For the last couple of years or so I have seen the landscape of processed food change. This might be because my world revolves so heavily around little people. Or it could be a growing trend across all demographics of food.
People don’t want them in their food anymore. Actually, people do not want them in their processed foods anymore. Most fresh unpackaged foods do not contain them.
My first career was in food science and as a food scientist, food additives excite me. They can assist in the creation of wild and magnificent looking foods which can withstand environmental pressures, time and the demands of processing, packaging and an increasing large food supply chain. Additives, whether being preservatives, colours or flavours, can help food look and taste great!
This above paragraph is the reason why as a nutritionist and a mother I do not like food additives.
The movement against food additives has been slow but is growing considerable pace.
More medically peer reviewed sources support the data which suggests that people do have sensitivities and reactions to these additives added to processed foods.
There are fabulous online resources such as Additive Free Pantry, The Trusted Trolley, Let’s Party Additive Free or the trailblazer, Fed up with Additives.
But the clincher really is, like the quote I have seen on social media many times, “Organic food is what our grandparents called food.” This is exactly the same issue with food additives.
Food additives are synonymous with processed foods. Eat less processed and you will avoid them.
It is our role and choice as parents to choose the best foods for our children. Choosing fresh, unprocessed foods is one of the best ways.
Of course this is not always possible, and a packet mix or packet pasta sauce will enter the cupboard, like it often does at ours. But if you can eat as fresh as possible with foods which aren’t labelled or have ingredients which are recognisable, you will avoid food additives.
The problem with the labelling of packaged foods is that they are designed by clever marketers of huge multinational companies which have tested and researched the best pictures, colours and words to get you to buy their product. They are not really evil. They are very clever marketers. And this is why they sell their food items.
When a processed food says that it is natural or has no artificial colours, that does not mean that it is completely additive free. It can be a minefield and incredibly misleading.
So how do you avoid it, how do you simply look on a packaged food and avoid some of the nasty food additives?
The most comprehensive resource with a full list of food additives and the ones to avoid are found on Sue Dengate’s website “Fed Up With Additives”
Simply, as an overarching banner (which is not 100% correct) but an easier way to remember when out shopping:
Avoid 100s which are colours
Avoid 200s which are preservatives
(Most preservative acetates are fine as are citric, lactic and acetic acids)
300s, 400s and 500s are generally ok
Avoid 600s which are generally flavour enhancers
Avoid 950-962 for artificial sweeteners
You can copy the above out and put it in your wallet.
Although the most important thing you can do as a parent is have a voice.
Your voice can be written or spoken to a food company or it can be your voice at the checkout.
Dollars count. If the food manufacturer’s sales’ report shows that you will not buy food additives, they will invest in product development and manufacturing to get them out. But they need a valid reason to invest in change.
Or you could just buy fresh and be a Masterchef at home with the family.
Mandy dos Santos is a food scientist and nutritionist who has worked in varying fields in food. From her uni café days to importing Mexican mangoes to designing food products for the largest restaurant in the world. As a mother of young girls she is also incredibly passionate about child and community nutrition. She has a blog Little People Nutrition where she posts weekly about nutrition, food investigations, recipes and all things family food related. Pop by and say hi!