Sunday, September 2, 2007

mmmm, A Slice of Toxic Pie

My wife bought me a piece of pie, yesterday. It looked good, and it was a nice gesture. After dinner I dug right into it.

It was ok, but the taste was just a little off. She asked me how it was, and I said " Good, but it has a little too much propylene glycol in it" ... I was half kidding, as I recalled the early concerns about propylene glycol in pet food from China; still, I did think I tasted something a little like antifreeze smells. "Is there something wrong with it?" she asked. I said it was fine, and continued to eat.

Later, out of curiosity, I checked the label to see what WAS in it, in the off chance there was some glycol or something. I was surprised to find propylene glycol right on the ingredients list. While I was concerned, I decided the toxic effects of one slice of pie were not as risky as the potential toxic impact on my marriage, so I finished eating it.
Afterward, I studied the label more closely, then did some research. Here is what I found out about propylene glycol:
Propylene glycol – toxic by ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption (neurotoxin); it is approved for use in foods in the EU up to 0.1%, but approved for general use in foods in the US (except cat food), even though it is known to cause multiple organ failure if used above a “safe level”
In addition I found many more chemicals in my slice of berry pie, including:
Sodium benzoate – decomposes and produces benzene, a known carcinogen
Calcium propionate – Toxic preservative, too many known health effects to list
Xanthan gum – Viscosity additive – fermentation product – allergy risk, possible irritant
Red 40 (2-Naphthalenesulfonic acid) – Dye, not considered toxic in small quantities, but known to cause adverse behavioral effects in children, acute allergic reactions in some adults and other problems
Sodium caseinate – considered hazardous in case of ingestion – biodegrades into more toxic products, generally a problem for people with dairy allergies
Methylparabenpreservative, hazardous ingested in quantity, suspected carcinogen
Propylparaben - preservative, hazardous ingested in quantity, lethal toxin <1%>
Sodium hexametaphosphate – emulsifier, toxic below 0.5% ingested – organ failure, neurotoxic
Carrageenan – thickener from seaweed – suspected carcinogen, toxic inhaled, slightly hazardous ingested
Beta carotene – for color, non-toxic, but implicated as a carcinogen at high doses in smokers
Amazing how hard they work to keep my pie pretty and fresh for me, even after it spends time on the shelf ... seems a shame to eat it quickly, before all the toxins have done their thing on fungi, bacteria and other bugs.
It's all legal, and I didn't get sick. At least, not so far. A diet full of this stuff DOES damage some people, though, and eating it regularly could easily take a toll on sensitive or weak organs. Many of the ingredients could be lethal with a slip up in production, and they might not change the taste or look enough to tip me off. I'll check closer next time.
A good lesson, though. If you eat prepared foods, expect lots of toxic stuff in them, unless you go to some trouble to get brands that leave it out. I was particularly interested in the education I got on Red dye 40. Check it out, especially if you have kids.


FeButterfly said...

I know what you mean about reading the label on products and being scared. It's worse after you've eaten.

We've changed our buying practices. If it won't rot we won't buy it. If we can't pronounce the ingredients it doesn't come home. That's why we buy some organic prepared products like jam or cereal. They have less junk in them. I don't know about how much better organic jam is but I do know we all love the taste and there is less in there. Good luck with the blog.

Toxic Survivor said...

Makes sense - organic costs a bit more, but is likely to have less toxic surprises inside. Mostly, it's all a bit of a leap of faith.

Unless you have time and space to grow it yourself, faith in the "organic" label, brands, farmers, government regulators or luck is useful, if not required.

I love your test, though:
"If it won't rot we won't buy it"
If you perform that test (let some of it rot) then you move beyond faith to proof. Great idea!