When we buy food products most of us do not bother to read the ingredients and even if we read do we really know what exactly is alpha-tocopherol? Ascorbic acid? Sodium nitrite? Do you really know how do these food additives affect you?
Food Additives: What Are They?
A "food additive" is a substance that is added to a food product during production, processing, or storage. The additive can be a natural product like salt used to preserve or sugar used to sweeten or manufactured product like a color or dye to enhance appearance or taste. Food additives can be vitamins or minerals as well that are used to fortify foods. All the additives whether it is used as a preservative or to enhance appearance or taste or to fortify food it has to be approved for use by the Food Laws and the rules made for ensuring safety of food by the Government of India’s Ministry of Health under the provisions of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act & Rules.
Regulations for Food Additives
Any new food additive has to pass rigorous toxicity studies, including acute and chronic studies involving biochemical evaluation, teratogenic studies, reproductive studies besides the LD50 tests before it is approved for use. In India food safety is the responsibility of Government of India’s Ministry of Health under the provisions of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act & Rules. The legislation called "Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954" was drafted for this purpose.
Any new additive has to tested before being approved for use but food additives which have been in used in cooking for ages like salt, sugar, spices, and baking soda are “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” and do not need testing.
Food Additives: Guaranteed Safety?
Most of the food additives in use are safe—but this is not absolute for all the additives and every one of us. With time newer discoveries are being made and this can change the perception about an additive. Like sulfites were commonly used to prevent discoloration and spoilage in fresh foods. But reports of adverse reaction to sulfites has lead to the ban of it’s use on fresh products in the USA by the FDA.
Most food additives are safe for most people most of the time. But some people may develop adverse reaction to it. This is especially possible if you consume it in large amounts.
Some, additives like ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) are good for health. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is often added to beverages or meat--it can help to reduce the severity of colds. Alpha-tocopherol or vitamin E is added to oils - it prevents the oil from becoming rancid. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Food Additives: What to Watch Out for
Most food additives are known to be safe for most people most of the time. But you should avoid certain additives and consume most in moderation. Like too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, where as excessive sugar can lead to tooth decay, and obesity. According to some experts on nutrition you should avoid sodium nitrite, saccharin, caffeine, olestra, acesulfame K, and all artificial coloring. You should limit your intake of food products with food additives. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fresh poultry and fish as much as possible
Food poisoning occurs due to consumption of contaminated and unsafe food. Millions of people are affected by food poisoning worldwide every year. Infection with food borne organisms can be without symptoms or it can cause acute illness like diarrheal diseases or even a life-threatening problem. Food poisoning is caused by consumption of food or water contaminated with bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins made by these germs.
Food poisoning can be caused by several different diseases and it may affect only a few or all the people who eat the contaminated food. The common causes of food poisoning are infection by bacteria, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, and botulism.
The germs can contaminate the food in different ways:
Food poisoning mostly occurs after eating or drinking:
Common organisms that cause food poisoning are;
People at higher risk of food poisoning are;
If you are pregnant or are breastfeeding be careful to avoid food poisoning.
You may develop the symptoms of food poisoning with in 2- 6 hours of eating the food or after a number of days - depending on the cause of the food poisoning.
Some common symptoms of food poisoning include:
Exams and Tests
Your doctor will take a detailed history (like history of eating out recently) and will examine you for signs of food poisoning. In most cases the diagnosis can be made clinically. If needed, your doctor will do tests to diagnose the cause of food poisoning. Your doctor may do
In many cases even the tests may not be able to diagnose the cause of food poisoning.
Some people with serious infections may need specialized tests like
Most people recover from food poisoning within a couple of days. The aim of treatment is to make you feel better and prevent dehydration.
Some people with severe diarrhea and vomiting may need to be admitted in a hospital to replace fluids lost by diarrhea and vomiting through a vein (by IV). Most people with food poisoning do not need antibiotics. Avoid self medications with drugs to stop diarrhea purchased from a drugstore. If your symptoms are due to toxins from mushrooms or shellfish you will need to be admitted in a hospital.
Most people fully recover from the most common types of food poisoning within 12 - 48 hours. Serious complications can arise, however, from certain types of food poisoning.
The commonest complication of food poisoning is dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting.
Other complications that can occur include;
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Consult a doctor if;