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California’s Ban on Four Food Additives, previously approved by the FDA

California is taking a bold step by banning four common food additives – Red Dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, and propylparaben – through the California Food Safety Act. Set to take effect on January 1, 2027, this law offers a grace period for brands to reformulate their products and eliminate these harmful chemicals. Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized the importance of this move to protect public health and stated that individuals or entities manufacturing, selling, or distributing food products containing these additives in California can face fines of up to $5,000 for the first violation and up to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.

What Are These Additives and Where Are They Found?

These four banned additives are commonly found in ultra-processed foods. Red Dye No. 3 is employed as a coloring agent in red or pink icings, drinks, and candies, particularly those flavored with cinnamon, peppermint, cherry, or berry. This includes popular holiday-themed treats like conversation hearts, candy corn, and candy canes, as well as some brands of jelly beans. Brominated vegetable oil serves as a stabilizer for flavor oils, primarily in citrus-flavored store-brand sodas. Potassium bromate acts as a leavening agent, while propylparaben functions as a preservative, both commonly used in packaged baked goods such as tortillas, bread, and pastries.

Extensive research, primarily conducted on animals over the past few decades, has linked these chemicals to various health concerns, including cancer, reproductive issues, and neurobehavioral problems such as hyperactivity. Some of these issues may arise from the potential impact of these chemicals on the endocrine system, which regulates hormone function in the body.

Children are a particular focus of the California law, as they are more likely to consume products containing these additives and are more vulnerable to potential negative consequences due to their developing organs. Notably, the European Union and several other countries have already prohibited the use of these chemicals in food items due to similar concerns.

Will Other States Follow Suit?

New York state legislators have proposed a similar statewide ban, which is currently under consideration by the Senate Agriculture Committee. In California, Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel clarified that the intent of the bill is not to remove products containing these additives from supermarket shelves but to encourage food companies to transition to safer alternatives already in use in Europe and elsewhere. If manufacturers reformulate their products for California, this shift could potentially lead to the removal of these chemicals from food products nationwide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) periodically reevaluates authorized food additives and may take action if new data suggests an ingredient is unsafe.

While it remains unclear if these chemicals are harmful in small amounts, the FDA has established limits on the quantity of a given food additive that can be used in a product. The cumulative exposure from multiple sources, given the prevalence of these additives in various food products, is a cause for concern. Many brands have already started phasing out these additives, making it possible to find products with less harmful ingredients.

Are There Other Additives to Watch Out For?

Initially, the California bill proposed banning a fifth ingredient, titanium dioxide, commonly used as a whitening agent in candies, creamy salad dressings, frozen pizzas, and ice cream. The European Union banned titanium dioxide as a food additive in 2022 due to concerns about its potential DNA-damaging effects. While it was removed from the California bill through a State Senate amendment in September, it is still included in the proposed New York bill, highlighting ongoing concerns about its safety as well.

California’s ban on these four food additives underscores the growing awareness of the potential health risks associated with certain chemicals in our food supply. While this move primarily affects California, it could set a precedent for other states and encourage manufacturers to prioritize safer alternatives in their products, ultimately benefiting consumers’ health nationwide.

Tobacco Giants Secretly Introduced Hyper-Palatable Foods into the American Diet: New Study Reveals Alarming Findings

How Tobacco Companies Masterminded a Food Revolution with Dangerous Consequences

In a shocking revelation, a groundbreaking study published on September 8, 2023, has exposed the clandestine involvement of US tobacco giants in the proliferation of hyper-palatable foods (HPF) in the American food system. Conducted by researchers at the University of Kansas, this study provides empirical evidence of how tobacco companies strategically disseminated foods designed to be irresistibly tasty and potentially addictive. The implications of this revelation are far-reaching, shedding light on the intersection of public health, corporate influence, and government regulation.

Background and Aims: The Tobacco-Food Connection

The study delves into the historical connection between tobacco and food industries. Surprisingly, during the years 1980 to 2001, leading tobacco companies like Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds owned major US food corporations. This period coincided with the meteoric rise of hyper-palatable foods, which are characterized by combinations of fat, sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates designed to trigger an artificially rewarding eating experience.

To uncover the extent of tobacco’s involvement in shaping the American food landscape, the researchers combed through primary industry documents, seeking food brands that were owned by tobacco companies. These documents, housed in the University of California San Francisco’s Industry Documents Library, unveiled a comprehensive list of 373 tobacco-owned brands.

