Columnists Features

What foods are customers being subjected to? Part I

IT has become common to see people with strange growths on their bodies and also hear about and see some suffering from all manner of ailments.  Some of these ailments were never heard of 10 years ago and earlier.  
When you hear about the different substances that are alleged to be added to the foods we eat, you cannot help but link the foods we eat to health challenges the majority of people face today in Africa and the world over.
A video clip has been circulating on social media showing some people speaking a foreign language and injecting some colourless fluid into dressed chickens which swell as they inject them.
Upon doing some mini- research, I discovered that the water-like substance could be salted water which some dealers add to their chickens to make them weigh more so that they fetch more money and also make the meat tender.
It is everyone’s guess what else is added to that water and where the chickens end up.  After watching the clip, I am extremely cautious of where I buy chickens from.  But how cautious can one be?
Unless you only stay in your home and never go anywhere, chances are that you eat food from places where you have no idea how it is grown, processed or where it comes from.  And even if you do not go anywhere, it is very difficult for you to grow all your food.
We now know that different traders add different chemicals to different foods to make the food appear fresh.  Some of the stuff added to food may have long-term negative effects on human health.
I have heard stories of some farmers who sell broiler chickens but do not eat broilers themselves and instead prefer village chickens.  I have also heard very funny stories about some harmful preservatives added to foods to make them remain fresh for days.
Searching the internet, I came across an article by Vivian Goldschmidt, a New York nutritionist, in which she identified 12 dangerous and hidden food ingredients in seemingly healthy foods, and I will share a summarised version below and continue in next week’s article.
Ms Goldschmidt starts by posing a question: “Would you eat your favourite breakfast cereal if you knew that it contained butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), a product also used in jet fuel and embalming fluid? Can you imagine grilling your low fat veggie burger if you found out that its main ingredient is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)?”
She warns the public to watch out, because foods that are considered “healthy” and labelled as “natural” contain many harmful chemicals used as food preservatives and flavour enhancers – and these chemicals are often disguised under unrecognisable names.
Ms Goldschmidt states that in the last 100 years, the food industry has advanced by leaps and bounds. Today, more than three quarters of supermarket shelves are stocked with packaged and processed foods. These boxed, canned and frozen concoctions in most cases only require boiling or microwaving to become edible.
As most people already know, the best foods to conquer osteoporosis and to stay healthy are unprocessed natural foods. This is because man-made chemicals acidify your body pH which in turn accelerates bone loss.
Ample research on the evolutionary process of humans and their nutritional requirements point to the clear fact that while our nutrition has radically changed since Paleolithic times, our biology really hasn’t. But along came agriculture and later on the industrial revolution and, with it, man-made chemicals made their way into our dining rooms.
Ms Goldschmidt analyses some breakfast cereals and has this to say:  “Antioxidants protect cells from oxidative damage and some of them are proven potent bone protectors as well. So isn’t it a great idea to have your morning breakfast cereal with healthy antioxidants? Let’s take a look at the ingredients of some cereals:
Rice, whole grain wheat, sugar, oat clusters, sugar, toasted oats [rolled oats, sugar, canola oil with tbhq and citric acid to preserve freshness, molasses, honey, bht for freshness, soy lecithin], wheat flakes, crisp rice [rice, sugar, malt, salt], corn syrup, polydextrose, honey, cinnamon, BHT [preservative], artificial vanilla flavour.”
Other ingredients in some common cereals include high fructose corn syrup, salt, honey, malt flavouring, alpha tocopherol acetate [vitamin E], niacinamide, zinc oxide, reduced iron, sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and calcium pantothenate, among other chemicals.
Tocopherol acetate is generally regarded as safe and has a very low toxicity rate, according to the International Journal of Toxicology.  When taken within the recommended daily allowance, vitamin E has little to no side effects.
However, high doses of tocopherol supplements may impair your body’s natural blood clotting ability, which can increase your risk of bleeding.
As for niacin and niacinamide, when doses of over three grammes per day of niacin are taken, more serious side effects can happen.
These include liver problems, gout, ulcers of the digestive tract, loss of vision, high blood sugar, irregular heartbeat and other serious problems. Similar side effects can happen with large doses of niacinamide.
Look out for part two next week.

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