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Doctors have long warned of the dangers of fast food as it is full of sugar, salt and saturated fat which can lead to obesity and chronic obesity, but many will be surprised to learn that there are more harmful ingredients lurking in their favorite foods.
In a report published last month, researchers found toxic metals in the dark chocolate they tested. It may also come as a surprise that a chemical used in explosives is sometimes found in bread, cakes and cookies, or an ingredient in lighter fluid used to keep chicken nuggets fresh.
In recent weeks, experts have also issued warnings about red food coloring in candies, Doritos and soft drinks, which have been linked to cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
Here are some of the toxins experts found in the foods they reviewed:
liquid lighter to preserve the flavor of the chicken
Butane gas isn’t just for lighters anymore – it’s also added to chicken nuggets, potato chips and some fast food to keep them fresh longer.
Low doses of the chemical – tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) – are considered safe in food. But in larger amounts, it can cause tumors, liver enlargement, seizures and paralysis.
Food companies use the aforementioned substance to retain its flavor, color, and nutritional value for a longer period of time.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the chemical for use in food in the 1970s, when fast food restaurants became more popular. It’s now part of everything from McDonald’s chicken nuggets and pasta to snack bars.
The FDA currently allows no more than 0.02% total fats and oils in TBD. European authorities have also determined that it is safe to use in food at low concentrations.
The chemical is made from butane, which is stored in lighters as a liquid and released as a gas ignited by a spark.
An explosive in bread, cakes and biscuits
Potassium bromate has been used as an explosive for decades. But the white powder is also mixed with flour used in baked goods such as bread and cookies because it helps dough rise and hold its shape.
Laboratory studies have repeatedly linked it to cancer of the thyroid gland, peritoneum – the thin layer of cells that lines the bladder and rectum – and uterus. But the Food and Drug Administration has yet to ban its use in the United States, and it still considers GRAS, which is generally recognized as safe.
This contrasts with the views of many other countries and blocs, including the UK, Canada, India, Brazil and the European Union, which have all banned it.
Warnings about its carcinogenic potential date back to 1999, when reports of this risk began to appear. But the food industry has long said that it is safe to use, because during cooking the powder turns into potassium bromide, which is a non-carcinogenic substance.
However, tests carried out in the UK in 1994 showed that potassium bromate remains in foods even after cooking. This included all six unpackaged bread products tested and seven of the 22 packaged ones examined.
California has taken action against the ingredient, requiring companies that make it to put a warning label on consumers.
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Heavy metals in dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is lauded for its health benefits, from boosting heart health to containing a load of antioxidants, but a recent survey of 28 popular brands found they all contain concerning amounts. of cadmium and lead.
Cadmium ends up in chocolate when absorbed through the roots of the cocoa tree, with long-term exposure linked to kidney failure and brittle bones.
But lead, known to be dangerous to humans, gets into chocolate after cocoa beans are left to dry on the side of the road – and gets coated in lead from car fumes.
Prolonged exposure to lead has been associated with memory loss, abdominal pain, and mood swings in adults. But in children, it can damage brain development, as well as lead to learning and behavior problems and speech and hearing problems.
The United States Food and Drug Administration does not set limits for lead and cadmium levels in chocolate.
A spokeswoman told the Daily Mail last month: “The US Food and Drug Administration continues to monitor and regulate levels of environmental contaminants, including lead and cadmium, in food. If you find that the level of contaminants makes the food unsafe, we take action.
It turns out that a chemical found in vomit is also present in butter and parmesan cheese. It’s called butyrate, which is a naturally occurring, short-chain fatty acid found in animal products that use milk.
About three to four percent of butter is butyric acid, which is responsible for the unpleasant odor that develops when foods spoil. Few studies have been conducted on this substance, but there are some that have indicated that it has beneficial health effects.
This substance has been associated with a reduced risk of irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer, and better insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes.
No estimates are available on how much acid is needed to achieve health benefits. Scientists say increasing fiber intake may be the best strategy, as it stimulates bacteria to break it down to produce chemicals such as butyric acid.
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A cancer-causing chemical in candy
A dispersant is also hidden in the paints, rubber and plastics of many popular candy brands. Industries often use titanium dioxide to give their products a white color and a brilliant shine.
But popular candy, salad dressing, and chewing gum makers also use it to add smooth texture or as a white colorant.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has imposed strict guidelines on the amount that can be used in food, setting a maximum limit of no more than 1%. While US officials say the compound is safe in small amounts, the additive is banned in European Union countries.
Plastic in fast food
Popular fast food products contain small amounts of industrial chemicals called phthalates, which are the compounds used to make plastic flexible.
Time and again, scientists have found evidence of these pernicious chemicals in the majority of foods tested.
A study published in 2021 tested 64 takeaway meals from popular UK restaurant chains and found that most contained these chemicals.
It has already been linked to health problems, including hormonal disruptions, infertility and an increased risk of learning, attention and behavioral problems in children.
Microplastics primarily enter food when they come into contact with packaging and handling equipment, such as cellophane and paper. Concerns have been raised about it as it is being introduced into the food chain amid the widespread use of plastics.
But the researchers say the levels currently detected in food are not cause for concern.