According to the World Health Organization, Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are known as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, dementia, parkinsons, liver and kidney disease and more. These (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Cardiovascular diseases account for most of the (NCDs) deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.0 million), respiratory diseases (3.9million), and diabetes (1.6 million).
ConsumerProtect.com recently reviewed thousands of products suspected of wreaking havoc on consumers health. From additives intentionally added to foods to toxins in the water supply to herbicide and pesticide residue, a regular trip shopping at the grocery store is bringing these harmful ingredients right into your families home and affecting your health.
Our analysis finds nearly 30 potential toxins are lurking in the foods you eat every day.
The most popular herbicide in the history of the world, glyphosate (Roundup) is used widely in the production of crops like soybeans and corn. It’s been found in virtually all food produced in the United States, according to the results of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Guardian. Invented by Monsanto, glyphosate works by preventing plants from making certain proteins necessary to sustain growth, thereby killing any plant it’s sprayed on. Monsanto also developed Roundup-ready seed, which thousands of farms now use. Glyphosate is a human carcinogen, disrupts the bodies endocrine system and prevents red blood cells from maintaining healthy levels of vitamin C, which is important not only for immunity but also for blood vessel and heart health. Rates of glyphosate observed in humans skyrocketed by 500% in a period between 1993 and 2016.
- Foods containing glyphosate: Testing has shown glyphosate in cereals, snack bars, oats, orange juice, cookies, ice cream. According to the Guardian’s reporting, only one tested food (broccoli) did not contain glyphosate.
- Why glyphosate is scary: It’s been linked to cancer, pregnancy problems, kidney disease, breast cancer growth, endocrine cell disruption, Parkinson’s disease and more.
Steroids & Growth Hormones
Drugs, including natural and synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, used in livestock production to increase animals’ growth rates.
- Foods that contain steroids & growth hormones: Any foods that contain animal products, including those from beef, chicken, pork, lamb and eggs could potentially contain steroid residue.
- Why steroids & growth hormones are scary: The FDA has said hormones in meat products are unlikely to cause negative health effects in humans, but anecdotal evidence has linked hormones in animals to early puberty and reproductive problems.
Yellow #5 and Yellow #6
Synthetic dyes used to color foods. Tartrazine (yellow #5) and sunset yellow (yellow #6) are two of the most common food dyes in use.
- Foods that contain yellow #5 and yellow #6: Both dyes are listed ingredients in dozens of foods, such as cereal, baked goods, cake mixes, gelatin desserts, sausages and more.
- Why yellow #5 and yellow #6 are scary: Both have been found to contain carcinogenic compounds, and yellow #5 has been linked to cell mutation.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
An artificial sweetener derived from genetically modified corn starch, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been used as a replacement for sugar since the 1970s. Given its origin from corn, in many places, HFCS is cheaper than sugar, so it’s used to keep food prices low.
- Foods that contain HFCS: Consumption of high-fructose syrup increased 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, and despite widespread concerns over the health implications, HFCS is a listed ingredient in hundreds of foods, including sauces, ketchup and other condiments, syrup, jelly, salad dressing, bread, rolls, cereal, crackers, juice and more. In fact, 74 percent of products in the American food supply contain sweeteners, including HFCS.
- Why HFCS is scary: HFCS is connected with obesity and compulsive overeating, liver disease, metabolic disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and breast cancer.
Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite
Both substances are salts added to meats like jerky, bacon, ham and lunch meats to cure and preserve them. Sodium nitrate also occurs naturally in some vegetables and is converted to sodium nitrite when contacted by human saliva.
- Foods that contain sodium nitrate & nitrite: Both are listed ingredients in many meat products, including jerky, bacon, ham, lunch meats, pepperoni, corned beef, hot dogs, canned meat and smoked salmon.
- Why sodium nitrite & nitrate are scary: Both have been classified as probably carcinogenic, and sodium nitrate is linked to elevated risk of heart disease.
Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer added to many foods. It’s derived from the amino acid glutamate, one of the most commonly naturally occuring amino acids in nature, including being produced by the human body itself.
