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Food Labels

Before placing any item into your supermarket trolley, make it a habit to read the ingredients list.  Some manufacturers list by name, others use code numbers.  This is where the little pocket book The Chemical Maze is invaluable as it is compact enough to fit into any pocket or handbag.  It lists all ingredients showing their functions and potential health effects.  The Chemical Maze is available online and also as an iPhone app.

During a recent shopping trip, I chose to take a closer look at the ingredients of one of the chilled milk products.  This particular product advertises its bone strengthening formula.  What it contains is Calcium carbonate, Zinc sulphate, 460, 466 and 407.  So what do these ingredients actually mean for your health?

1.   Calcium carbonate is a very inexpensive form of calcium readily used as a food additive.  Unfortunately, this chemical form of calcium is very poorly absorbed by the body and, as a result, most of it cannot be used.  Which means that of the 500mg in every 250ml of this milk, your body would be lucky to be able to use 50mg.  This falls far short of the amount of calcium our body requires daily – around 1200mg, depending on age and other circumstances.  What happens to the rest you ask?  Some is excreted, some may be deposited in other areas of the body.  Consuming calcium carbonate has been linked with the formation of bone spurs, kidney stones and arterial calcification (hardening of the arteries).

2.  Although zinc sulphate is added to the milk, when it is combined with calcium it cannot be absorbed.  Zinc as a sulphate is the least absorbed form of more preferred compounds.  The importance of zinc to good health cannot be denied, but it should be taken as zinc amino acid chelate, zinc citrate or zinc piccolinate and always away from food.

3.  The number 466 is Sodium Carboxyl-methylcellulose (is a cotton by-product and may be genetically modified) a thickener which has been linked to flatulence, intestinal discomfort and intestinal obstruction.

4.  The number 407 is Carrageenan(often contains MSG) a thickener linked to asthma, ulcerative colitis, skin rashes, colon ulcers, cancer and labeled with the warning “Do not give to babies and young children”.

5.  The number 460 is a plant based cellulose but is produced from plants which may have been genetically modified.  It has no known adverse effects when used in foods.

So, as you can, see it is important to take a little extra time while doing the shopping.  Read the labels.  Don’t just believe the clever marketing.  After, it is your  health that is on the line.