Had your daily dose of tartrazine yet?
“Pardon, of what?” – “Tartrazine! And if you had a non-homemade pickle, ate macaroni and cheese from a package, had any pudding or custard, cake or cookie not made from scratch, any sweets, or drank a greenish-yellowish soft drink, you most likely did!
Do we still know what we eat?
Countless foods and drinks contain a dye called tartrazine, sometimes listed as food colour FD&C yellow #5, or in Europe as E 102.
Finding tartrazine in our food was not difficult. When I prepare my husband’s lunch sandwiches, I usually add a sliced pickle to the cold cuts on homemade bread. I just happened to look at the ingredients, which I never thought of checking because, eh, what can be in the pickle jar other than the cucumber, water, vinegar, salt, sugar – if they are sweet – and some spices? Well, tartrazine!
Mostly the internet is a great source, though not all information is totally reliable, but this time I couldn’t really find what I was looking for. I am not a chemist (my chemistry marks in high-school where actually rather poor), so the chemical name doesn’t really tell my anything. What I could find out is, that a few years ago some European countries tried to ban the use of E 102, but their ban was overturned by the EU. Still, there seems to be some kind of agreement in the EU to phase out the use of certain food colours, including tartrazine. Several articles on the net link tartrazine to hyperactivity in children, migraines, depression, asthma, blurred vision, throat cancer, and more. Quite an eye-opener, isn’t it?
Why is tartrazine used, if it doesn’t seem to be totally safe?
The food industry uses tartrazine to give our food an appealing colour. You gotta ask yourself what is wrong with the product in the first place, that it needs enhancement. Tartrazine has the same colouring effect as beta-carotene or turmeric (shown on the right), but is cheaper. The arguments in studies and reports I could find about the effect of tartrazine are basically about the lack of proof that it is harmful for most people. The food industry, in my opinion, is too powerful, and our governments follow their interests, although they claim to act in the best interest of the consumers. When I told my husband about my findings, he got angry, not at me(!), but that governments fail to protect their citizens. Now, what a joke that, on the one hand, the Canadian government doesn’t allow the selling of raw milk, because it is not pasteurized and might contain bacteria that makes you sick. They think they have to protect us because we are too stupid to pasteurize it ourselves, if we deem it appropriate. (By the way, in my pre-Canadian life I consumed litres of raw milk, and so did my kids, and we never got sick!) On the other hand, they allow companies to add “things” to our food, that has the capability to poison us. I guess as long as the above mentioned symptoms don’t befall the majority of us and it can be proven that food colours are harmful, nothing will change. Seems it is all about the money! Should I say “as always”?
What can you do?
So, again, it is up to us, the consumers, to take responsibility and choose more wisely what we put into our mouths. We can not automatically assume that as long as government standards are followed, we are safe, because we are NOT. I will not buy this particular brand of pickles anymore. In fact, I found a brand, almost hidden behind all the other popular brands, that does not use tartrazine, but turmeric.
When I was checking for tartrazine on the labels of some more products I have at home I looked at Dr. Oetker vanilla pudding powder from Germany and didn’t find any E 102, whereas the Canadian Dr. Oetker vanilla pudding I checked at the store clearly stated: “contains tartrazine”. This finding would be congruent with the phasing-out I mentioned above.
Make your food from scratch, but beware of “colour” on labels!
Of course the best way to be safe(r), is to make year meals from scratch. The first step is not using any packages with ingredients that we might have trouble pronouncing, less know what it actually is. But beware of the industries way of labelling. Cheese that has colour listed as an ingredient most likely has some yellow added to it. Also the phrase “may contain colour” like butter might have, is, in my opinion, a sneaky way for companies to adhering to regulations or government standards without telling us the truth!