Next, the study integrated data sets from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which represent the American food system. The analysis focused on three crucial time periods: 1988, 2001, and 2018, capturing the tobacco companies’ leadership in the food industry.

Key Findings: Tobacco’s Impact on Food Palatability

The study found that during the critical period of 1988 to 2001, foods owned by tobacco companies were found to be 29% more likely to be classified as fat and sodium HPF and a staggering 80% more likely to be carbohydrate and sodium HPF. These statistics indicate that tobacco giants had a significant hand in the development and dissemination of hyper-palatable foods.

Additionally, the researchers observed that in 2018, regardless of their prior tobacco ownership status, these hyper-palatable foods remained highly prevalent in the American food landscape. Fat and sodium HPF were found in over 57% of food products, and carbohydrate and sodium HPF exceeded 17%, suggesting a widespread saturation of these foods in the market.

The study draws parallels between the tactics employed by tobacco companies in maximizing the addictiveness of cigarettes and their approach to crafting hyper-palatable foods. For instance, tobacco companies utilized specific nicotine delivery thresholds and manipulated nicotine delivery to enhance addiction. Similarly, they added ingredients to increase the appeal and acceptability of cigarettes, such as menthol and sugar.

Implications: A New Public Health Concern

This revelation raises serious public health concerns. The prevalence of hyper-palatable foods in the American diet has been linked to overconsumption, obesity, and potential addiction. Despite the mounting evidence of the detrimental health effects of these foods, there are currently no federal regulations addressing their accessibility.

The study suggests that the American food environment today resembles the era of the tobacco epidemic in the 1950s when tobacco products were unregulated. In response to revelations about tobacco industry practices, the US federal government implemented regulations to control the availability and marketing of tobacco products. The study argues that a similar approach may be needed to regulate hyper-palatable foods, given the alarming evidence that the same tobacco companies may have played a role in shaping the current food landscape.

The study’s findings have unveiled a troubling chapter in the history of American corporate influence on public health. The involvement of tobacco giants in the proliferation of hyper-palatable foods highlights the need for regulatory action to protect the well-being of consumers. As the debate over food regulation heats up, one thing is clear: this study has exposed a hidden link between tobacco and food, with potentially dire consequences for public health.

Removal of MSG from Unsafe Database

Unraveling the MSG Enigma: A Comprehensive Analysis

Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a ubiquitous flavor enhancer, has been systematically withdrawn from the list of unsafe ingredients in the Supermarket App Pro database. This strategic move is rooted in a thorough reevaluation of MSG’s safety status, prompted by the evolving understanding of its impact on human health.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in Focus

Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG, has been a renowned flavor enhancer for nearly a century. With roots dating back to the early 1900s, this additive has earned both appreciation and apprehension in culinary circles worldwide.

Though naturally occurring in select foods, MSG has found extensive application in various cuisines, including Chinese dishes, canned products, and processed foods. The reexamination of MSG’s reputation arises from the recognition that its perceived negative effects might be less definitive than initially assumed.

Dispelling the Myth

Once vilified as a detrimental ingredient, MSG gained notoriety in the 1960s when Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok linked his adverse symptoms to Chinese cuisine consumption. This sparked widespread misinformation and negative associations with MSG, possibly fueled by biases against Chinese culinary traditions.

Subsequent research endorsed the idea that MSG was perilous, citing methodological flaws, inadequate control groups, and excessively high doses that diverged from real-world consumption patterns. However, contemporary investigations have unveiled the fallacies of this perception.

A Fresh Perspective

Contemporary analyses conducted by reputable health authorities, including the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Food Safety Association (EFSA), collectively recognize MSG as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Furthermore, these entities have established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for MSG, far surpassing the customary dietary consumption.

Unraveling MSG’s Impact

The spectrum of studies scrutinizing MSG’s health effects ranges from its supposed contributions to obesity and metabolic disorders to concerns over brain health and sensitivity reactions. Although earlier research proposed associations between MSG and negative outcomes, these have been met with contradictory evidence. Exploring the potential consequences on energy intake, obesity, and brain function reveals a complex interplay of factors. The correlation between MSG and energy consumption remains ambiguous, with some studies suggesting appetite reduction and others implying the potential for overeating. Contradictions in the realm of obesity and metabolic disorders persist, as newer research challenges previous findings. While animal studies initially suggested an adverse relationship, more recent investigations have unveiled the possibility of anti-obesity effects, necessitating further human-focused studies.

The brain health discourse centers on glutamate’s role as a neurotransmitter, with concerns over excessive glutamate levels potentially causing cell death. Yet, evidence indicates that dietary glutamate hardly affects brain chemistry due to its efficient metabolism.

Addressing Sensitivity

A fraction of individuals may experience the MSG symptom complex (MSC), typified by symptoms akin to those recounted by Dr. Kwok. However, such reactions are exceedingly rare, with the threshold dose for these symptoms far exceeding typical dietary exposure.

The Path Forward

While once engulfed in controversy, MSG emerges with a renewed image of safety and value in flavor enhancement. The current consensus underscores that moderate consumption of MSG poses minimal risks, highlighting the importance of individual sensitivity. For those interested in moderating MSG intake, scrutinizing ingredient lists on packaged foods and condiments will ensure informed choices. This insight is critical, given that regulatory mandates necessitate the declaration of MSG presence on packaging.

The transformation from apprehension to appreciation of MSG reflects the dynamism of food science and the importance of remaining receptive to evidence-based knowledge.

Written by ChatGPT, Prompted by FYU

Supermarket App Pro’s Unsafe Database compared to EWG’s Unsafe Database

We randomly compared our banned ingredient list with the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG.com) list and have confirmed that our banned list is almost the same as EWG’s banned list.  Its important to note, however, that we did not check all 1000+ unsafe ingredients.

Database Comparison

Ingredient Supermarket App Pro EWG
Polysorbate 80 Present in the Unsafe database Yellow (1 – 3)*
Mono and diglycerides Not present Green (1)*
Monosodium glutamate Present in the Unsafe database Yellow*
Sodium Benzoate Present but OK for external use Yellow (1 – 3)*
Caramel Color Present in the Unsafe database Yellow*

*EWG scores ingredients from 1 to 10 and color codes them.  Green = Safe, Yellow and Red = Unsafe to Dangerous

The Supermarket App Pro’s ingredient list is not exactly the same as EWG’s because we also have ingredients on our banned list that is not on EWG’s of-concern list, for example:

Ingredient Supermarket App Pro EWG
Sucralose Present in the Unsafe database Green
Sodium Phosphate Present in the Unsafe database Green

Its important to note that these ingredients are in Supermarket App Pro’s Unsafe database because they are artificial sweeteners (Sucralose) and artificial preservatives (sodium phosphate)

Here are reference studies to support that Sucralose in fact affects gut microbiome:

Low dose sucralose alter gut microbiome in mice
Published 25 Feb 2022

Here is an excerpt from the research:

” However, researches have confirmed that sucralose can change the composition of gut microbiome, inhibiting intestinal development, and aggravating HFD-induced hepatic steatosis in adulthood (5, 9).

Gut microbiome refers to the complex community of microorganisms living in the digestive tract of human and animals, its number is about 10 times than our body cells (10). The balance between host and gut microbiome is essential to maintain a healthy gut barrier and optimal immune homeostasis, which helps to prevent the occurrence of diseases (11, 12). Gut microbiome contribute to the metabolic health of the human host, when aberrant, it will cause the pathogenesis of various common metabolic disorders including obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease, cardio-metabolic diseases and malnutrition (13).”

Here are reference studies to support that sodium phosphate can, in fact, be unsafe for us.

Phosphate Additives in Food—a Health Risk
Published January 2012

Here is an excerpt from the research:

“One important step would be to inform physicians and the public thoroughly about the potential risks to cardiovascular and renal function arising from dietary phosphate consumption. Phosphate has long been known to elevate the cardiovascular risk in dialysis patients, but analogous effects have only recently been shown in persons with moderately impaired renal function (of whom the number is growing) and even in persons with normal renal function (6, 7, 23). The changing age structure of the population, with ever more elderly people, further deepens the implications of this problem for health policy, as does the high prevalence of “diseases of civilization,” such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and coronary heart disease, that damage the kidneys and accelerate the age-related decline of renal function. The link between phosphate and progressive renal failure was already suspected and investigated in the early 1980s (24, e10).”

Mono and diglycerides, removed from unsafe database

Aside from adding unsafe ingredients to our database, we also remove ingredients from the database when we come across new information.  In Nov, 2017, there was a published study written by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources.  The title of the study, “Re-evaluation of mono- and di- glycerides of fatty acids (E471) as food additives.

