Spring Cleaning Carnival: Get the Food Additives Out!

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I’m very happy to feature Lenetta of Nettacow today with her in-depth research on food additives, a topic so vast and wide it could have a 10-week carnival all to itself!  She’s one of my favorite readers and really knows how to get around the blogosphere (check out her weekly Link Roundup, appropriately tagged “Reading the Whole Internet.”)

Don’t forget to check out the Spring Cleaning: Get the Junk Out! carnival schedule for all the past and future topics and fabulous hostesses.  We’ve got some good ones coming up, including Kelly the Kitchen Kop getting rid of the CAFO (Confined Animal Farming Operation, aka “factory farms”) meat next week.  Does anyone think it’s ironic that I scheduled the wife of the big-cattle-farmer from Nebraska right before CAFO week?  Sometimes I don’t pay attention to anything!


My Story: How I Became Concerned With What We Ate

As I was growing up, I was blessed to be part of a pretty healthy family overall. My parents even now in their mid-60s weigh near what they did in high school (and my dad was a four sport varsity athlete!), so I have pretty good genes! In college, I managed to avoid the standard "freshman 15" but after I graduated and got out in the real world where I had to cook for myself, I turned to the stuff that had previously only supplemented cafeteria food: ramen noodles, spaghetti-os, all kinds of pasta-and-sauce boxed combos. My weight crept up a little bit each year.

Lenetta day before Goose was born Fast forward several years. I had gotten married (to a cow farmer – quite a shock for this recovering vegetarian who didn’t really like meat!) and in March of 2007, our beautiful daughter was born.

A new struggle also began at this time, one that took us a long time to identify. Starting when she was about a month old, Goose had constant diaper rash. Her doctor prescribed a powdered form of a drug commonly used to treat yeast, but didn’t even tell me yeast was the problem. It wasn’t long before I was experiencing breast pain since I was nursing her exclusively. About three months later, I embarked on a Yeast Elimination Diet that finally solved our problems.

The lure of processed food was too much for me to sustain that diet, evenphoto of Goose as a newborn though I lost weight quickly the few weeks I was on it. Goose cried a LOT, and I struggled with insomnia and baby blues. Cooking was one of the last things I wanted to do, so I used a lot of packaged, processed foods.

Soon after, I discovered some real food eating mamas including Laura at Heavenly Homemakers and Sarah from Heartland Renaissance (and eventually, Katie here at Kitchen Stewardship, of course). I started looking at things much, much differently.

For one, I realized that the more junk I ate, the more I craved it. It’s the same thing with sugar and gluten for many people. It has gotten to the point now where I will bypass perfectly good leftovers in the fridge of things I like, no less, to dirty a pan and cook some packaged spaghetti pesto dish. And I feel the same way that Katie does about dishes – blech!

Amusing side note – as I began writing the first draft of this post, I decided to cook up the box of said spaghetti pesto that I’d bought to *ahem* look at the ingredients list. I ended up burning my pan so badly, I’m still soaking it trying to get it clean. Methinks someone is trying to tell me something…

So What’s The Big Deal?

The Urban Homemaker published an article by Sandy Tuin on the Top 10 Troublesome Ingredients. They are:

  1. Natural Flavors (although they occur naturally, they sometimes come from nuts, wheat, and other foods that are allergens for some people.)
  2. Artificial Colorings
  3. Chemical Cocktails (these include chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, the residue of which ends up on our food. Some studies have linked them to cancer and birth defects. Conveniently, Laura at Heavenly Homemakers will be covering pesticides in an upcoming carnival post.)
  4. Sodium Nitrite
  5. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  6. rBGH
  7. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  8. Sodium
  9. Omega-6
  10. Trans Fat

Each one of these could easily be a whole post in itself! Please click through to the article to read other names under which these items are hidden, foods in which they are found, why they are harmful, and how to avoid them.

Artificial Colorings

image Let’s start with Artificial Colorings. For one, there is no nutritional value to them. Further, the Feingold Association of the United States says on their overview page that "[n]umerous studies show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior, and/or health effects for sensitive people."

