Author Topic: Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods  (Read 8587 times)


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Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods
« on: October 25, 2007, 02:39:11 PM »
Wasn't sure what to title this or where to put it, but I was looking up "caramel coloring"...what is it, how is it made, what does it do?  A friend had mentioned that it contains many allergens...???

Than I thought about all the label reading I have to do being gluten free...what is "modified food starch"?  Is it corn or wheat based?  What is "natural flavor"?  How is MSG disguised?

I thought it'd be nice to have a place where you could post what you know about specific ingredients...especially those ones that are long and hard to pronounce...or maybe you can tell us about certain roots or parts of a word that indicate something specific (like if something has "dextrose" in it it means sugar).

This link may give you some ideas:



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Re: Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2007, 04:08:10 AM »

This link does what I'm looking for so's a sample for wheat:


Other names / Labels that may indicate presence of wheat protein
Bread crumbs
Cereal extract
Cracker meal
Durum, durum flour, ein korn, emmer, farrow
Enriched / white / whole wheat flour
Flour (all-purpose, enriched, graham, high gluten, high protein, pastry, soft wheat)
Graham flour, high gluten / protein flour
Triticale (e.g., a cross between wheat and rye)
Triticum aestivum
Vital gluten
Wheat (bran, germ, gluten, malt, starch)
Whole wheat berries
Whole wheat flour

Possible sources/ Foods that may contain wheat protein

Note: Avoid all food and products that contain wheat in the ingredient list (e.g., wheat germ)

Baked goods and baking mixes (e.g., breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, muffins)
Baking powder, flour, icing sugar
Battered / fried foods
Bread crumbs, cereals, crackers
Breakfast cereals
Canned soups (e.g., “thickened” soups, gravy mixes)
Coffee substitutes made from cereal
Cross-contamination (e.g., containers, food in deep fryers, utensils)
Ethnic foods
Fermented ingredients
Flour tortillas
Gelatinized starch, modified starch, modified food starch
Hydrolyzed protein
Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Ice cream
Meat, fish and poultry binders and fillers [e.g., deli meats, hot dogs, surimi (used to make imitation crab / lobster meat)]
Natural and artificial flavoring (from malt, wheat)
Pie fillings
Prepared ketchup, mustard
Salad dressings
Seasonings, spices (e.g., paprika, black pepper)
Snack foods (e.g., candy, chocolate bars)
Soy sauce
Starch (gelatinized, modified, modified food starch)
Sauces (e.g., chutney, soy sauce)
Vegetable gum
Xanthine gum

Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Steinman HA. 1996; 98. Hidden allergens in foods. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol.. Mosby-Year Book, Inc. (2):241-250.
00lh2&lh80: allergens-retail-and-list orig 6/21/05 rev 7/1/05 print 8/17/05 11
« Last Edit: February 28, 2008, 02:17:02 AM by Yooper »

Offline healthyinOhio

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Re: Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2007, 07:13:39 AM »
I mentioned this book in a different thread, but thought it would go well here, too. 
A Consumer's Guide to Food Additives, by Ruth Winter.
(She also has one on cosmetics, too)

Offline healthybratt

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Re: Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2007, 06:03:54 AM »
Fast Food Nation talks a little about natural & artificial flavors.  According to this book, they are invariably the same chemical additives, with the difference being what the derived the chemical from. 

If they get chemX from mixing chemY and chemZ, then it would be "artificial", but if they can figure out how to extract or create chemX from corn, then it can legally be labeled "natural".
  My favorite herb book!!


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Re: Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2008, 02:23:39 AM »
Here's a top ten list of troublesome ingredients from Urban Homemaker:

Top 10 Troublesome Ingredients  By Sandy Tuin

1. Natural Flavors. Listed as natural flavors.

Found in: Baked foods, frozen dinners, candy and more.

What’s the big deal? Natural flavors include a number of naturally occurring (non-chemical,non-artificial) substances approved for use in food by the FDA. These flavors often come from allergy-inducing ingredients such as nuts and wheat.

How to avoid it?  If you are prone to food allergies call the food manufacturer to learn the source of the natural flavor.

2. Artificial Colorings:  Listed as yellow #6, blue #2, green #3, red #3 and more.

Found in: Candy, soda, gelatin, and more

What’s the big deal? Some studies link artificial colorings to a range of health problems including cancer, hyperactivity, thyroid and allergic reactions. They have no nutritional value.

How to avoid it?  Steer clear of artificially colored foods. Opt instead for naturally colorful edibles like fresh fruits and dark leafy greens.

3.  Chemical Cocktails. Unlisted

Found in: Non-organic product.

What’s the big deal? Conventional farmers spray their produce with chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides to keep insects and weeds at bay. Residues of these toxic chemicals end up on your food, and some studies have linked them to cancer and birth defects.

How to avoid it? Wash your produce thoroughly with a mixture of 1 tsp mild dishwashing detergent and 4 liters of water. Buy organic or shop at the farmer’s market.

4. Sodium Nitrite: Listed as Sodium nitrite
Found in: Processed meats including bacon, ham, hot dongs, lunchmeats, and corned beef.

What’s the big deal? This preservative can mix with chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamines, a carcinogenic substance linked to cancers of the pancreas, bladder and brain.

How to avoid it?  Replace processed meats with fresh meats or purchase nitrite-free lunchmeats [HORMEL NATURAL line]. Meat found in canned soups and frozen dinners commonly contains sodium nitrite, so check labels carefully.

5. High Fructose Corn Syrup: Listed as High fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids   

Found in: Frozen foods, sweets, breads, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, many canned vegetables, cereals, juices, sodas, breads and much more.

What’s the big deal? High fructose corn syrup increases your risk for diabetes. It also encourages overeating because its chemical structure tricks your brain into thinking your body is hungry. And it can raise triglyceride levels in the bloodstream, which increases risk of heart disease. Also contributes to high cholesterol and insulin resistance. Has no enzymes, vitamins or minerals and leaches micronutrients from your body.

How to avoid it? Limit your intake of added sugar to less than 10% of your total daily calories.  And/or buy alternative foods that do not contain it!!

6. rBGH: Listed as rBGH

Found in: dairy products, including milk and cheese.

What’s the big deal? rBGH stands for recombinant (genetically modified) bovine (cow) growth hormone. Dairy farmers inject cows with it to stimulate milk production, and it ends up in the milk sold in grocery stores. Research has tied it to prostate, colon and breast cancers.

How to avoid it? Look for milk that says “no rBGH” on the label. Switch to organic milk or raw milk.

7. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Listed as Yeast extract, gelatin, textured and hydrolyzed proteins, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, and more.

Found in: A wide range of foods including chips, canned soups, salad dressings, fast food, and frozen dinners.

What’s the big deal? MSG can affect the nervous system and make you feel hungrier than you rally are. It may also trigger migraines.

How to avoid it? Read food labels carefully. Even packages that say “no MSG or no MSG added” can sneak the substance in disguised as any of the ingredients above.

8. Sodium: Listed as salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda.
Found in: meat, eggs and dairy products. Also found in processed foods like canned soups and frozen dinners.

What’s the big deal? Your sodium count should not exceed 2400 milligrams a day, but some studies how Americans average intake is 3300 mgs a day. Excess sodium can raise blood pressure, which puts extra strain on your heart.

How to avoid it?  Use herbs and spices rather and salt to flavor your food. Go easy on the salt shaker.

9. Omega-6: Listed as: Linoleic acid; sunflower, sesame, corn and soybean oils.

Found in: frozen and processed foods [CHIPS]

What’s the big deal? Ideally, you should eat three omega-6 fatty acids for every omega-3 fatty acid you eat. But the ratio in most Western diets is between 10:1 and 20:1. Excess intake of omega-6 can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease.

How to avoid it? Eat fewer processed foods. Eat Omega 3 rich foods like walnuts, fish.

10. Trans Fat: Listed as: partially hydrogenated oil.

Found in: commercial baked goods like crackers and cookies; shortening and margarine.

What’s the big deal? Trans fats temporarily raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.

How to avoid it? Even foods that claim 0 grams of trans fat on the label can contain it because food manufacturers don’t have to list amounts under 0.5 rams. But eating more than one serving of a food can easily double or triple that half a gram. Read the label to be sure there are not partially hydrogenated oils hiding in the ingredient list.

Offline AllinHisTime

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Re: Decoding Food Labels: Hidden Hazards in Common Foods
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2009, 12:21:51 PM »
I just got Stevia in the raw at my local grocery.  I was so excited they started carrying Stevia.... until I got home.  The main ingredient is Dextrose and then Stevia extract (Rebiana).  In my gut I knew that dextrose was just some kind of filler, so that meant that it is not really truly just Stevia.  GRRR.

I did a little research about dextrose.  I know it comes from corn (bad) or cornstarch.  What does it do in our bodies and how does it effect us?   Why do they put it in supplements too??
A truth's initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed...When a well packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.-- Dresden James