How do we know what goes into our food?

Shopping for food should be something you enjoy, but it can easily become a nightmare. Concerns over food safety ovary additives and preservatives, sugar, salt and fat levels mean that people often feel they have to spend hours examining food label. In theory, the fact that manufacturers have made the effort to tell you what is in their foods should instill confidence, but we have a long way to go before we get to the truth behind the labels.

How fresh is ‘fresh?

The words rural’ and ‘fresh are two of the most abused words in the English language when it comes to food. There is no legal definition of either. Words like natural and traditional are often deliberately misleading. When you buy food with no information about how it was grown, or that is not labelled organic, you should assume that it was grown with the aid of chemicals in other words it is not natural Food can sit in a dock for days before it appears as ‘fresh in the shops Unfortunately, once fruit or vegetables have been harvested, they rapidly begin to lose certain vitamins and minerals.

The longer food is left before you eat it, the fewer nutrients remain. Frozen vegetables can have a higher vitamin and mineral content than fresh ones, because there are very strict legislative guide lines governing their production: they have to be frozen within a set period of time after they have been picked. I would like to see ‘picked on’ dates on fresh foods, so we have at least some idea of freshness and subsistent nutrient value.

Loopholes in labelling

Nearly all foods which come within the scope of either UK or EU food labelling regulations must carry a list of ingredients. There are a few exceptions, including fresh fruits, vegetables which are not prepared and cut into pieces, hotter, most cheeses, and foods which consist of a single ingredient. the people in the UK die permuted every year because of misleading labels which hide the real amounts of salts, fats and sugars in food products.

At the martinet the nutritional panel need not state the quantity of each ingredient. It only has to list the ingredients in descending order of weight, the first-named ingredient making up the largest part of the product. Without a quantity figure, you cannot judge how healthy the food is. Is a dessert that has butter as the fourth ingredient after apples, flour and sugar, healthier than a pasta dish that lists butter third? Ideally, the total quantity of each ingredient used in a producer would be listed, together with the amount in a typical portion, rather than in 100 grams as is usually the case,Worryingly, you cannot always believe what food manufacturers say on their labels.

In the UK, the Consumers’ Association tested 70 products and only ten per cent contained the exact quantities stated on the labels. Many were witty out and this is not just the case with small producers. One of Britain’s most respected chain stores was 72 per cent out in the measurement of fat in its ice cream. A well-known brand of slimming foods baked beans contained 2 calories per 100 g, when the pack claimed 56. Don’t forget that just because a food has a small amount of sugar or animal fat listed on the label, doesn’t mean it is unhealthy. Sugar is an important preservative and fat contains fat-soluble vitamins. Foods containing these ingredients can be healthy if they continent fiber or other nutrients.

HIDDEN SUGAR

The sugar content of food can be disguised in many ways. fructose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, Sucrose and glucose are all sugars, as are honey, concentrated fruit juice and anything described as syrup. Partially hydrolyzed starch, or maltodextrin, is halfway between a starch and a sugar. It is often used a bulking agent or filler; the body reads it and processes it as sugar The label sugar free may simply mean that a food does not contain sucrose; ‘no added sugar means that it is naturally sweet All sweet foods should be treated with some degree of caution.

Any form of sugar, while not harmful in itself, contributes to tooth decay, and can cause obesity and aggravate behavior problems in hyperactive children. I would not recommend replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners, as this only encourages a sweet tooth’ in both children and adults,

SALT

You may think that you can tell when a food is high in salt, simply by trusting your taste buds, but there is a lot of hidden salt in foods we generally consider sweet or bland, such as desserts and bread, cornflakes have a higher proportion of salt than Atlantic seawater! Foods labelled low fat’, ‘low sugar and diabetes may contain huge amounts of salt to make up for the flavors lost in processing the products. Salt (sodium chloride) is often listed as sodium on labels. People for whom excess salt can cause problems include those with high blood pressure, fluid retention, diabetes, atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries) or kidney problems.

ADDITIVES AND E NUMBERS

All categories of additives must be listed in the ingredients. In all cases other than flavorings the additive must be described by its generic name, for example acidity regulator, and either its specific name such as sodium citrate, or its E number (F33.1). Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if a food is free of E numbers it must be safe. stead you should be questioning whether a list of chemicals sound like real food. Some additives are necessary to preserve food, but most are not Manufacturers do not need to list the ingredients used to flavor the food com ingredients  have already been processed before they are added to the food, such as the red coloring in raspberry preserves. People who may be allergic a particular additive may be exposed to it without realizing.

