Wednesday 9 May 2007

Food Science 102: Coal tars

Feeding the devil

Over a week ago, I wrote about additives in food and now The Telegraph covers the topic linking hyperactivity in children to a number of products used to embellish our foods and create the semblance of naturalness where it does not exist.

Hyperactivity does make children quite a handful for their parents and sometimes a social nuisance; children uncontrollable, difficult to placate and barking back with ferocious unruliness can be too disheartening to observe, it has in some cases made me wish to remain childless - if this is because of the food they eat, which is also part and parcel of upbringing, then we probably have a solution to hand.

The list of additives reads like a marriage of Chernobyl and Bhopal.

Tar my food

E102 - Tartrazine - is a lemon yellow azo dye derived from coal tar - it makes you wonder what we are doing eating up the road - this can be found in soft drinks, instant puddings, soups - I might as well get the benefit of smoking than read the whole list that even includes children's vitamins.

This addictive is banned in Norway and was once banned in Austria and Germany, exposure to this stuff can include reactions like anxiety, migraine or even clinical depression. How can this be in food?

E124 - Ponceau - is a synthetic coal tar, well, the synthesis of coal tar rather than derived from coal tar must be an advancement for this red azo dye which is considered carcinogenic and banned in the USA, Norway and Finland.

Found in certain Haribo-brand sweets and cola-flavoured sweets, it is a histamine liberator and intensifies symptoms of asthma.

Tic Tac Tar

E110 - Sunset Yellow - more cola tar used in fermented foods that must be heat treated. Apricot jam, lemon curd and soft drinks get augmented with this additive banned in Norway and able to cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Tic Tac (lime and orange flavour) is more tar for less calories.

E122 - Carmoisine - Also known as Azorubine, a synthetic red azo dye, present in jams, preserves, yoghurts, jellies and breadcrumbs. Asthmatics could be very intolerant of this additive which is banned in Japan, Norway and the USA. Gosh! I am addicted to wine gums.

E129 - Allura Red AC - This is no recommended for consumption by children and it is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway.

The red colouring is derived from the female Dactylopius coccus - a South and Central American beetle - Yuk! It is said to be quite tolerable and with few side effects, so why is there a widespread ban?

It has not been conclusively proven but rumour has it that children exposed to this substance might suffer erectile dysfunction in adulthood - I guess that is where Viagra comes into its own.

Eat your tattoo

E104 - Quinoline Yellow - Another yellow dye found in ices, cough sweets, scotch eggs and smoked haddock which activists recommend should be eliminated from children's diets.

This is also banned in Japan and the USA, it was once banned in Australia and the stuff is used as a pigment in tattoo parlours. Strewth!

It's food not a mummy

E211 - Sodium Benzoate - This is a sodium salt of benzoic acid and it is used as a preservative killing most yeasts, bacteria and fungi. Basically, it takes the organic out of food.

We in the West at least have controls on the kinds of additives allowed in our foods though I am concerned about the absence of the UK and the Netherlands from the list of countries that seem to be quite stringent about the additives listed.

Unnatural foods

More so, one wonders why there is so much interest in colouring food; whilst natural colours might fade or pale out during processing, the addition of harmful chemicals cannot now be the trade-off for improving the aesthetic appearance of food.

Our food culture now requires all sorts of processing to maintain colour, taste, texture, freshness and even global choice, we individually now have to pay more attention the ingredients of all these foods so not to lay in store long-term health problems which could not be attributable.

I wonder if that is some research being conducted into what makes unruly, anti-social, inconsiderate and rotten teenagers. Albeit, with the amount of tar in the aforementioned products, the road does lead to the stomach.

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