So this article is making the rounds amongst my crazy conservative and liberal friends. While i'm not against chemicals per se, i am against not disclosing them so I can make an informed choice as to whether or not I want to ingest them. And that's about all the analysis i can muster today because grad school :(
Here are the bits that your friends who want to have their food all natural like nature made it will be sharing with your social media soon.
Tired after hours of walking round the fair, and, uncharacteristically, not feeling hungry, I sought refuge at a stand displaying cut-up fruits and vegetables; it felt good to see something natural, something instantly recognisable as food. But why did the fruit have dates, several weeks past, beside them? A salesman for Agricoat told me that they had been dipped in one of its solutions, NatureSeal, which, because it contains citric acid along with other unnamed ingredients, adds 21 days to their shelf life. Treated in this way, carrots don't develop that telltale white that makes them look old, cut apples don't turn brown, pears don't become translucent, melons don't ooze and kiwis don't collapse into a jellied mush; a dip in NatureSeal leaves salads "appearing fresh and natural".
For the salesman, this preparation was a technical triumph, a boon to caterers who would otherwise waste unsold food. There was a further benefit: NatureSeal is classed as a processing aid, not an ingredient, so there's no need to declare it on the label, no obligation to tell consumers that their "fresh" fruit salad is weeks old.
I spent years knocking on closed doors, and became frustrated by how little I knew about contemporary food production. What happens on the farm and out in the fields is passably well-policed and transparent. Abattoirs undergo regular inspections, including from the occasional undercover reporter from a vigilante animal welfare group, armed with a video camera. My growing preoccupation was instead just how little we really know about the food that sits on our supermarket shelves, in boxes, cartons and bottles – food that has had something done to it to make it more convenient and ready to eat.
Over the past few years, the food industry has embarked on an operation it dubs "clean label", with the goal of removing the most glaring industrial ingredients and additives, replacing them with substitutes that sound altogether more benign. Some companies have reformulated their products in a genuine, wholehearted way, replacing ingredients with substitutes that are less problematic. Others, unconvinced that they can pass the cost on to retailers and consumers, have turned to a novel range of cheaper substances that allow them to present a scrubbed and rosy face to the public.
We all eat prepared foods made using state-of-the-art technology, mostly unwittingly, either because the ingredients don't have to be listed on the label, or because weasel words such as "flour" and "protein", peppered with liberal use of the adjective "natural", disguise their production method. And we don't know what this novel diet might be doing to us.
Manufactured foods often contain chemicals with known toxic properties – although, again, we are reassured that, at low levels, this is not a cause for concern. This comforting conclusion is the foundation of modern toxicology, and is drawn from the 16th-century Swiss physician, Paracelsus, whose theory "the dose makes the poison" (ie, a small amount of a poison does you no harm) is still the dogma of contemporary chemical testing. But when Paracelsus sat down to eat, his diet wasn't composed of takeaways and supermarket reheats; he didn't quench his thirst with canned soft drinks. Nor was he exposed to synthetic chemicals as we are now, in traffic fumes, in pesticides, in furnishings and much more. Real world levels of exposure to toxic chemicals are not what they were during the Renaissance. The processed food industry has an ignoble history of actively defending its use of controversial ingredients long after well-documented, subsequently validated, suspicions have been aired.