- Foods that contain MSG: It’s popular in Asian cuisine and is a listed ingredient in many canned soups and occurs naturally in many other foods and food ingredients, including gelatin, yeast extract, soy sauce, barley, stock and more.
- Why MSG is scary: The FDA lists MSG as usually safe, but many individuals have a sensitivity to MSG that can cause things like weakness, rapid heart beat, headache and nausea.
Used commonly in baking, potassium bromate is used to strengthen and whiten dough and improve its elasticity.
- Foods that contain potassium bromate: Testing has discovered the substance in dozens of baked goods from several brands, including cookies, pizza, bread and rolls, sandwiches and crackers.
- Why potassium bromate is scary: The substance has been linked to cancer, and California has mandated bromate-containing products carry a warning label.
An antioxidant commonly added to foods containing fat and oil.
- Foods that contain propyl gallate: Propyl gallate is a listed ingredient in many meat products, such as sausage and lard.
- Why propyl gallate is scary: The substance is linked to cancer in animal testing.
tert-Butylhydroquinone is a form of butane used as a preservative in food but also can be found in consumer products like furniture varnish.
- Foods that contain TBHQ: TBHQ is a listed ingredient in frozen fish, fast food, crackers and noodles.
- Why TBHQ is scary: The substance has been linked to vision problems and DNA disruption in humans.
An artificial sweetener used to enhance the flavor of food and medicines as a replacement for sugar.
- Foods that contain saccharin: Saccharin is a listed ingredient in many soft drinks, processed foods, jams and jellies and many other foods to replace sugar.
- Why saccharin is scary: The EPA no longer lists saccharin as a cause for concern, studies have linked the substance to cancer. Additionally, researchers have found that artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, disrupt gut health.
A broad-spectrum pesticide that’s also used as a wood protectant.
- Foods that contain chlorothalonil: Chlorothalonil residue has been found on cranberries, celery and green beans.
- Why chlorothalonil is scary: The EPA classifies the substance as a likely human carcinogen.
Also called enilconazole, imazalil is a popular pesticide used in farming, particularly in citrus fruit production.
- Foods that contain imazalil: Residue has been recorded on primarily on tangerines but also grapefruits and oranges.
- Why imazalil is scary: The EPA says imazalil is likely a human carcinogen.
An artificial sweetener used to enhance the flavor and replace sugar in many foods and medicines. Aspartame is one of the most commonly used sugar substitutes in the world.
- Foods that contain aspartame: In addition to being used as a tabletop sweetener in many homes, aspartame is found in dozens of foods and drinks as a substitute for sugar.
- Why aspartame is scary: Some studies have linked aspartame to cancer, though the science is unsettled. However, studies have found that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, disrupt gut health.
This known carcinogen is added or created in the form of benzoates for a preservative effect. Benzene is released into the air via pollution and is also a common ingredient in cigarettes.
- Foods that contain benzene: High levels of benzene have been detected in several soft drinks.
- Why benzene is scary: Benzene is listed in the U.S. as a known carcinogen, being linked to leukemia and other blood cancers.
Red #2, Red #3 & Red #40
Synthetic dyes used to color foods. Red #2 is also called amaranth, while red #3’s proper name is erythrosine and red #40 is also called allura red.
- Foods that contain red #2, red #3 and red #40: Food dyes listed ingredients in dozens of products to color food items, such as cereals, drinks and candies.
- Why red #2, red #3 and red #40 are scary: Red #40’s active ingredient listed as a likely human carcinogen, and animal testing has linked red #3 to cancer in animals, while studies of red #2 show mixed results but have indicate potential health concerns.
Blue #1 and Blue #2
Synthetic dyes used to color foods. Blue #1 is also called brilliant blue, while blue #2’s proper name is indigotine.
- Foods that contain blue #1 and blue #2: Both dyes are used in food products like cereal, baked goods, candy and drinks, including alcoholic beverages.
- Why blue #1 and blue #2 are scary: Blue #1 has been linked to adverse effects, and blue #2 was linked to cancer in animal studies.
BHA & BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene are both antioxidants commonly used as food preservatives.
- Foods that contain BHA & BHT: Either or both additives are listed ingredients in foods like potato chips, instant mashed potatoes, drink mixes, chewing gum, butter, cured meats and beer; it’s also quite common in cosmetics and hair products.
