What's really in the food we eat?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1120066329598.jpg’, ‘Photo by Melissa Wangall’, ‘Jane Sirignano (right) translates food labels at the local Woodman's.’);

Every day, we consume products containing unknown substances. These substances are listed in confusing ways, included, among numerous others, are: Monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (artificial sweeteners), wheat flour, enriched, hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oil, and natural flavors. But what do these words mean?

Jane Sirignano, affiliated with the Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP), has 30 years of experience in defining the mysterious codes of food ingredients. On a recent food tour at a local supermarket, she explained to a healthconscious group the meanings of mostly unpronounceable words.

Monosodium glutamate, also known as free glutamic acid, is a “flavor enhancer.” This additive, while unaffecting some people, has adverse effects on others. These can include: facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in MSG-intolerant people with asthma, drowsiness, and weakness (http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/msg.html). The problem is, by FDA guidelines, a company only has to list MSG as an ingredient if there is more than 99 percent of MSG in the ingredient. You can be consuming a product with an ingredient containing 80 percent MSG, have adverse effects from it, and not know why. If you know you cannot handle this product, you can’t avoid it, because it is not listed. Some common names of MSG containing ingredients not meeting the 99 percent level are: monopotassium glutamate, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed soy protein, and sodium caseinate (www.truthinlabeling.org/msgfacts.html

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