When it comes to fast food, some of the health concerns are obvious. Deep-fried, high-fat, sugar-packed meals are, for the most part, not on the personal menus of the health conscious. But some of the most questionable aspects of fast food – like additives – are not quite as easy to locate.
Even if they’re listed on the ingredients, you may need a dictionary to even pronounce the words, let alone understand what they mean for your health! And even if they’re FDA approved, some of these ingredients are at least a little bit unsavory. Read on to find out more about ten of the most common fast food additives.
1. Propylene glycol
Although designated “generally recognized as safe,” industrial uses of propylene glycol may give some consumers pause. Used in the food industry to keep products from freezing solid, it’s also used as a commercial anti-freeze and plane de-icer. Propylene glycol is also an ingredient in dispersants used to clean up oil spills.
2. Ammonium sulfate
Used to regulate the acidity of breads, rolls, and buns, FDA-approved ammonium sulfate is also used as a fertilizer, an ingredient in spray pesticides, and a flame retardant.
3. Calcium silicate
This anti-caking agent can be found in a huge variety of food products, from salt and sugar to cereals to processed meats. It’s also used in insulation and the construction of roads.
Although approved for use as a food additive in the United States (specifically, as a flour bleaching and improving agent), azodicarbonamide is not approved for use in food in the European Union. Industrially, azobicarbonamide is used in the creation of plastics.
5. Sodium acid pyrophosphate
Also known as disodium pyrophosphate, this additive is considered by the FDA to prevent discoloration.
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6. Sodium nitrate
This additive is most commonly found in processed meats, like hot dogs and sausages. A 2010 study found that individuals who ate large amounts of processed meats containing sodium nitrate had higher rates of diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease than individuals who stuck to unprocessed red meat. It is also used in leather treatment and oil dispersing, and excessive amounts can cause mineral imbalances.
This red food dye is made from the shells of the cochineal insect. Although it has no negative health effects for most people, carmine can, in rare cases, cause an allergic reaction or even anaphylaxis.
8. Titanium dioxide
Used as a whitening agent in coffee creamers, salad dressings, and a whole host of other food products, titanium dioxide is likely safe to eat in small amounts. That said, it is a possible human carcinogen when inhaled.
While you’re probably familiar with shellac as a decorative wood finish, you might be surprised to know that you’re eating it on everything from candy to apples in the form of “confectioners’ glaze.”
10. Silicon dioxide
This additive is, essentially, sand that is used as an anti-caking agent. You may want to check out the ingredients list of any chili that you eat to see if it’s present.
Does the “gross factor” of some of these ingredients make you want to avoid them, even if they’re technically approved for consumption? Share your responses in the comments section!