Your knee-jerk reaction would probably be to say “NO WAY!” Gray meat likely makes you think of something rotten that would make you sick. Consumers want nice, fresh-looking red meat. But appearances can be deceiving. Keep reading and I’ll explain. . .
Continued below. . .
I’ll Never Go “Bare” Again
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Believe it or not—gray is the color that meats like bacon and hot dogs would be if there were no sodium nitrite added to stabilize the red color and add flavor.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)1, when nitrite is added to food it can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.
These compounds are carcinogens that researchers have linked to cancers of the bladder, brain, esophagus, mouth, and stomach. So meat that’s been doctored to look healthy isn’t really healthy. You might be better off eating gray meat.
You should know that nitrites also occur naturally in many green vegetables, such as celery, lettuce and spinach. Does that give you an excuse to avoid eating your veggies? Nice try. . .but no.
You see, vegetables also have healthy doses of vitamins C and D, which help block the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines. This is why eating plenty of vegetables can actually reduce your cancer risk.
As for the cured meats—you’d be better off eating them sparingly or not at all. Maybe it would help to take extra vitamins when you do eat them — that’s speculation on my part, but it makes sense.
For me, cured meats are a treat I have a few times a year — when I’m someone’s guest, for example, and sausage or bacon is on the breakfast menu. The rest of the time there are plenty of good meats that are much less processed and chemicalized.
The problem is nitrites are not the only food additive you should watch out for…
Ever seen these words on your food labels?
Some food additives have been used for centuries to preserve the flavor of food and enhance its appearance. Included are items such as salt in meats… vinegar for pickling… and sulfur dioxide to prevent wine from spoiling.
But in the mid-20th century, processed foods became more popular. This led to the development of more chemical additives such as:
- Acids—to preserve flavors
- Colorings—to make foods more attractive and replace color lost during preparation
- Emulsifiers—to help waters and oils stick together in foods like mayonnaise
- Humectants—to keep foods from drying out
- Preservatives—to prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from spoiling foods
- Stabilizers—to give foods firmer textures
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)2 maintains a database of over 3,000 additives used in the foods we eat every day! According to the agency, these additives help improve or maintain food.
You might be wondering just how safe for consumption these chemical additives really are. It would take far more than one article to answer the question in full.
But let’s take a brief look at what we know about some other popular preservatives besides nitrites…
These toxic twins have government
health agencies battling!
Butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA) and butylated hyroxytoluene (BHT) are widely used to prevent oils from becoming rancid. You’ll find them in a wide variety of foods including cereals, gum and potato chips.
BHT is a widely used preservative that’s supposedly safe for people to eat and is even sold as a supplement. Years ago, I saw it recommended by some alternative practitioners as a treatment for herpes, because it’s a powerful antiviral. But more recent research suggests it may not be a good idea to consume it.
Studies have linked the use of BHA with the formation of stomach cancer in hamsters, mice and rats. Critics argue that these results shouldn’t be used to determine the chemicals’ safety for human consumption because the cancers occured in the animals’ forestomach—an organ that humans don’t have.
Apparently the FDA agrees, given that they still allow BHA to be added to foods. But the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)3 considers BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Studies also show both BHA and BHT cause liver and kidney damage.
Forestomach or not—I prefer to avoid anything that causes three different kinds of animals to develop cancer!
Related to BHA/BHT is a preservative called propyl gallate. It is often used in tandem with BHA or BHT to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. You’ll often see it used in chicken soup base, potato sticks and vegetable oil.
Propyl gallate is known to cause kidney, liver and intestinal problems. It also may cause allergic reactions in people with asthma and/or sensitivity to aspirin.
Animal studies suggest propyl gallate increases the risk of getting cancer. However, due to limitations in the studies, scientists have said they cannot be certain that propyl gallate directly causes cancer.
In any case, it seems this should be enough to raise some red flags and curtail the use of these food additives. And yet they’re still widely present in the food we eat.
This is because the FDA continues to place a golden seal on these and other dangerous chemical additives. The agency website says “food and color additives are more strictly studied, regulated and monitored than at any other time in history.”
If you read a bit further, you’ll see a weak disclaimer that states “FDA can never be absolutely certain of the absence of any risk from the use of any substance.” They claim to rely on the “best science available” to determine that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm to consumers from these additives.
But you have to wonder what kind of weird science they’re using that ignores blatant evidence that chemicals in the food chain are causing cancers and other health problems.
When all is said and done… you might just be better off eating some fresh, gray meat!
Lee Euler Publisher