Junk Food: a term applied to foods which have little or no nutritional value, or to products which may contain nutrition, but which also contain ingredients considered unhealthy to consume.
The ingredients list given for these types of products contain many different chemicals. Some are safe, and some are not safe at all. And none of these chemicals have been tested in mixtures. They may be even more toxic when combined.
Packaged bakery products are good examples of what I call junk food. (I also include any junk food that can live in a vending machine for weeks and months at a time.)
For instance, let’s look at one of the most popular bakery products in the market. It’s a pastry called the Big Texas Cinnamon Roll.
The ingredient list for this product is kind of scary when you break it down and analyze the unknowns that are actually in it. I’ve done just that below. See what you think after reading it.
An Analysis of the Big Texas Cinnamon Roll
Product size: 4 oz roll | Calories: 440 | Carbs: 62g | Fiber: 2g | Protein: 6g
Ingredient List: Enriched flour, bleached (wheat flour, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid) sugar, water, margarine (palm oil, water, salt, monoglycerides, natural flavor, citric acid, beta carotene color, vitamin A palmitate), egg whites. Contains less than 2% of each of the following: yeast, soybean oil, eggs, whey, cinnamon, dextrose, palm oil, calcium carbonate, monoglycerides, salt, corn starch, milk solids blend (nonfat milk, whey, milk protein concentrate), cocoa processed with alkali, enzyme active soy flour, preservatives (calcium propionate, potassium sorbate, tocopherols), molasses, guar gum, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, propylene glycol, sodium acid pyrophosphate, wheat flour, agar, calcium sulfate, fumaric acid, sodium hexametaphosphate, titanium dioxide color, baking soda, natural and artificial flavors, enzymes, ammonium sulfate, triglycerides, ascorbic acid added as a dough conditioner, xanthan gum,beta carotene color, azodicarbonamide, ethyl alcohol.
Here is a breakdown and explanation of the toxic or unknown ingredients in this product’s components:
- Enriched flour, bleached: There are two chemicals used in the bleaching and aging of flour: Potassium Bromate and Chlorine Dioxide.
- Potassium Bromate: Potassium Bromate is a toxin. It is carcinogenic and competes with iodine in the body, especially when an iodine deficiency is present. It is linked to kidney and thyroid tumors in test animals. It has been banned from use in food products in Europe, as well as the United Kingdom in 1990, and Canada in 1994, and most other countries. It was banned in Sri Lanka in 2001 and China in 2005. It is also banned in Nigeria, Brazil, and Peru. In the United States, it has not been banned. The FDA sanctioned the use of bromate before the Delaney clause of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act went into effect in 1958 — which bans carcinogenic substances — so that it is more difficult for it to now be banned. Instead, since 1991 the FDA has urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it.
- Chlorine dioxide: a basic disinfectant and bleaching agent. No studies have been done on safety. Some believe it is actually helpful as an anti-viral agent when taken internally.
- Sugar: not toxic in a poisonous sense, but sugar molecules are 50% fructose, and fructose has been linked to health conditions such as metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure.
- Margarine: the process of making margarine includes using a solvent called hexane. Hexane is a toxic and volatile chemical made from crude oil.
- Milk protein concentrate: this stuff has a nasty origin – the dried leftovers of dairy processing from all over the world are mixed together and generically called MPC. Big food processing companies like Kraft save money by buying this cheap imported MPC rather than paying a fair price to U.S. dairy farmers. Food processors are petitioning the FDA to change the definition of milk, so they can list the liquid form of MPC as “milk” on product labels.
- Soybean oil and soy flour: soybeans are full of natural toxins that leach minerals from the body. In addition, soy crops are genetically engineered to withstand heavy applications of pesticides. It follows that the products of these crops carry pesticide residue with them. Finally, the process of making vegetable oils such as soybean oil uses several toxic chemicals.
- Preservatives: there are three listed: Calcium propionate: which is a mold inhibitor, and is also used as an anti-fungal medication. Potassium sorbate: a mold and yeast inhibitor which can cause irritation of the skin. Tocopherols: a form of vitamin E. Used as antioxidant and rancidity retardant.
- Guar gum: thickening agent made from Cyamopsis tetragonolobus, a plant of Indian origin. FDA says it’s safe in small amounts. Dangerous when used in weight loss products (it expands when wet and produces a feeling of fullness, but can also block the esophagus and stomach valves.
- Sodium stearoyl lactylate: a form of lactic acid. It is caustic in concentrated solutions.
- Propylene glycol: prevents discoloration during storage. Large doses have been reported to cause central nervous system depression and kidney changes in test animals.
- Sodium acid pyrophosphate: acidic agent used in leavening flour. FDA says it’s safe.
- Agar: thickening and the stabilizing agent made from seaweed. It can cause allergic reactions but generally safe.
- Calcium sulfate: also known as the Plaster of Paris. Used as a firming additive, yeast food, and dough conditioner. Also used in cement, wall plaster and insecticides. Because is absorbs liquid and hardens quickly, it can cause intestinal obstructions when ingested.
- Fumaric acid: acidic agent and antioxidant.
- Sodium hexametaphosphate: an emulsifier, a sequestering agent, and a texturizer. Prevents scale formation and corrosion. Acts to stabilize the product and prevent changes in appearance and texture. May cause respiratory tract irritation. Symptoms may include coughing and shortness of breath. Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to the ingestion of sodium hexametaphosphate that may produce mild chest pain. Also linked to pancreatic cancer in continual doses.
- Titanium dioxide color: white pigment used in foods and industrial products.
- Ammonium sulfate: ammonium salt. Used as yeast food and dough conditioner. Fatal to rats in large doses.
- Xanthan gum: thickening agent made from corn sugar.
- Azodicarbonamide: bleaching and maturing additive for flour. A number of reports have been published of individual workers alleging asthma induced by exposure to azodicarbonamide. May also be a skin irritant.
And this is just one junk food product out of thousands. There are many others with longer ingredient lists and weird, sometimes harmful additives.
I’ve eaten these in the past, and if you don’t mind really, really sweet, they did taste pretty good at the time. But the taste is deceptive, and when you learn to appreciate the taste of real food, these pale in comparison.
As I’ve learned about junk food and started teaching myself about the ingredients in these types of products, I’m just amazed now that these are considered food products.
I wonder if the people who manufacture junk food eat their own products.
I know I’ve read one person’s account of working in the bakery industry. He said that he didn’t eat white bread because he knew what was in it.
There’s another good book about junk food ingredients. It’s called Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger. He really goes into depth about where the ingredients come from to make a Twinkie. Very interesting reading about another ubiquitous junk food product.