ALCOHOLIC DRINKS – WHAT THE LAUFES DONT TELL YOU

While low-alcohol and non-alcoholic ciders and beers with less than 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume have to list their ingredients, there is no legal requirement for the labels on full-strength beer, cider, wine or other alcoholic drinks to tell you anything about the ingredients, except for the alcohol content. Preservatives Nacho as benzoates and sulphonyls are used in many wines, these can cause allergic reactions in some people, or may just make you feel lousy or hung over.

How healthy is the healthy option?

The quest for health and fitness loaves many people wide open to the food producers claims Manufacturers play with consumer ignorance by using expressions such us ‘lite, natural’s healthy’, ‘fresh’ and ‘nutritious’ to tempt you into buying their food. Alarmingly, ‘freshly squeezed’ fruit juice may contain more sugar in the form of fructose, than a canned artificial drink. The fruit juice is also likely to contain preservatives, which can cause problems for some people. In theory, freshly squeezed juice has the health advantage over canned drinks because of its vitamin C and folic acid content, but until it is marked with the date that the fruit was picked, we cannot know whether it will actually contain significant amounts of these vitamins.

SLIMLINE FOODS

People wonder why they do not remain fit and lose weight when they fill their shopping baskets with diet, slim line, low sugar, reduced fat products. But did you know that.

• low fat foods can contain as much as 40 per cent fat?

• low fat foods may contain huge amounts of sugar?

• low star foods may contain more fat than the standard version of the food? Even when you allow for the above facts, you may decide that a low far product still has to be healthier.

I seem to spend hours explaining that just because a far spread is labelled lite or low fat, it doesn’t mean you can use lashings of it. While a spread with 60 per cent fat (not exactly lite” is lower in fat than butter and traditional margarine (with 80 per cent fat), these fat spreads may also contain hydrogenated fats or oils, which raise bad’ cholesterol in the blood, reduce good’ cholesterol and expose your body to a greater risk of developing heart disease, premature ageing and cancer Many women have such ravings for chocolate that they buy low fat chocolate hats.

They are not doing their bodies any favors the product they are acting is a vegetable oil-based confectionery item, full of additives, preservatives and artificial weekends – hour like vegetate than chocolate! The flavor is inferior by such a wide murine that the taste buds switch off and the whole eating experience is a waste of time. They would be much better off enjoying a small amount of real, fine, high-cocoa chocolate and incorporating it into a healthy eating plan Esther treat after meals or melted as a dip or sauce for fruits such as strawberries, bananas or pears.

Real ice cream, made from milk, vanilla, eggs, sugar and cream, is rich in calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Yes, it is high in fat, but who cats ice cream every day? As a treat, it can be part of a balanced diet, and will be both better for you and more satisfying than the frozen desserts and low-fat ice Cycles with their additives, bulking agents, and (usually) astronomically high sugar content in no way can these be described as healthy.

ADDED VITAMINS AND MINERALS

The more foods are processed, the lower the vitamin and mineral content for this reason many food manufacturers add vitamin and mineral mixes to foods at the end of processing, to ensure that we receive some goodness. It would be much better if we could get the vitamins and minerals from the food’s natural reserves, as they are much more readily absorbed by our bodies Added vitamins or minerals don’t automatically make a product healthy. There may be other ingredients in the food which prevent the body from absorbing the “health-giving’ nutrient. For instance, breakfast cereals with added vitamins and minerals frequently have a high fiber content. Fiber can inhibit the absorb- ton of nutrients and there may be little benefit to be had from choosing a Carvel with added vitamins and minerals.

SURELY OUR DIETS NEED FORTIFYING

Some experts feel that we need to supplement our everyday foods with vitamins and minerals because many people will not otherwise receive the required amounts of nutrients. They say that people who live on cereals, ready-made meals and fast food are not going to start cooking healthy foods. Why not Instead of fortifying foods (and boosting food manufacturers profiles I believe we should be trying to educate and inspire people with ideas and the confidence to prepare meals using cheap, simple ingredients Cereals with a little folic acid or iron, but with high levels of sugar, salt and additives, can have an unhealthy overall effect.

