As we’ve explored in Part I and II of this series, our federal laws on chemical food additives are deeply flawed and broken. Major loopholes have allowed for food manufacturers to use whatever additives they want, with little public information or transparency regarding safety.
Clearly we have a lot of work to do in the grocery store, our kitchens and in Congress. It is on all of these fronts that we can change the status quo. Like most large scale problems, there are multiple solutions and no singular silver bullet.
Close the “Generally Recognized As Safe” GRAS loophole
Due to a loophole in federal law, the FDA isn’t doing its job when it comes to protecting us from harmful food additives. The majority of additives are given a free pass to be used in our food under the GRAS provision, which was originally intended to be used for additives like sugar and salt.
It’s time that we use our collective power to let Congress and the FDA know that the GRAS loophole must be closed. We need full transparency on the additives used in our food, they should be proven safe before they are added to our food and the FDA needs to use their power to hold food companies accountable for food safety.
–> Sign this petition asking the FDA to close the GRAS loophole.
List of chemical additives to avoid when shopping.
this list by the Center for Science in the Public Interest of chemical additives to avoid while shopping.
For processed food with less additives, try Costco.
I’m regularly impressed by the types of processed food Costco carries on its shelves. In the last three years, the access to organic food at Costco has dramatically increased. They have organic food at bargain prices including some of my staples: frozen berries, quinoa, carrots, hummus and more.
Even more impressive is Costco carries a lot of processed food that have very little to no chemical additives. I have tried their vegetable burgers (way better than chemical laden Boca burgers), pot stickers, and more. If you live by a Coscto and don’t have a membership, I highly recommend joining. Even if there is only one or two in your household, you can save a lot of money and avoid chemical food additives by shopping smart at Costco’s warehouse.
Choose “healthier” junk food.
(Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from the links below I will receive a small fee, at no extra cost to you. This helps support my writing, thank you.)
Check out the book, Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks, by Andrea Donsky, Randy Boyer and Lisa Tsakos.
We all eat junk food from time to time and I am a big proponent of balance since eating healthy can go to the extreme of being rigid and unhealthy with yourself. In this great book, the authors outline healthier options for junk food. It’s focus is looking at chemical additive ingredients and finds safer options for your favorite pre-made chocolate chip cookies, fig bars, jelly beans and more. The best part is it’s small enough to fit in your purse while shopping.
You can buy a copy here.
Learn a few simple, easy to cook recipes.
The key to decreasing our dependence on processed food is to learn how to cook fast, simple and healthy meals.
Processed food has higher levels of salt, sugar and fat compared to food you make at home increasing sodium and caloric intake per meal. There are also harmful chemical food additives as we discussed before and to top it all off chemicals used in food packaging are also unregulated leaching into our foods.
I know that it’s not an easy transition moving from a processed food diet to cooking. But the good news is it isn’t as hard as you may think.
I’ve written about many recipes for slackers that will be easy to make, delicious and healthy. In addition here are some great healthy snack suggestions for when you’re having those junk food cravings.
Want to learn more about this topic?
Part I– The “process” food companies need to go through to get their additives approved (hint: it’s a joke!) – Read more.
Part II – Did you know over 5,000 chemical food additives are NOT required to be listed on ingredient labels? – Read more.
I agree! Costco has a great selection of organics and processed foods. A much safer bet than the regular grocery store.
Read any list of ingredients on any processed food and it is just overwhelming. Thank you for parsing out the worst offenders. I’m ready to throw my hands up, though, and just make as much of our food as possible. Off to check out your Recipes for Slackers.
Thanks Green Bean – totally overwhelming, isn’t it? I’m trying to find the balance of mostly cooked meals, but still finding some processed foods without driving myself nuts.
I had no idea about Costco. There is one near me but I just assumed that they would not have the types of things I would like. The graphic with the list of ingredients is great too!
Leigh, it’s really amazing to see what Costco has. I was a hater at first, and then realized how much they were doing to provide organic options AND many of their processed foods have real food ingredients. Love it!
I LOVE Costco!! I stopped going to other wholesale clubs and now my ritual is Costco -> Whole Foods -> Asian Grocery Store in that order. Love Costco’s affordable prices for their organics and the variety they offer.
I recently wrote “What’s Real Food” (https://www.ecokaren.com/what-is-real-food/) and this list is what real foodies avoid. I’m chuckling on Ginko Biloba. They add that to foods??? I love eating ginko nuts as food though.
But I have to say, I’m about to launch a fit on all the additives and food coloring in children’s vitamins. It’s so wrong… I still need to call you about it.
Wow … this was very enlightening. First, I would never have guessed that Costco was so healthy. It is totally impressive that they choose not to fill their shelves with a lot of junk but rather offer some great choices, including organic. Go Costco (and hop others follow your lead). Second, I didn’t know that Aloe Vera and Ginkgo Biloba should be avoided. Do you know why? Can you direct me to any articles on the subject. Thanks so much … I learned a lot!
Yes here are the two resources for Aloe and Ginko Bilboa specifically from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Aloe: https://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#aloevera Ginko: https://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#GINKGO. Hope this helps! Don’t get me wrong, Costco carries its fair share of junk food, but I’m surprised that many of their processed foods when you look at the ingredients have very few additives and are mostly… FOOD!
Thanks, so much, for the information … I’m off to read and be informed! :-)
Thank you Lindsay, that’s good to know and I will definitely carry your list when I shop even though I seldom buy processed foods. What are your thoughts on carrageenan? I thought it was a natural seaweed but I’m hearing more & more that it has carcinogenic properties. I’m always researching and love your blog. Heidi
Heidi – good question re carrageenan, I am planning on writing about this very topic soon! (you can join my mailing list to make sure you don’t miss it.) In short, there are two forms of carrageenan, both of which have different health outcomes, but aren’t both used in food. More on this soon!