Ever noticed a cheese corn chip doesn’t actually contain any cheese? Instead, that moreish cheesy taste comes from a cocktail of flavour enhancer 621 (that’s MSG by the way), tomato, garlic and onion powders, along with food acids 270 and 330.
In Australia there are now more than 300 approved additives that are used in many of our everyday foods. While Coles last year found that 91 per cent of us are worried about eating foods with artificial colours and MSG, the trouble is you won’t find words like MSG, benzoates or sulphites anywhere on the label. Cleverly, they’re masked as a series of numbers which we, the consumer, are supposed to have committed to memory.
While it may be only a small, unfortunate few who experience reactions to particular additives, the fact remains that the decision to approve them by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is based on a consuming a particular amount. And with the prevalence of additives in so much of our food, we may be unwittingly exceedingly these limits – even when we think we are eating a healthy diet.
Take sulphite preservatives (numbers 210-230). These are used in dried fruit, some fruit juices and even wine. A survey by FSANZ found Australian kids, particularly children aged two to five, were eating more than the recommended daily limit of sulphite preservatives (numbers 210-213). So with the rising popularity of pre-made fruit snacks and health food bars, fruit muesli and fruit juice, and, for grownups, a glass of wine at the end of the day, you can inadvertently overdo it.
One simple way to take control is to look at the length of the ingredients list on packaged foods. The longer the list, the likelihood it is more highly processed with flavour enhancers, colours and preservatives. Replacing a product with a lengthy ingredients list for a similar product with less ingredients is a good start towards cleaner food choices – particularly if you have intolerances to certain additives.
For more clever ideas and better product choices to shake food additives out of your daily diet, don’t miss the March issue of Healthy Food Guide.