What is on the Label is What You Are Eating

As we become more and more health conscious, the labels on the packages of the food we eat get more attention. Food labels provide information that can help us make healthy choices. In most countries the ingredients are listed in the order of their concentration - usually by weight. It is very interesting how many tomato sauce packages you can pick up before you find one that doesn't contain sucrose. Any list of ingredients that has salt near the top of the list should set off alarm bells for anyone with blood pressure problems.

Food manufacturers are required by law to have ingredients on the label, but nowhere is it stated that they have to explain why some of the strange sounding ingredients have been added. Also, it is curious how many ways sugar can be written without actually saying sugar. But it should be emphasized that many of the ingredients that are contained in our food enhance flavour, maintain freshness or contribute to the texture.

Below is a short list of some common ingredients that you may find on food package labels, along with their use and more common names. Some ingredients that are added give the product taste (usually sweetness) and colour, some contribute to the texture while others are preservatives. A few even have nutritional value.

glucose
a sweetener; a sugar; one of the two sugars that make up sucrose or common table sugar
fructose
a sweetener; a sugar, one of the two sugars that make up sucrose or common table sugar
cane extract
a sweetener; just plain table sugar; sucrose
BHT
an antioxidant; added to preserve freshness; Beta-Hydroxy-Toluene
calcium pantothenate
a B vitamin; the calcium salt form
niacinamide
the physiologic form of the B vitamin naicin
malic acid
a low molecular weight organic acid used to enhance flavour
pyridoxine hydrochloride
a form of the B vitamin usually referred to as vitamin B6
citric acid
a low molecular weight organic acid used to enhance flavour
xanthan gum
a polysaccharide produced by Xathomonas campestris used as a stabilizer and emulsifier
soy lechithin
phosphatidyl choline; a surfactant and emulsifier
annatto
an extract of Bixaorellana L., Bixaceae seed added as a colouring agent ( yellow/orange)
disodium inosinate
flavour enhancer
dextrose
D-glucose; a sugar and source of energy
sodium caseinate
specific fraction of milk protein; the sodium salt
maltol
a flavouring agent that gives a “fresh baked” aroma to foods
  1. More on food
  2. additives1

Comments

1 Jamie - Wed, 17 Dec 2003 15:42:48

what I want to know is, what does BHT do to your body, is it bad (like unhealthy), what does it do other than make fresh?

2 Mike - Wed, 17 Dec 2003 15:51:09

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are added to many foods to prevent fat spoilage. This article2 describes what BHA and BHT are, what they do, and how they do it. There is a fairly lengthy list of references because there is controversy over the health effects of BHA, BHT, and other additives. BHT has been banned for use in food in Japan (1958), Romania, Sweden, and Australia. The US has barred it from being used in infant foods. See wikipedia

Other articles on labels §

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External Link Index 1 - http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/6454/additivs.html
2 - http://chemistry.about.com/library/weekly/aa082101a.htm
3 - http://www.nhsc.com.au/consumer/safesearch/toxins.html