There is an impressive list of symptoms and problems that have been alleviated in people who follow the Feingold program, which is a diet that determines if certain food additives or foods are triggering undesirable symptoms. Some of the items on the list include (click on the links for more information on each): ADD/ADHD, asthma, autism, bedwetting, depression, learning disabilities, ear infections, eczema, headaches/migraines, IBS/Crohn’s Disease, seizures, sleep disorders, speech difficulties, and violent or aggressive behavior. Whew!

For more information on food dyes, click through to an article at the New York Times titled "Do Food Dyes Affect Kids’ Behavior?" This article referenced a study that I found in many, many places:

[A] study published in September 2007 in the medical journal the Lancet supporting what some parents and scientists had suspected for decades — that food dyes are linked to hyperactivity, even in kids who don’t normally exhibit this behavior.

"The position in relation to artificial food colors is analogous to the state of knowledge about lead and IQ that was being evaluated in the early 1980s," says the study’s lead author, Jim Stevenson, psychology professor at the University of Southampton, in a March letter to the UK Food Standards Agency, urging action.

Sodium Nitrate

Next on the list is Sodium Nitrate, which is a preservative that can mix with chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamines, a carcinogenic substance linked to cancers of the pancreas, bladder and brain.  It is found in cured meats like bacon, ham, and most lunchmeat.image

The article The Truth About 7 Common Food Additives at WebMD.com has this to say:

There is evidence that sodium nitrite could have been to blame for a lot of the gastric cancers that people had in the past. Until the early 1930s, gastric cancer caused the most deaths of all cancers in the United States. After that, more Americans began to use modern refrigeration and ate less cured meat. Also, producers started to use much less sodium nitrite in the curing process around that time. As these changes took place, deaths from gastric cancer also dropped dramatically.

This theory has been debated for decades, and it is still an open question.

Furthermore, NaturalNews.com reported back in 2005 on a study done in Hawaii that "processed meat consumption results in 67% increase in pancreatic cancer risk." Both of those sources sound pretty serious, yet I’ll tell you in part three why you’ll be prying bacon out of my cold, dead hands.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Refined sugar has already been covered in this spring cleaning series, and that includes High Fructose Corn Syrup. For more information, please click through to Katie’s post and Donielle’s two posts and also this article from Dr. Joseph Mercola, "Sugar May Be Bad, But This Sweetener is Far More Deadly."


image One topic I know little about is rBGH, which stands for recombinant bovine growth hormone, and it makes dairy cows produce more milk. Research has tied it to prostate, colon and breast cancers. Several countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the European Union have banned rbGH because of its impacts on human and animal health, and furthermore, several large companies including Safeway, Publix, Kroger, Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill have made strides toward phasing out rBGH.

The Weston A. Price Foundation’s article "Milk: It Does a Body Good?" says that "FDA documents show that cows injected with rBGH are 79 percent more likely to contract mastitis. […] Other problems include reproductive difficulties, increased need for antibiotics, digestive problems, enlarged hocks and lesions, and foot problems." As a former nursing mother who was able to ward off the early stages of mastitis, all I can say is OUCH.

MSG (monosodium glutamate)

Dr. Joseph Mercola’s article "MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets?" has a great deal of information on MSG and why it is dangerous. MSG can affect the nervous system and make you feel hungrier than you really are. It may also cause a number of other symptoms that vary from person to person and depend on each individual’s level of sensitivity. image

Dr. Mercola quotes Dr. Russell Blaylock as saying "MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more."

Unfortunately, MSG is sneaky; or rather, food manufacturers are getting sneaky about how it ends up in our food. TruthInLabeling.org has a long list of Hidden Sources of Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG) on their website. What’s worse is that MSG can be created during processing, even though it is not added as an ingredient.

According to PeaceHealth.org, symptoms of MSG include headache, flushing, tingling, weakness, and stomachache, and that "after eating meals prepared with MSG, people with MSG sensitivity may have migraine headache, visual disturbance, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, tightness of the chest, skin rash, or sensitivity to light, noise, or smells." An even longer list of symptoms can be found at MSG Myth. Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up wrote a post about how fertility is affected by MSG and this week’s Monday Mission discusses its hidden forms as well.


