Saturday, September 28, 2013


Container upon container, our 36" wide Samsung was officially at its holding capacity. Sooner or later, this sort of overload is bound to transpire when a woman already obsessed with food becomes entangled in the art of healthful eating, of which she later writes in her public diary. Seven days of driving home the message that eating well is affordable are all it took to fill up on ready meals waiting to be enjoyed at lunch time for an entire week. In fact, the count for servings of nutritious food was nine as of this morning. Needless to say, I could not go on with yet another dish, all the while perfectly good food was rotting in the fridge. Although not without some hesitation, the executive decision has been made to take a two-day break from chaotic measuring, cooking and photographing. Someone with a great deal of courage had to take on the incredibly challenging task of metabolizing all that food. And the humble hero was me...

But just so I avoid getting comfortable around this notion of temporary inactivity- both in the kitchen and online- I resolved to try on a role of an investigative journalist and ventured out to Superstore. Just the other day, while at another grocery store closer to my house, I came face to face with a visibly distraught woman who appeared to be in some kind of trouble. The look of concern and disbelief of her face was obvious and rather unsettling. "Don't they have Kraft Dinner?", she exclaimed. I suggested that it was probably in the neighbouring isle I just passed by- the packaged processed food isle. "I knew it! I just said to myself- there is NO WAY they don't have Kraft Dinner!", with which she rushed off like a lightning, leaving me completely clueless as to what it is in modified milk ingredients and tartrazine that is so darn appealing. I had to find out!

As I entered the building, I headed straight for the junk food isle. Immediately, the number of people wheeling passed me struck me. Carts of cans and boxes, they were many and they were hungry for more Sidekicks and Handi-Snacks. A term alienation came to me. The only one with an empty cart in a strange food isle, I felt overwhelmed and alone. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and cry like a baby all at the same time, but instead I launched the camera app on my iPhone and started snapping pictures. 

The first photo was of Kraft Dinner FamilySize. Immediately, I turned it over to see the list of ingredients. Other than the expected natural flavours and citric acid, there were less commonly known to the consumer yet rather widespread in modern food production SODIUM PHOSPHATES (note the plural of phosphates) and TARTRAZINE. Having done a little bit of digging, I found that the former is one of 45 types of phosphate-containing food additives used in hundreds of processed items like sodas and convenience foods, that have been linked to kidney disease and increased mortality rates. A study published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International- the German Medical Association's official international science journal- confirms that inorganic phosphate in food additives, while very effectively absorbed by the human body, leads to vascular damage, e.g. endothelial dysfunction and vascular calcification

Slowly, I began to doubt that the lady I met earlier was particularly bent on finding her fix of sodium phosphate. Perhaps, it was tartrazine...  According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, tartrazine is a yellow azo dye that is used in making organic pigments and in coloring foods and drugs and that sometimes causes bronchoconstriction in individuals with asthma. Well, one could stop right here, but I wanted to know more. One of so-called Southampton 6 artificial food colouring additives, tartrazine has been linked to increased hyperactivity in young children, as well as allergic reactions in asthmatics and a multitude of other health conditions. Although some sources discredit significant correlation between the dye and various ailments it reportedly caused or promoted, I would die before letting my child taste the derivative of benzene- a colourless runoff from crude oil. 

The UK's Food Standards Agency must agree... In fact, they came out with a 36-page report under title Guidelines on approaches to the replacement of Tartrazine, Allura Red, Ponceau 4R, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset Yellow and Carmoisine in food and beverages. Ah... Why is it that Europe is always ahead of North America in so many aspects? They banned the import of GMO crops, prohibited the use of many pesticides still widely used in the US and Canada and introduced mandatory eco-labels (in France), where the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by any given food product, as it travels through the production chain, has to be specified. I find it rather ironic that the young countries of opportunity and limitless growth- or so they see themselves- are outpaced by the old world that Europe is...

And so I wonder... What is it that the KD lover I met earlier finds so undeniably entrancing in a poison box? Is it, perhaps, that she simply has not read the ingredients list? Will she ever and if she does, will she feel compelled to do more research before spending $2.79 on another doze of chemical chaos? I hope so...  Meanwhile, I will continue discrediting common foods we so often and without a second thought pitch to our children and consume ourselves. 

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