Be informed and make the right choices when it comes to what your children eat. Find out about harmful substances and additives in your kids’ food.
When you monitor what your child eats you may keep an eye on the amount of sugar and fat in your child’s diet. But you should also watch out for food additives. Some have been found to have harmful effects on young children such as causing disruptive changes in behaviour and even damage to cells in the body.
What are food additives?
They are natural or artificial chemical substances that food manufacturers may add to various processed foods to preserve flavour or improve the taste and appearance. For example, additives are commonly used in foods that need long shelf lives.
How can food additives affect children?
Some additives in food have been identified as causing disruptive changes in behaviour (such as hyperactivity) whereas others may affect brain function or cause an adverse allergic reaction.
5 commonly-used additives you should watch for in food:
1. Artificial colours. Any substance that begins with FD &C (e.g. FD&C Blue #1). These dyes are most often used in coloured candies, cereals and even yoghurt. Long term consumption of artificial dyes have been linked with causing migraines and colon cancer.
2. Chemical preservatives. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), sodium nitrate and sodium benzoate are found in jellies, margarine, jam and soft drinks. These substances can cause dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach ulcers.
3. Artificial sweeteners – aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin are found in diet sodas, packaged drinks and fruit juices. Studies have shown that long term or excessive consumption of such sweeteners can cause liver damage and breathing difficulties.
4. Added sugar. high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup and dextrose . These naturally-derived sweeteners are used in soft drinks, biscuits, tomato ketchup and even so-called ‘healthy foods’ such as salad dressings and cereal bars. High HFCS consumption may be connected to obesity, liver damage and increased chances of diabetes in later life.
5. Added salt. While salt is added to many foods, health risks arise with the consumption of excess salt in fast food or pre-packaged meals. Children who eat more salt are at risk from kidney damage and heart disease. Take note of the sodium content and choose foods with the lowest amounts.
The best safeguard is to read food labels carefully and avoid these products whenever possible. If your child does display an adverse reaction contact a doctor immediately.
Does food safety worry you? What are some of your strategies in ensuring and selecting food for your family?