Sodium is not necessarily a bad thing, but processed foods go way overboard. You can read more about Katie’s sodium and salt recommendations in her post Seeking Information about Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Diet. Kelly the Kitchen Kop tells us why high-quality sea salt is better than table salt in her post "Redmonds REAL SALT – Sea Salt".

Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Trans Fats

Katie has already tackled Omega-6 in her "Fat Full Fall" series. You can read more about Omega-6 at Paring Down the Polys and Are Polyunsaturated Oils Healthy?  Find more about how to Search Out Trans Fats and How to Find Sneaky Trans Fats in Your Home as well.

Now What Do I Do?

For starters, head on over to Nettacow where Lenetta will give you some ultra-practical information on how to start avoiding some or all of these nasty food additives.  You can also link up any related posts, including your own story, research, questions you have, or additive-free recipes (homemade anything, pretty much!) in the carnival.  The Feingold Association generously donated the giveaway prize this week, offered only at Nettacow, so get over there for part three!

Of course, if you really want to get the additives out, you’ll make a lot from scratch…like Healthy Snacks To Go, perhaps? (shameless plug)  You can buy my new eBook, hot off the keyboard, and be on your way to an additive-free spring as soon as you check your email!

Next week we’ll feature Kelly the Kitchen Kop talking CAFOs.

Last Week’s Winners

I just love that there were so many positive comments about MadeOn Hard Lotion in last week’s paraben-free lotion review@retrofemme pointed out on Twitter that not only are MadeOn’s ingredients totally safe, but the container is even plastic free and reusable (Fake Plastic Fish has to love that!). 

Also, just after MadeOn started advertising with Kitchen Stewardship, I received this email from a reader:

I sent my order to Made On on Monday, and received the bars (and some extras she included) yesterday (Thursday).  Incredibly fast!!  Today my hands are on their way to being really healed for the first time in I can’t even say how long.  Not itching, no peeling, no bleeding ALL DAY!  I am truly amazed and grateful.

Love, love, love that I have such an awesome sponsor!

And now, for the lucky winners!  Your choice of either the SkinMD Naturals lotion or the MadeOn Hard Lotion:

Sarah W (sarahonline@)

And the second winner:

Kanmuri of In a Thousand Directions

Email me with your contact info, and Sarah, you get your choice!

Photo credits: Laurie | Liquid Paper, consumedithis, Boered, qviri

Click here for my disclaimer and advertising disclosure - affiliate links in this post will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price.

13 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    wow, this is such a great list to start reading about.

    You know, the info about the artificial colors piqued my interest. My daughter loves those things that she probably shouldn’t have. sugar, wheat, and in this case “fruit punch.” You know, that icky red stuff. Well she had a far amount last night at dinner…and then kept us up all night last night. Hummmm…hyperactivity….red-food color…I wonder if we just didn’t keep ourselves up by giving it to her in the first place. My son drank apple-juice, and slept just fine.
    More water I say!

    Also, would you have some tips on how to get rid of parental guilt? I know there are things that I can say “no” to because I am adult, like a slice of chocolate cake. But when the kids beg for it, and then sometimes throw a fit…I try to keep my eye on the prize…keep my cool, and know that it is for their health that I am making them upset…(just emotionally, no belly ache though.) I still feel guilty, like I want to give them everything that they want. How do you deal with this? Is it a slippery slope? Cave once and they’ll put up a bigger fuss next time and I’ll feel even more guilt? Your advice? Thanks!

    • says

      Stick to your guns, is all I can say. Provide some treats here and there (chocolate cake can be made without sugar and chemicals if done right), but provide them when the children are *behaving*. Not as an award, but just “we’re having a treat today.”

      Then, when they throw, a gentle reminder that “we have treats at other times” is all that is necessary (they’ll still throw a fit, but they’ll come to believe you – eventually 😉 ).

      Good luck!
      .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Unintended Consequences =-.