Here are the important takeaways of that study:

  • The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has evaluated the safety of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (E 471), a food additive used in a wide range of foods.
  • EFSA considered two scenarios to assess exposure: regulatory maximum level and reported use levels. The non-brand-loyal scenario covering the general population was deemed the most appropriate and realistic scenario for risk characterization.
  • The exposure estimates to E 471 ranged from 10 to 26 mg/kg bw per day, at the mean, and from 21 to 58 mg/kg bw per day for the 95th percentile in the adult population group. The contribution of E 471 to the daily fatty acid intake ranged from 0.8% to 7.8%.
  • EFSA concluded that there was no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI) for E 471, and that the food additive was of no safety concern at the reported uses and use levels.
  • EFSA recommended that the European Commission consider revising the EU specifications for E 471 to include maximum limits for toxic elements, impurities, residual solvents, trans fatty acids, glycidyl esters, and erucic acid, and generate more data to decrease uncertainty regarding the occurrence of compounds of toxicological concern.
  • The current re-evaluation of E 471 as a food additive is not applicable for infants under the age of 12 weeks.

Its important to note that this study was 45 pages long.  You can access this study, via a PDF here.

Because this study was 45 pages long, we used Chatgpt to provide the bulleted summary above.  Because there was no need for an ADI for E471, we removed this ingredient from our unsafe database.

Mercury, and permutations thereof, added to unsafe database

Mercury, a toxic ingredient, has been banned in the US since 1973 (in products with levels higher than 1ppm).  Unfortunately inorganic mercury compounds are still being used in skin lightening soaps and creams originating from products imported from outside of the US. For this reason,  we have added mercury and mercury ingredient permutations to our unsafe database. This includes the following:

  • mercurous chloride
  • calomel
  • mercuric
  • mercurio

Some imported skin-lightening products that contain these ingredients are:

  • G&G Super White Cream
  • Acura Strong Bleaching Face Cream
  • Mekako Skin Lightening Cream
  • Top Gel MCA Extra Pearl Cream
  • Diana Stalder Lightening Soap

(list of products provided by ChatGPT, and has not been humanly verified)

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause a range of health problems, including kidney damage, memory loss, tremors, and developmental delays in children. Exposure to mercury can occur through inhalation of mercury vapors or ingestion of contaminated food or water.

The use of mercury in skin lightening products is particularly concerning because the skin is the largest organ of the body and can absorb chemicals directly into the bloodstream. In addition, skin lightening products are often used for extended periods of time, increasing the risk of exposure to mercury and its harmful effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recognized the dangers of using mercury in skin lightening products and has called for a ban on the use of mercury in cosmetic products. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has also identified the elimination of mercury in products as a priority area of action.

Consumers can protect themselves by avoiding skin lightening products that contain mercury and checking ingredient labels carefully. In addition, regulatory authorities should take action to ensure that these products are not sold in their respective countries.

In conclusion, the inclusion of mercury and its permutations in our unsafe ingredient database is an important step in protecting consumers from the harmful effects of this toxic ingredient. It is important that consumers, regulatory authorities, and manufacturers work together to eliminate the use of mercury in cosmetic products and promote safer alternatives.

PEG ingredients, added to unsafe database

Based on all the information coming from NY State as well as a cross-reference with the Environmental Working Group’s website, we have decided to include all PEG ingredients to the unsafe ingredient database of the Supermarket App Pro.  The reason for the concern is because PEG and PEG compounds have been found to be contaminated with ethylene oxide (carcinogen, classified by the IARC) and 1,4 dioxane (probably carcinogen, classified by the EPA)

Below are articles that discuss the NY State ban and restrictions on PEG ingredients:

We’ve also crossed-reference these PEG ingredients with the Environmental Working Groups database and you can find that here…

If you scroll down to the ingredient concerns you will see that all these PEG compounds, including other PEG compounds not mentioned here, are contaminated with 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide.

For the reasons mentioned above, we’ve included PEG and all PEG compounds in the Supermarket App Pro’s unsafe database. When you scan a product with a PEG ingredient.

‘Fragrance’ ingredient, added to unsafe database

A recently published, comprehensive review of fragrances and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in personal care and household products has prompted the addition of fragrance to the unsafe database of the Supermarket App Pro, an unsafe ingredient scanner. The review, published in the Journal of Xenobiotics, on March of 2023,  “Do fragrances in personal care and household products impact indoor quality and pose healt risks?” highlights the potential health risks of fragrance and its constituents, including exacerbation of specific tumor types and disruption of the endocrine system.

The study found that fragranced products emit hundreds of different VOCs, including potentially hazardous chemicals such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and methylene chloride, many of which are not disclosed on product labels or safety data sheets. These chemicals can negatively impact indoor air quality and expose people to harmful compounds.