Some manufacturers are trying to improve this situation by liaising with government bodies to find the best ways to incorporate vital nutrients such as folic acid into breakfast cereal. However, is important to understand that fortified should also be healthy foods, and the consumer should not be lulled into false sense of security, when you buy vitamin-enriched food you should still look to more natural foods as your main source of vitamins and In the majority of cases we don’t need to supplement our diets with fortified or vitamin pills. However, there are situations where fortified foods can be helpful. For example, if you can’t tolerate dairy products, soya milk fortified with calcium is a good.

HEALTH DRINKS

The health drink market is growing daily. You only need to visit a health food gym or trendy bar to find a selection of sports, herbal, memory-boosting concoctions. Unfortunately, there is little legislation to help you decide whether the drink is healthy and delivers its promise. Frequently the you get from these drinks comes from sugar or it has nothing to do with herbs, ginseng, amino acids or natural fruit derivatives.

FUNCTIONAL FOODS

foods are products that claim a specific medical or physiological benefit because of an added ingredient. In some cases, the products are just junk food with some functional ingredient added. Manufacturers even produce drinks with added which has led to teenagers in Japan buying cans of cola with essential fatty acids, to improve learning ability.

Breads with added fish oils are meant to give the impression that they help reduce the risk of heart disease. The real facts are that they are white loaves with little fiber, copious of salt and only a small amount of omega 6 and 3 fatty acids – certainly not enough to bring about any beneficial change in your body. The salt and low fiber characteristics far outweigh the potential effect of the beneficial oils. Fiber is generally a healthy thing to boost in your diet, but as with most other is the key word. Some people with irritable bowel choose drinks believing that their will improve, but in the setting of sugary drink, the bowel reacts adversely. As with nutritional supplements, it is possible to overdose on functional foods.

This is easily done if you start the day with an enriched breakfast cereal or toast made from fortified bread and top up with sports drinks with added vitamins. This can lead to your body being exposed to excessively high doses of some vitamins and minerals. You may think that few of these products do any harm, but I have seen people who desperately want to improve they’re and these products in vast quantities If you are still not convinced, up the Functional foods are generally more expensive than normal foods. People on limited budgets should not misled into buying these so-called foods, then not having enough money to buy the foods that make up healthy, balanced diet.

Irradiated food

Its supporters hail irradiation as a wonderful new way to keep food fresher for longer. But to many people the word irradiation is linked with cancer and they feel scared at the prospect of their food being exposed to it Toni zing radiation was discovered in 1896 and its practical use of killing micro- organisms in food was first pursued in 1921. The process uses electromagnetic radiation to produce an effect in fixed which is very similar to pasteurization, cooking and other forms of preserving.

The rays reduce the level of bacteria and prevent spoilage, they can also delay ripening in fruits and vegetables This makes irradiation a very attractive prospect for supermarkets: it greatly increases shelf life and in theory, reduces the risk of food-borne illnesses, Opponents point out that irradiated food may look fresh, but in fact could be old and have lost many of its vitamins Many committees, including the World Health Organization and the US Food and Drug Administration, continue to investigate the safety of irradiated food.

They seem to be concluding that irradiation, if correctly applied, is safe Consumers need, firstly, to be convinced and secondly, but equally importantly, to be informed of when a food has been irradiated. Labelling should be quite clear, so you have a choice as to whether you eat irradiated food. There are, as with most food labelling legislation, loopholes which need to be closed before the consumer is able to make an informed choice. At the moment. while European Union law requires that whole irradiated foods for sale must be Labelled, if an irradiated ingredient makes up less than 25 per cent of the whole food, such as meat in a vegetable and meat pie, the food need not be labelled as irradiated.

In the UK, irradiation is only being used on herbs and spices, which may be ingredients in the food we buy. Imported food is not as tightly controlled as home-produced foods, so it is possible that other irradiated food will get into our cupboards without our knowledge. Another amazing loophole is that while UK law states that all catering outlets declare irradiated food, schools are exempt, so our children may be eating irradiated food!

Genetically engineered food

Genes within food can be modified to improve a particular quality of a food, a peach can be made juicier, a strain of wheat can be made more resistant to frost or pests. Both these scenarios sound attractive, as it means we receive a superior product. However, no one knows what the long-term effects will be of introducing them into the food chain, or whether there will be side effects for the consumer, if a vegetarian knew that the peach, they were acting contained some of the genes of a fish, I think they would spit it out! Why do we have to aim for the perfect food Supermarket tomatoes may be perfectly round and uniformly red, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred you can close your eyes and you would fail to notice whether you’re eating a tomato or a piece of watermelon. Let’s stop putting appearance before our health.