    • Katie says

      The question of the year for moms! It’s so hard to feel guilty for saying “no sweets” etc all the time. I hate being “mean mom!” You are def. right about the slippery slope. Here are my strategies:
      1. Have a definite rule. We used to allow a dessert after every meal, but I just switched it to once a day, and I thought I would receive AWFUL fallout from my son who absolutely adores his candy, but after a few days, he was cool with it. We just say, “Did you already have your dessert today?” or “Did you have a dessert at lunch?” instead of “Only one dessert a day! No!”
      2. Think of some taglines, like above, that you can say every time. If you plan ahead what you’ll say, you’re less likely to get emotional about it and battle.
      3. Explain why, if the child’s personality fits that. I felt so rewarded a few days ago when my son got a cold and announced:”I’m not having dessert for 2 days!” Why? I asked. “I want to get better fast and sugar is bad for a cold!” Ahhhhhh. Parenting does actually work sometimes!

      In your case, you might point out to your daughter (if she’s old enough) how she felt after that red juice. Sometimes kids can really see/feel the connections once we point them out, and they’re more willing to change their behavior then.
      4. Be a good example: “I really want some sweets right now, too, but we’ll practice our self control and do X fun thing instead.”
      5. Remind yourself that you’re the parent, and once you say something is a rule, you have to win or they’ll never believe you next time. You have to win. It’s your job!

      I hope those give you some encouragement and inspiration! You can do it! Remember that after a few days of fussing about a new rule, if you’re consistent, the arguments will go away b/c they understand that you will win. They cannot win. 😉

  2. says

    I have to thank my high school bio teacher for starting my interest in knowing what’s in my food…he claims that margarine will never “go bad” because no living organism can live on it and therefore spoil it. Hard to imagine until you start to really understand what goes into modern food.

    Thank you for this informative post – the collection of links is great. Anything that helps keep all these granola issues in the forefront of my mind is appreciated!
    .-= Tan@tan/green´s last blog ..A Granola Family Goes for (Additive Free) Fast Food =-.

  3. says

    Yes, artificial colors definitely affect kid’s behavior, especially if they already have food sensitivities. The clincher was when I gave my daughter a sugar free popsicle – artificial everything – and within 15 minutes her eyes were dilated and she was bouncing off the walls and going crazy. Just the same as her worst food allergy. Needless to say, no more artificial popsicles. Got a quick popsicle maker and lots of good natural juices. Good exercise in patience too. It’s only 10 minutes to finished popsicle but the girls love to watch the timer count down.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Chestnut chocolate truffle torte =-.

  4. says

    The “troublesome ingredients” list reads like a collection of the diet fad du jours over the last 20 years. Pointing fingers at single ingredients doesn’t help anyone. As for the Princeton study, it only took a few hours for nutrition experts to question its finding. In fact, noted New York University Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle wrote: “I don’t think the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats. I’m afraid I have to agree with the Corn Refiners on this one. So does HFCS make rats fat? Sure if you feed them too many calories altogether. Sucrose will do that too.”

    • Katie says

      You definitely have a point. Sometimes it’s easier for us to demonize things than just change our eating habits. Ultimately, making food from scratch and eating appropriate portions would go a LONG way to increasing the health of our country and our families.

      Very interesting note about the research – seems like everything in food science is questioned by someone, somewhere!
      :) Katie

  5. says

    This further stresses the point that we need rational servings of nature food. All this processing and all the additives are in a way a fad as they haven’t been done for long enough to know the results. Eating whole, natural food – even canning and pickling and baking – have hundreds of years of supporting data. and yes, moderation is key.

  6. says

    oh my gosh, thank you both! Katie, I literally felt a bit stronger after reading your message. :)
    I have seen it so many times, kids searching for boundaries. How far can I push it? When must I stop? I feel the children of those parents who provide boundaries seem much better behaved. They know definatively what is okay and what isn’t.
    I don’t know why I didn’t marry this philosophy with the meal-time logic. You are so right, create boundaries, be consistent, and keep a positive attitude. All easier said than done of course, but in the end, I hope that my child will tell me that he doesn’t need sugar so he can beat a cold. :) What a wonderful reward.
    This carnival is so interesting. I can’t wait to learn more. thank you!

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