The review highlights several concerning findings:

  • Fragranced products developed to clean and disinfect surfaces emit hundreds of different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including potentially hazardous ones like limonene and acetaldehyde.
  • A systematic study showed that limonene and linalool were present as fragrance chemicals in 72% and 45% of the most common household product formulations analyzed worldwide.
  • Fragrance chemicals are VOCs that can impact indoor air quality and negatively affect human health, particularly in sensitive populations.
    Repetitive indoor exposure to fragrance chemicals poses a risk for vulnerable and sensitive persons, like asthmatic and allergic people, people who suffer from migraines, and occupational and housekeeping workers.
  • Fragrance chemicals can also act as endocrine disruptors and exacerbate the aggressiveness of specific tumor types and increase the number of metastases.

Furthermore, the research showed that fragrance chemicals are detected everywhere in several environments and can trigger or intensify episodic and chronic symptoms of allergies, headaches, and cardiovascular diseases in sensitive organisms. In severe cases, fragrance chemicals can interfere with the neuroendocrine-immune axis and promote cancer and developmental problems.

The lack of regulation and disclosure of fragrance constituents in personal care and household products has prompted the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials to undertake risk assessments and safety evaluations for fragrance substances. However, constant surveillance and analysis of fragrance chemicals in products and their formula components are crucial to mitigating the potential health risks associated with their widespread use.

This review highlights the need for a re-evaluation of fragrance’s safety and regulation. The addition of fragrance to Supermarket App Pro’s ingredient database will raise awareness of the potential risks associated with its use and will hopefully encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives.

Homosalate, UV filter, added to unsafe database

If you use a sunblock that uses homosalate as its active UV filter, this is a good time to find an alternative. We have included it as unsafe in our list of ingredients for the Supermarket App Pro.  Here are other brands that use homosalate as the active UV filter:

  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen
  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen
  • Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Sunscreen
  • Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen
  • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen
  • Sun Bum Original Sunscreen
  • EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen
  • CeraVe Sunscreen.

(product list is provided by ChatGPT, and some products have not been humanly verified as of writing)

Its important to note that the US FDA has allowed this compound in concentrations of less than 15% into products but the EU has a different assessment.

Here is the EU’s assessment of ‘homosalate’ https://lnkd.in/dunHhgNq.  Its a 59 page pdf made by the Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety of the European Commission.

In conclusion: (page 52)

On the basis of safety assessment of homosalate, and considering the concerns related to potential endocrine disrupting properties, the SCCS has concluded that homosalate is not safe when used as a UV-filter in cosmetic products at concentrations of up to 10%

….and that the allowable safety concentration is at 0.05%

The European Commission has a 59 page pdf document including opinions based on studies. The FDA has no mention of studies and approves the ingredient in concentrations up to 15%. We made the decision to include it in our list of unsafe ingredients based on the the following information:

The Enviromental Working Group as well as a few other Pubmed studies verify that the ingredient is unsafe. Links below:

Watch the Supermarket App Pro video here, download our app from the Apple Store here.

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Liquid Seasoning

Knorr Liquid seasoning is a staple in Filipino food — you can go to any Filipino household, wherever they are in the world and when you open their refrigerator, you will also find this small, inconspicuous bottle with the green label.  I’m a health nut and even I have a bottle of Knorr liquid seasoning. Watch the Supermarket App Pro scan of Knorr Liquid Seasoning.

Unfortunately, the results have come back and here are the unsafe ingredients found in Knorr liquid seasoning

  • Disodium Guanylate — A food additive used in conjunction with MSG and is responsible for the umami flavor, it helps the intensity of salt so less is needed.  The major concerns for disodium guanylate is the fact that American’s over-consume sodium, which leads to hypertension, increase of stroke, stresses kidneys, as well as other conditions including osteoporosis, stomach cancer, edema, kidney stones, heart failure.
  • Disodium Inosinate — A flavor enhancer, used in conjunction with MSG and disodium guanylate.  Concerns for side effects such as headaches, gastric discomfort, burning sensation, numbness, chest discomfort, skin rashes and worsening of gout symptoms.  Although disodium inosinate has been given the green light approval by most agencies, it doest not mean it is permitted for indiscriminate use.   Use in moderation.
  • Sodium Glutamate and Monosodium Glutamate are both names for MSG — MSG’s safety profile here.

Does this mean that I will throw my Knorr seasoning away?  Probably not, but I won’t be using it to make food for my son anytime soon.

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