Toxic Food

I am not normally an angry person, but at two o’clock in the morning when I am sitting up with my eight year old daughter who is sobbing because she can’t sleep, then I get very angry indeed. I am angry at the food industry which sees fit to stuff food with toxic additives, and then market it to parents as healthy for our children. I am angry at the government body whose job it is to prevent harmful substances getting in to food in the first place. Just. very. angry.

The problem? A group of chemicals called excitotoxins, which include MSG, aspartame (artificial sweetener), and a natural food colouring, annatto (160b), all of which affect the neural pathways in the brain, interfering with the way the brain sends messages, and causing, get this, brain lesions. Yes, they destroy brain cells irrevocably. And they are in oh, almost all processed food. Do you begin to see why I am angry? All of these chemicals cause poor Rosy to lie awake at night for hours, unable to sleep, because her brain is so wired. As well as insomnia they cause terrible migraines for my husband. And all of my children, up to the age of seven or so, turned nastily aggressive and took to slapping and kicking whenever they ate anything coloured with annatto. The smallest one still does.

At home I bake almost everything we eat, apart from a few products that I know won’t affect anyone, but really, shopping is a minefield. Nearly everything that screams ‘No artificial colourings’ has 160b in it. Well, it is all true – it is natural, but then so are caffeine, guarana and cocaine, none of which I choose to feed to my children either. Aspartame is in almost everything sweet labelled ‘diet’ (can’t say I have ever bought any such thing). Almost everything savoury and highly flavoured has MSG in it in some form. You will find it under numbers 621 and 635. It is also called ‘flavour enhancer’and 'hydrolysed vegetable protein'. It is in chips, soups, pies, ready made meals, sausage rolls, sausages, meat marinades, sauces, 2 minute noodles, all the junk food ever invented, rice crackers – in fact it would be quicker to list the foods it isn’t in. It is only there, of course, because flavour enhancer is cheaper than actual flavour, like herbs, spices, salt etc. Because God forbid there should be actual food in food.

And the really awful thing? While my daughter struggles with insomnia and my husband suffers with migraines, they are not the real victims. It is children with already compromised neural pathways who are really implicated in this commercial outrage – children with autism, schizophrenia, ADHD. And older people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Imagine the effect of the ‘crazy chemicals’ in their sensitive brains. In a sense we are lucky. The two sensitive people in our family are like canaries in the mine shaft – they are letting us know that what we are eating is not doing us any good. Much to my consternation I am forced to cook almost everything we eat. I have learnt a lot about food, and about what makes my body feel good. Not surprisingly, if I add a few decent salads to my grandparents’ basic diet of porridge, meat and three veg, and the odd steamed pudding, with a sponge cake for special occasions, we all feel happy and calm. Except after going to children’s birthday parties. When I end up staying up until two in the morning. Which makes me very angry indeed.


Anonymous said…

So sorry to hear about your daughter's reaction.

I am really careful here too, mainly at first because I studied natural therapies when younger due to a goal of wanting to live to 100. Now as I get older I realise that by wanting to eat healthier and more natural I have naturally avoided some foods/chemicals that I react badly to. I didn't realise I did react until my diet had been so simplified to natural foods that the difference in how I feel after eating the wrong foods is glaring.

Enjoy your cooking, our children will thank us for the best start in life we can give them.

Best wishes
Jen in NSW
Jo said…
I know Jen - after my self-righteous comments last night, I had to spend a couple of hours by myself in the car today (oh, the peace!) so I sneaked into the service station and bought a packet of M&M's - haven't eaten them for years - and now I have the most appalling headache!
Anonymous said…
I am "lucky" that this baby, now 7 mths old, can not tolerate me eating more than 2 M&Ms. I can still have cocoa though so I can have my favourite brownies. But even when he weans I have decided to not go back to eating chocolate. He is my canary and for that I am thankful.

Hope the headache didn't last too long.

Best wishes
Jen in NSW
Unknown said…
So agree, but i didnt find all this out until my son was diagnosed at 13 with Aspergers and then shortly after, my husband. Lord, have i been through the wringer with both of them. Try getting a head strong Aspie to eat something he doesnt want to. Im going to print this out and read it to him, now 16. As he cannot sleep at night and he wont listen to me. Respond to when you have time. Im enjoying blog.

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