Food labels are supposed to tell you what is in a product, but instead labels always seem to mention what it does not contain. This seems counterintuitive, as the main goal of a label is to tell you what is inside.
The FDA has a list of approved natural (things like wood chips count as a natural ingredient) and artificial chemicals. Frequently these are undertested, based on outdated research and/or have been exposed as harmful. For example:
Artificial Sweeteners: are tied to weight gain; the opposite of what they are marked for. Aspartame is particularly controversial. Though there are mixed opinions on its safety, some evidence suggests that aspartame is a neurotoxin and leads to negative neurobehavior effects (Lindseth, 2014). It is also the most common artificial sweetener.
Trans Fats: the evidence that trans-fat caused to increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Higher levels of these contribute to heart disease and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Also linked to cancer, diabetes, immune dysfunction and reproductive problems.
Those are approved substances by the FDA. The regulation is worse when looking at food additives, which do not even need to be labeled. GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) essentially lets food companies set their own standards for “safe” without outside regulation or influence. There has been a recent trend demanding for more transparency in the food industry. People have slowly started to pay more attention to certain ingredients (which is great!) This has caused the food industry to be more creative with “clean labeling” practices. This basically means removing known bad additives and replacing them with substitutes which sound better. For example, antioxidants (E300-21) such as butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) which are used to improve shelf life have been relabeled by some brands as “rosemary extract” (Blythman, 2015)
The FDA needs to conduct its own testing on these chemicals and additives; it should do this for everything it regulates. Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 77% of respondents believed that GRAS were evaluated by the FDA and thought to be safe. 66% believed that the FDA monitors GRAS safety and use (Butler & Kelber, 2016). Neither is the case. I can’t get past the fact that additives are not required to be labeled, let alone untested by the FDA. I can’t believe ingredients which are known to cause disease are still allowed in our food. I believe everything added to a food item, should be required to be labeled. A consumer cannot make an informed choice with only part of the information available.
Blythman, J. (2015). Inside the food industry: the surprising truth about what you eat. Retrieved from m https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/21/a-feast-of-engineering-whats-really-in-your-food
Lindseth, G., N. Coolahan, S., E. Petros, T., V. Lindseth, P., D. (2014). Neurobehavior effects of aspartame consumption. Research in Nursing & Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24700203
Butler, D., Kelber, K. (2016). Consumers Union: New FDA Rule on GRAS Unacceptable, Fails Consumers. Retrieved from http://consumersunion.org/news/consumers-union-new-fda-rule-on-gras-unacceptable-fails-consumers/