This Article is About
food additives
hash browns
hyperactivity in children
large marketing
customer loyalty
potato chips
Removal Of Food Additives
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Removal Of Food Additives

It has made major news in Australia and parents are celebrating that Coles has proclaimed that it’s home brand, or private label, food and drinks will no longer contain artificial colours and added MSG from today (22nd February 2012). Surely the removal of food additives from our foods is a good thing?

Should we, as consumers be dancing in the streets or cautiously suspicious of this news. Is it great news for the health of our children or yet another marketing ploy from big business?

Is the undertaking merely to sooth the consumer’s guilty consciences into opening their wallets wider as they pile their trolley’s high with the new range of ‘healthy’ potato chips, hash browns, cordial, donuts and the published list from Coles goes on.

All up Coles are proclaiming to have removed up to 170 product lines as a result of “caving to parental pressure” to ban chemicals in food that have been blamed for causing allergies and hyperactivity in children.

This is a welcome change to be sure.

Ever the cynic I wonder if it was largely driven, though, by a relatively new competitor on the Australian block, Aldi, that has in recent years sprung up with great popularity across Australia. Their range is almost exclusively ‘house brand’ and sticks firmly to the basics at prices that many Australian families have been quick to notice have a positive impact on their bottom line.

I have read recently that these ‘generic’ brands hold upward of 25 to 30 percent of the grocery market; so it’s certainly something to fight about. They represent customer loyalty to any given store who owns the brand.

Consumers have liked Aldi’s compact 4 aisles of choice, parking at the door (instead of struggling into and out of a large mall with parking and walking issues), quality weekly specials and the choice of paying by cash to save credit card surcharges.

Back to the issue at hand it is notable that Aldi, while taking a steadily larger chunk of the market share, also started a large marketing campaign that proclaimed, “We’re the first and only major supermarket to remove all artificial colours”. This is across both exclusive brand lines and branded food items.

Marketing is a powerful thing and, no doubt, Coles would be looking for a subtlety of wording when they proclaimed just this week to be the first Australian supermarket to remove artificial colours and added MSG from their entire brand range.

As a parent who has my own stories to tell about the tangible effects of added colours, preservatives and food additives I should be shouting, singing and rejoicing at the latest news.

Don’t get me wrong. I am pleased. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I think it’s cause for celebration for the kids who have little say over their diets and parents who don’t know, or don’t care, what they’re feeding their child.

My biggest concern is that there is a couple of notable loopholes.

One word that is thrown around very liberally is ‘artificial’. Natural colours are not always safe. Annatto (160b), for example, is a natural yellow colouring that is in many dairy products. Almost all yellow flavoured yoghurts (think peach, passionfruit, mango) have it and all bar 2 ice-cream brands in Australia that I’m aware of. It’s also in other products such as custard powder, cheese slices, biscuits, breakfast cereals and other processed foods.

These products proudly flaunt the “no artificial colouring” label.

After all, annatto is natural. In some cases, this ‘natural’ additive is documented to cause screaming, tantrums and head banging in children. Up to 20 percent of children, according to a book I recently read on reducing food chemicals, many of which are too young to explain that this additive gives them overwhelming headaches.

The second loophole is associated with the ‘added’ MSG.

Sue Dengate is a wonderful woman who is a great advocate for our children who suffer greatly from food intolerances. She is quoted in the news reports on this subject. It is her opinion that the announcement is not as good as it sounds. She does concede, however, that it is an improvement which is pleasing. Sue Dengate's concern is that parent's will think that no MSG means the food is healthy for their children. These products, however, can still contain free glutamates. Essentially, this is no better or even the same as MSG.

I don’t think I could explain it better than that.

So, yes, I’m happy. It will hopefully make shopping a little easier and offer some better choices for people who don’t make conscious healthy food choices for their kids or themselves.

Are we leading the way or merely catching up with the rest of the world though? I don’t know but, as for me, I will continue to label watch, additive question, and feed my family on plenty of the good stuff that grows on trees.


Street Talk

These are important issues regarding our food choices especially what we feed our children. Eating more of the foods grown on trees and in the ground helps fight food additives best. It was nice to read your article about the food stores in your area making efforts to remove food additives and food colours. We should continue to tell these stores that we consumers appreciate them removing additives and colours and the more they do this the more we will patronize their stores

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Yes, Jay. It's definitely a step in the right direction. I have found that with many products there is a healthier option but it does take a lot of label reading. When supermarkets come on board it's definitely got to help.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

In total agreement with AJ, the research undertaken to link smoking with diseases like cancer, should also feed through to additives. Where allergies are linked to these in young children, could it not at a later stage in life cause other conditions i.e. cancer? I am against the hormonal injections given cattle and sheep to increase growth in feed lots, as again the long term affects it could have on humans that eat it have not been studied enough. Great article.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Thanks for your comments AJ and Rob. This is an important subject and, as your comment points out, it can go off into so many tangents it's quite scary. I know that looking into 'healthy diets' for my kids I find I end up right back where my own parents were -feeding us on the basics pre all the packaged garbage that is now available. And I'm not THAT old! Scarily I have spoken to mum's at the school who's girls are developing much earlier now. I also wonder at the increase in fertility treatments that are now necessary. I know it's a wonderful technology to have available but to be so commonly needed? I do question where it's all heading.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
AJ  

I think we have too many chemicals in our foods already, so any company that is trying to decrease them in their foods is good in my book. However, I am also a skeptic, so I would keep reading those ingredient labels to make sure they aren't substituting them with other things - like the yellow "natural" dye you speak of.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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