s food supply. 

But in some cases, the FDA standards aren’t enough to protect consumers from harmful ingredients. PepsiCo, one of the 10 companies previously mentioned, sells a soft drink beloved by consumers across America: Mountain Dew.  

Despite the beverage’s reputation in the U.S., you cannot purchase this soft drink in many parts of Europe because it’s been banned by the European Food Safety Authority. The EFSA banned the drink because it contains the ingredient Bromine, which can cause skin issues, nerve issues and even memory loss. 

So, why does the FDA, a government agency put in place to protect U.S. citizens, allow these toxic and unsafe ingredients into our diets? To understand the answer to this question, it’s important to understand the difference between these agencies’ administrative processes. 

The FDA often permits newly developed ingredients in foods and beverages unless proven to be “detrimental and damaging” to consumers. In contrast, The EFSA requires food and drink additives to be determined “absolutely safe” before products containing them can be sold. 

Essentially, the ingredients the FDA allows could be harmful long term, but are not banned unless they’re immediately unsafe. After understanding the different philosophies and policies between these agencies, understanding what each one does and does not allow starts to make sense.

The FDA clearly does not enforce the safest standards when compared to other food and drink regulating agencies. They seem to be mainly focused on quantity over quality when it comes to our nation’s food supply, which means consuming cautiously must be taken into our own hands.

Next time you find yourself shopping at the grocery store, consider carefully reading the ingredient list. Along with Bromine, you should try to avoid Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 dyes. Research indicates that these dyes contain carcinogens that could lead to cancer in various parts of the body.

Steering clear of Azodicarbonamide, a chemical bleach found in many breads, frozen dinners and baked goods to whiten flour faster, may also be in your best interest. It has been linked to asthma development.

While the many unhealthy ingredients found in food and beverages seem impossible to avoid, valid alternatives do exist. For example, you could buy your groceries from health-focused stores like Trader Joes.

Trader Joe’s promises their consumers that no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives will be in their products. Their products are also free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and bleaching agents. 

Blindly walking into the grocery store and purchasing whatever looks good might sound appealing. Researching ingredients or changing shopping habits takes a lot of time and energy. But at the end of the day, your health could change for the better, and that might just make the effort worth it.

Mackenzie Sills is a journalism junior who can be reached at
[email protected]

1 Comment

  • I loved your article. We live in a day and time that we have to pay attention to what is in our food more than ever. You mentioned Mountain Dew. It has one of the highest counts of caffeine in it which can lead to uti’s in women and men along with the high sugar content. I had this conversation recently with my nephew as he suffered from this condition and was seriously ill. Keep up the good word.

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