Friday, May 20, 2011

The (Mad) Science of Food Packaging

Notice how food packaging touts the benefits and good things they put in the product in big bold print on the front of the package?
  • Good Source of FIBER
  • Made with WHOLE GRAIN
Like putting it in BOLD CAPS makes it good. Most people get sucked in thinking they're getting a healthy product. Don't fall for the mad science.

It's a calculated ploy to convince you that junk food is healthy for you. Put the package down, step back and walk away... no, run!

Yes, these cereals are junk food!

Let's look at Froot (nothing close to fruit) Loops:

Ingredients: sugar, whole grain corn flour, wheat flour, whole grain oat flour, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, red 40, natural flavor, blue 2, turmeric color, yellow 6, annatto color, blue 1, BHT.

Breaking it down. First ingredient—sugar, likely high-fructose corn syrup. Being the cheapest sugar, it's in everything and most likely it's genetically modified (GM). It has been proven to contribute to weight gain and so carries high health-risk.

Nice they throw in a little fiber. A whole 3 grams. You can get that much fiber by eating a small apple.

Skipping to the nasty hydrogenated vegetable oil (being partially hydrogenated doesn't make it okay). This is dangerous stuff at any amount. Why? Simply put, it is a fake oil that the body cannot use effectively. Healthy oils (Essential Fatty Acids Omega-3 and -6) are required for perfectly working cell membranes. The cell membrane of people who eat trans fats (another name for hydrogenated oils) are less elastic and less permeable, thus the exchange of waste (the cell produces) for nutrients is less effective. The cell can become unhealthy and vulnerable to disease—translation: you get sick.

Moving on to artificial colors (red 40, blue 2, yellow 6 and blue 1). More nasty ingredients. Besides being manufactured from petroleum (yummm... pass me a spoonful of petroleum to eat—Blech!!!), artificial colors can produce a myriad of side effects, such as chromosomal damage, bronchoconstriction, vomiting, brain tumors, and anaphylactoid reaction to name a few.

Last we have BHT. This commonly used preservative (along with BHA) is found in processed food. It's considered safe in small amounts, BUT if you eat mainly processed foods, you could be consuming an amount above the permitted level. No level is acceptable to me when BHT has been shown to produce tumors in the stomach and liver as well as rupture and damage red blood cells and produce symptoms of chemical sensitivity. BHT and BHA are being investigated for their potential to damage genetic material.

As I pointed out in What? I'm Having a Baby? we should be chucking this food in the garbage not feeding it to our children. If you've had a year of health issues, I challenge you to look at your foods and decide if you are suffering the effects of processed foods. Review The Road to Health Comes Down to Diet.

Other Health Deceptors to look for on packaging:

Sugar-free—Check the ingredients label. Usually sugar-free means the product contains artificial sugar such as aspartame (Nutrasweet) or sucralose (Splenda). These dangerous and unhealthy sugar substitutes are addressed in Why Zero Calorie Drinks Are a Hidden Danger. Trust me! Do NOT eat or drink anything with these fake sugars!

Fat-free—Often seen on packaging for cookies and candy, which are loaded with sugar. As I have said in previous posts, sugar turns to fat. Sooooo... you're eating fat-free because....

Cholesterol-free—This one really gets me. You'll see this on lots of food packaging like they did you a favor. Guess what? Unless there is egg or lard or some other animal-based ingredient, there isn't any cholesterol. Cholesterol comes from animal products only. Nothing grown in a garden contains cholesterol. We make cholesterol in our own bodies and ingest cholesterol from animal products we eat.

0 Trans Fats—This one can get my blood boiling. Even though the package says zero trans fats, you must check the ingredients label. Almost 100% of the time there are trans fats. They get away with saying "zero" because the FDA (thanks for looking out for our health) allows up to 0.49 grams of trans fats per serving.

For another take on the hype of food packaging, check out Nutritionism 101 at the Summer Tomato.

What Health Deceptors have you seen on food packaging? Scroll down and leave a comment.


  1. Wow! and this is what kids eat. :( Thank you, Chris, for the eye-opener.

  2. I think I will start a campaign to get parents to read the ingredients label on food. What should I call it?

  3. There's an easier way than reading cereal labels. Just don't buy cereal.

    Even "good" cereal is bad stuff. The extrusion process that even organic cereals go through makes them unhealthy.