- Why BHA & BHT are scary: BHA has been determined to be a potential human carcinogen, while BHT was shown in animal cosmetic testing to cause toxic effects to the liver, lungs and kidneys.
A preservate, thickening agent and emulsifier, sodium phosphate is used in many foods and medications.
- Foods that contain sodium phosphate: Sodium phosphate is a listed ingredient in foods like instant mashed potatoes, lunch meat, bacon, cured meats, processed cheeses and is used regularly in commercial baking.
- Why sodium phosphate is scary: Consumption is linked to heart disease and kidney damage.
Artificial brown color used in the production of soft drinks and other foods. Caramel coloring is the result of a chemical reaction between sugars and ammonia and sulfites. These reactions produce 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), both brown-colored substances.
- Foods that contain caramel coloring: Caramel coloring is used by both Coca-Cola and Pepsi to color their drinks
- Why caramel coloring is scary: 4-MEI is listed as a possible human carcinogen, and both were linked to cancer in animal studies.
A colorless alcohol often referred to as ethyl alcohol. It’s a psychoactive compound produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeast or other processes. It’s also used as a disinfectant and fuel.
- Foods that contain ethanol: Ethanol is the primary alcohol used in alcoholic beverages and is the intoxicating ingredient in them; it’s also a listed ingredient in some sauces, syrups, candied fruits, fruitcakes, ice creams and food coloring.
- Why ethanol is scary: In addition to its intoxicating effects, ethanol in foods is linked to bad health outcomes among children.
A pesticide most frequently sprayed on fruits post-harvest, particularly on apples.
- Foods that contain diphenylamine: DPA residue has been found on apples, pears, squash and other produce.
- Why diphenylamine is scary: The EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen.
A pesticide used to control fungus growth both in commercial and residential applications.
- Foods that contain captan: Captan residue has been found primarily on strawberries, though it’s also been noted on peaches and blueberries.
- Why captan is scary: The EPA classifies captan as a probable human carcinogen.
A pesticide used frequently in the production of produce like grapes, almonds, potatoes, rice, onions, as well as being used on lawns and golf courses.
- Foods that contain iprodione: Residue has been found primarily on nectarines but also has been detected on peaches and plums.
- Why iprodione is scary: The EPA lists iprodione as a likely human carcinogen.
Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene is a chemical compound created by the breakdown of the better-known (and banned in the U.S.) insecticide DDT.
- Foods that contain DDE: While DDT is banned in the U.S., its derivative DDE may be present in products from other countries.
- Why DDE is scary: DDE has been connected with problems breastfeeding, and the EPA classified it as a probable human carcinogen.
A pesticide used in agricultural production.
- Foods that contain folpet: Residue has been detected on tomatoes and frozen strawberries.
- Why folpet is scary: Folpet is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
A heavy metal that’s a frequent contaminant in water supplies and has been linked to mental deficiencies in those exposed to it. Lead poisoning can be fatal.
- Foods that contain lead: Lead has been detected in fruit juice, baby food and candy.
- Why lead is scary: Lead exposure can be incredibly dangerous, especially to children, as it can stunt their physical and mental development.
Drugs used to treat bacterial infections; used widely in livestock production.
- Foods that contain antibiotics: Antibiotic residue can be present in foods of animal origin, including meat, dairy and eggs.
- Why antibiotics are scary: While antibiotics are used to treat diseases in humans, overuse of antibiotics is linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant disease as well as acute symptoms like nausea and yeast infections.
Our research shows that while a wide range of foods, including some of our favorites, hold the possibility of being contaminated by harmful substances, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk: eat natural, organic foods; avoid packaged and canned foods; and cook as much of your own food as possible.
A note about our research: We’ve included links directly in the text to findings and studies to reinforce the danger of these substances. A few resources were especially helpful in our analysis, including:
- What’s On My Food? http://www.whatsonmyfood.org
- Regulatory Information by Topic: Pesticides: https://www.epa.gov/regulatory-information-topic/regulatory-information-topic-pesticides
- The Food and Drug Administration: https://www.fda.gov
- National Institutes of Health PubChem: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/