November 21

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Can We Trust the Food Products We Buy?

By Chris

November 21, 2020


I am guessing I am in the same situation as a majority of you. Because of the events of the year 2020, I am spending a lot more time on social networks than usual. And I have seen some very interesting and instructive videos with very competent personalities. And unfortunately others that I didn't enjoy as much.

You have to stay informed, and that takes time. We all have an obligation to seek the truth and not to let ourselves be fed by propaganda of financial interests (Advertising) or by those that influence our well-being or our freedom.

We have to make up our own minds. Between on the one hand, what the authorities (who are there to protect us) tell us. And, on the other hand, the media who are there to inform us (without taking sides!). Plus the thousands of volunteers on the web in search of well hidden truths.

It is therefore important to share both the good and the bad news with as many people as possible. Our health and our physical and psychological well-being depend on it.

Aside from the big topic C19 and the many repercussions that has on all our lives, I've just reread some articles about our food products, which I can't keep to myself. The subject is not new, but it is worth remembering because nothing has changed over the years.

After listening to an interview with Christophe Brusset, a former food industry engineer, I did some research to better understand the paradoxical situation in which we find ourselves regarding food products.

What should we pay attention to and what can we do to achieve the best possible healthy diet?

"As Mr. Brusset says, the industry's number one customer

is the supermarket, not the consumer."

The 5 stages of launching a food product in France

First paradox: It is the manufacturer who carries out studies, which of course he has also financed, to prove that this product is healthy for the consumer.

Second paradox: It is the manufacturer who prepares the dossier and who proposes it to AFSSA - French Food Safety Agency, of which 50% is paid for by the industry.

Third paradox: There are ingredients that do not really contribute anything to the product, but which help in its composition (an anti-foam for example). These can even be carcinogenic!

Fourth paradox: These studies are evaluated by experts who decide whether or not the product is dangerous. But what are the opinions of these experts worth if 50% of their pay comes from the industry? Can we have faith in their integrity? Will they act ethically under all circumstances?

Fifth paradox: The methods of analysis are defined by the industry itself.

A considerable number of food products contain ingredients that they shouldn't. Intensive use of additives or ingredients in far too large quantities, for example sugar or fat. It is up to us to carefully examine the list of ingredients before buying any product.

"A government is there to protect the people who elected it, but there is a discrepancy, for the rules and regulations it applies are dictated by lobbies and industrialists."

So far neither industrialists nor politicians show the will to change things quickly. And in the end it is the consumer who pays the price. But, in the end, it is also the consumer who has the power: the power to buy or not buy what the food industry offers.

A striking example is imported honey.

Imported honey

The consumption of honey in France is 4 times greater than its national production. Therefore, importation of honey is necessary. We cannot produce more, because with the increasing use of insecticides there are fewer and fewer hives. And each new generation of insecticides is always worse than its predecessor. Both for our environment and -subsequently- for our health.

We are what we eat. All the harmful products we consume are stored in our bodies. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where all the diseases that did not exist 100 years ago, or only in very small numbers, come from.

It must also be said that intensive agriculture homogenises our landscapes, which is not an advantage for bees, who require a constant and varied diet.

So instead of improving our environment, and once again having a pure and intact nature, we continue to destroy it with pesticides and insecticides. We pollute our fruits and vegetables. Our bees die first but then, who will be next?

It is really an absurdity that approximately 30% of the honey bought in France comes from China. And what's more, there are no strict health standards specified for this honey.

Moreover, how is it possible that honey exports from Asia have doubled in 10 years while at the same time the number of hives has only increased by 13%?

Beware of ready-made food products

Lack of time or a desire to prepare home made meals has opened up the demand for fresh or frozen ready-made meals. But are they good for our health?

Unfortunately the answer is no. A large part of them are even very dangerous to our health. In order to ensure that these dishes always tast the same, and to render them more appealing, a multitude of preservatives and additives have to be added to them. Sugars, saturated fats, sodium and other chemical substances are not natural substances that our bodies can assimilate without side effects. Many of them will be stored and cause illnesses in the long run, such as:

  • High levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Certain types of cancer

Here again, the State, as the people's representative, should prioritise the protection of its citizens. In the long run, this would reduce health costs and make the population not only healthier but also happier, with an immune system that is better able to resist epidemics or pandemics.

Eating these kind of food products will certainly provide you with enough calories, or even exceed it. But without getting the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals, which are fundamental for the proper functioning of the body. Because the more a product is processed, the fewer nutrients it will contain.

