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In the news –the lowdown on food additives

June 19, 2015

Panera is the latest food chain to announce that it will eliminate all artificial additives from its foods by the end of 2016. Others like Chipotle and Starbucks have also amended their menus.

Pronounceable ingredients

While food additives from food dyes to trans fats to high-fructose corn syrup have been a concern to many Americans over the years, the latest push to reduce artificial additives is coming from Millennials. Many are much more concerned about what chemicals they are putting into their mouths.

“People don’t like to have additives in their foods that they cannot pronounce. Many don’t understand why they need to be added in the first place and worry about their safety,” said Sheila Sullivan, RD, clinical dietitian, in the Food and Nutrition Services Department at Baystate Medical Center.

According to the Baystate dietitian, foot additives are commonly used for a variety of purposes from improving the overall taste, texture and appearance of food to added nutrition and food preservation.

“Panera tends to make food fresh every day and will need to continue to do so, because without preservatives, food doesn’t stay fresh as long. I think it’s great that they are willing to step up to the plate and make this commitment,” Sullivan said.

Different types of additives

All food additives are not created equal, noted Sullivan, with some being healthy and already existing naturally in foods.

Take potassium, for example, a mineral found in many of the foods we eat and is attributed to good muscle movement and a healthy nervous system. But, when potassium phosphate is added to a food, it can put renal patients at an increased health risk.

“You won’t necessarily find this in the nutrition facts on the label, which more and more people are becoming aware of, but will often have to read the ingredients list to find it,” Sullivan said.

The Baystate dietitian said it’s important to always look at the Nutrition Facts label to learn the amount of calories and the nutritional values of the foods you eat, as well as to look at the ingredients listing. Many ingredients have different names such as salt, which can also go by sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate.