Safeguard the lives of future generations from deadly preservatives in cardinal foods!

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We’ve embedded such innate levels of trust in the department stores, and street markets we buy our essentials from. But did you take a moment to glance through the ingredients label and question how fugitive these shelf-life miracles are? Did you not notice how our nutritious foodstuffs have transformed into culinary disasters? Well it’s time to stop believing blindly on the FDA approval stamp and it’s time to know the bitter truth. While we believe these preservatives in such trifling amounts can do no harm, we must not forget the quantity of these foods we consume are not as tiny as we think them to be...

First of all, let’s understand what artificial preservatives are. No they are not chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or anything with “cides”, they are just chemical compounds that prevent the growth of microorganisms thereby increasing shelf-life of food products. The problem we are addressing here is not the preservatives, it’s the level of exposure to preservative-rich foods. Children nowadays are exposed to ready-made cereal, bread, candy, biscuits so early in their lives that these foods become an integral part of their diet, the habit then so develops to start the day with a bowl of cereal or some processed bread which unknowingly is harmful in the long run. 

No, I am not bluffing, I speak from personal experience. On 31st December, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and it so happens that my nutritionist asked me only one question thereafter, “Have you been feeding excessively on processed, ready-made food?” And gladly I didn’t because for all I believed was, the only preservative-rich foods that existed were processed fruit juices, ready-to mix noodles or cakes, chips or munchies like Kurkure and Lays and cereal. Now who knew I was terribly wrong? That very day I learnt that basic foods like bread, jam, packaged milk, cookie dough, biscuits, spices, flavoured yogurt, all contained preservatives! 

Formulated milk contains unnecessary ingredients which may not be required. For example, perchlorate disturbs the functioning of the thyroid gland and even though iodine is added mandatorily to neutralise the effect of this compound, the final levels are quite high due to the powder and water used for mixing. “In 2008, six infants died after drinking melamine adulterated infant formula milk. In total, around 300,000 infants were the victims of adulterated milk and 54,000 were hospitalized due to kidney damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) does not approve the use of melamine in food products.” says one article that speaks about the 15 toxic substances present in formulated milk. But how does melamine find its way in milk products? It is due to farmers helplessly adding protein powders to increase milk supply in cows which could be contaminated with melamine as this compound is only water soluble. Carrageenan which is derived from seaweed, is mainly used in many powdered or liquid products in order to either stabilise or thicken them, however they show no nutritional value whatsoever. Carrageenan has been banned in the European Union, but it is still in use in America. Interestingly, in the past, carrageenan was used to cause inflammation of tissues in animals in order to test the new anti-inflammatory drugs as told by Dr. Tobacman, M.D. Associate Professor at University of Illinois College of Medicine. 

The biggest controversy to be highlighted here is that most of the foods we eat contain no more than 20 ingredients, excluding helpers like salt, sugar etc...then why does a staple food like bread have calcium propionate, amylase, chlorine dioxide and L-cysteine crammed into it? The usual ingredients for making simple bread is flour, water, salt and yeast; now the most obvious part of these compounds increasing shelf life does make sense but do we really need bread to last long for a month? Foods which are meant to be consumed immediately should not contain ample of preservatives, especially when it’s exposed to young children in above average quantities. Think about it. Don’t you think some basic foods like bread, formulated milk, ice cream, cereal and spices to some extent should not contain preservatives for economical benefits? 

To conclude, while we can’t blame manufacturers for adding in extras in processed foods, the only way to safeguard oneself is to reduce intake of these foods, especially in given to children. However, if you do agree that as far as possible, preservatives should gradually be eliminated from cardinal foods, you can go ahead and sign the petition!

Written by Harshidi, Zeanne And Aditi conducting a project on bringing back the art of preservation at home