"The cheapest product is always of poor quality".

Christophe Brusset

Prices, under the pressure of ever fiercer competition on the one hand, and consumers with less money on the other, are being forced down at all costs. But by lowering prices, the quality of the products must be lowered as well, because you can’t have both.

What are food additives?

Additives have been used by mankind for a very long time: saltpetre, salt or brine to preserve. Spices to colour and/or enhance the taste of food products... However, in the 1950s and with the industrialisation of our nutrition by the food industry, but also with the development of the cosmetics industry, much less natural additives have invaded our ready-made meals, toothpastes, preserves, shampoos, drinks...

In short, they are everywhere. Or almost everywhere. And there are more than 600 of them! Here is a list.

Officially, additives are substances that are added to food for a technological purpose: to improve their preservation, reduce oxidisation, colour foodstuffs, enhance their taste, etc.

Even if used in small quantities, these substances are evaluated and monitored to prevent adverse health effects. Their use is therefore regulated and their presence must be mentioned on the labels of the products in question.

The five main categories of additives

  • colouring agents restore, strengthen or give colour to food;
  • sweeteners give a sweet flavour;
  • preservatives help preservation by preventing the presence and development of undesirable micro-organisms (e.g. moulds or bacteria responsible for food poisoning);
  • antioxidants prevent or reduce the oxidisation which, among other things, causes the rancidity of fats and the browning of cut fruit and vegetables;
  • texturing agents (emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, gelling agents) improve the presentation and shelf life. 

What are the applicable regulations?

In Europe, the use of additives is strictly regulated under the so-called "positive list principle". In other words, what is not expressly authorised is prohibited. This does not mean that they are all harmless to our health.

Some food additives are completely harmless: this is the case, for example, of natural extracts such as E160, the beta-carotene extracted from carrots. Many natural colourings are classified as additives but are harmless: E100 is the other name for turmeric, E150 for caramel, E160 for paprika.

Additives can be found in many foods, including organic foods. However, while some are controversial, for others, it has been clearly established that they are dangerous to health.

Another problem is the fact that certain additives are addictive.

8 harmful food additives

...which should be banned from your diet.

  • Artificial colours: Can cause hyperactivity, headaches, insomnia, eyesight problems, risk of cancer.
  • Monosodium glutamate: The infamous glutamate (E621) is used to enhance the taste of food products. It can be found everywhere, mainly in Asian dishes, but also in chips and ready-made meals. In large quantities, glutamate is believed to be toxic to neurons, especially in children. And it disrupts the hormones that regulate our appetite.
  • Sodium nitrate: It can cause, among other things, asthma, hyperactivity, insomnia, dizziness, low blood pressure, nausea, and certain cancers (especially colorectal cancer).
  • Trans fatty acids: They have a very negative impact on cholesterol levels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene: Potentially dangerous to the skin (risk of allergies) and potentially carcinogenic. Best avoided!
  • Artificial sweeteners: They can trigger chronic fatigue, migraines, and cause degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
  • Sodium benzoate: Weakens the immune system and can cause eye irritation, asthma, digestive problems, behavioural disorders, insomnia... and in children, hyperactivity.
  • Glucose-fructose syrup: Increased risk of diabetes. Not to mention that in the long term, its consumption can cause liver damage.

Attention: In recent years, some manufacturers do no longer include the code name of additives in the list of ingredients (the E followed by 3 digits). Instead, they use the full name of the additive, which makes it more difficult to identify them.

This article could contain 10 times more information, but the point is to demonstrate the risks of modern uncritical consumption and above all to become aware, empowered and responsible. Here is a list of more than 600 additives classified into 9 families.

Conclusion

As a rule of thumb, the longer the list of ingredients on a label, including additives, the more careful you have to be. Favour food that you prepare yourself. That way, you know exactly what's in it.

You have the purchasing power, use it to your benefit!

If you suffer from gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea or even bad breath, these are signs of poor digestion. Maybe it's time to rethink your diet.

Chris

About the author

Chris has been a mainframe programmer for almost 30 years. His interest in health, the body and meditation made him enrol in 2014 in a 2-year yoga teacher training course. His love for yoga began over 20 years ago. He has been starting his days with a series of yoga exercises, breathing and meditation ever since and his passion is to help others on a healthy journey. Since meeting his partner Karen, he has learnt to create websites and reach more audience. Life offers so many possibilities to study new areas, both geographically as well as intellectually, that he’s interested in just about everything. In 2018 he became a digital nomad to discover the world.

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