How to Fight Back Against Toxic Additives in Your Food and Drink
The following is an edited excerpt from the new book, Living in the Chemical Age: How an Ounce of Prevention Can Protect Your Family from a World of Toxins by Janet Newman, PHD.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this tsunami of grim news about the food and beverages we consume on a daily basis.
The good news is there is a way to make your voice heard, while taking concrete steps to promote change for you and your family. If you speak up by changing your consumer habits, food producers will listen, because you are hitting them right where it counts — their bottom line.
For instance, by changing the way you spend your food dollars, you can have an impact every time you go to the supermarket. I used to buy a nondairy creamer until I realized it contained carrageenan (a thickening agent) and titanium dioxide (used for whitening). I switched to a different brand that didn’t contain these additives and wrote a letter to the company telling them why.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.
A lot of other people must have done the same, because the company responded by removing the additives — and then changed the package labeling to say, “We listened. Now without carrageenan and titanium dioxide.” The company made a change because consumers made a fuss, but then turned around and used the change to sell more creamer! We get what we put up with. So get pumped up!
We don’t have to put up with food that contains dangerous additives.
Once I realized that change can come through our consumer choices, I felt empowered to make other changes in my family’s consumption habits.
For example, I replaced plastic storage bags with other types of containers for my kids’ lunches. Instead of plastic bags and storage containers, I now use stainless steel containers, cotton and Velcro snack bags and stainless steel and silicone water bottles. When storing food in my pantry and refrigerator, I use silicone storage bags and glass Mason jar containers with stainless steel lids. These products are healthier and toxin-free. They’re more expensive to buy at first, but they’re reusable and last longer, so they’re cheaper in the long run. That’s a trade-off I’m happy to make. And since they’re all reusable, I add less waste to the landfills.
The best way to fight back against our country’s massive chemical pesticide use is to choose organic food whenever possible. Conventional strawberries, for example, are grown using more pesticides and other chemicals than almost any other crop. You can’t wash or scrub this stuff off delicate berries. Organically grown strawberries use far less in the way of chemicals, but be prepared to pay more.
Organic produce isn’t always that much more expensive than conventional produce. In fact, in some markets, I have found it’s close to the same price. If buying organic seems too pricey in your area, you can also grow your own produce in a backyard garden. For people with limited space, growing fruits, vegetables and herbs is still possible using pots and vertical gardens. Or check out your local farmer’s market and buy seasonal, locally grown produce. Oftentimes, local farmers haven’t paid the hefty price tag to label and sell their crops as organic, but they use organic and sustainable farming methods, so you’re essentially getting high quality, non-GMO, pesticide-free produce for conventional prices. In this way, you get great fresh fruits and vegetables and support your local farmers at the same time.
Look for organic and grass-fed meats and dairy products to reduce the possibility of ingesting harmful hormones and antibiotics. And as I mentioned previously, seek out the Non-GMO Project Verified symbol on pantry items. This is the third-party verification program that ensures a manufacturer isn’t including GMO ingredients in their product.
Changing your consumer habits little by little to safer foods and products carries long-term benefits that you’ll feel good about for your family’s health. You would be amazed at how many companies are beginning to make nontoxic products!
Here are some easy and effective things you can do to reduce toxic exposure in the kitchen:
- Swap aluminum and non-stick cookware for safer ceramic, glass, stainless steel, or cast-iron pots, pans, and bakeware.
- If buying new glass food storage containers is cost prohibitive, consider washing and reusing your glass jars that once contained spaghetti sauce, jam, or pickles.
- Use unbleached parchment paper instead of aluminum foil when cooking foods, as the aluminum may leach into food at high temperatures, especially when in contact with citrus, tomatoes, and certain spices.
- Opt for kitchen tools made from silicone as opposed to potentially hormone-disrupting plastic.
- How about buying some cool stainless steel drinking straws that can be put in the dishwasher and reused, instead of buying box after box of disposable plastic straws? You will be reducing your exposure to questionable plastic chemicals and reducing plastic in the landfill.
For more strategies to cut toxic chemicals out of your life, check out Janet’s book, Living in the Chemical Age.