October 2012: Celebrate REAL Food (and Take an Ingredient Spelling Test)

This month don’t miss the details in this newsletter about Food Day (officially October 24 with events all week) and my research into food additives and colorings. Quick preview, you’ll learn that foods colored pink, red or purple just might have a bunch of bugs mixed in with the recipe. Not kidding…Yuk!. We’ll learn what additives and coloring are safe (or not). You will possibly be left wondering why we allow certain chemicals in our food chain that are not allowed in European countries. Also in this month’s Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange newsletter we will play a game called “Name that Food” as well as “Ingredient Spelling Test”. But don’t worry, I’ll give you some information about how you can avoid some of these nasty things with some information shared by a fabulous blog written by a couple of awesome sisters at Inspired Everyday Living. Stay tuned for lots of fun in this month’s newsletter!

Food Day 2012 is part of a national day of education and action to promote a better food system.  With the goal of advancing the “food movement,” The Center for Science in the Public Interest launched Food Day in 2011 in partnership with some 150 advocacy partners.  Food Day 2012 aims to bring a stronger and more unified citizens’ voice to city halls, statehouses, and Capitol Hill for policy solutions to an environmentally unsustainable food system that is making Americans sick.  CSPI is providing educational resources, technical support, webinars on the issues for local advocates, curriculum for schools, and more.  The goal is for over 2,000 events across the nation to promote healthy, affordable food produced in a humane and environmentally sustainable way.

If you are local to the Wood River Valley—this paragraph is for you.  (Others across the nation, well, you can skip it if you want—but do check out local Food Day events near you).  This year we want to put the Wood River Valley on the Food Day map!  To achieve this goal, we are planning two events during Food Day week: 1) fun nutrition-education lessons geared for kids at various schools throughout the valley and 2) an event that YOU can sign up for:  a community-wide talk about healthy eating and strategies for cooking and wellness.  I’m thrilled to collaborate on this event with Inspired Everyday Living author Laura Carlin, who will talk about fantastic ways to clear out your kitchen pantry and create an inspired area for dining.  We will also have local food photographer (and foodie!) Paulette Phlipot there. Have you heard of the book Ripe?  A feast for the eyes—you’ll see a link below.  We will also partner with the amazing Idaho’s Bounty, a co-opt that allows the everyday consumer to purchase from the extensive network of amazing farms in the Treasure Valley, large and small. In summary, this is an event not to be missed.  To sign up and reserve your spot, please follow this special link on the Food Day CSPI site to our specific event.

How to Get Kids to Eat Real

If you were to ask most kids, “Would you like to have some dead bugs with you meal?”, most would say no.  But that is exactly what kids are getting, in the form of cochineal extract (also known as carmine or carminic acid), in some foods with a pink, red or purple color.  The female Dactylopius coccus costa, small bugs that harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands, eat pink cactus pads, so the color pink gathers in her body and in her eggs. Once harvested, dried, and ground, they make their way into things like yogurt, frozen fruit bars, fruit fillings, and wanna-be fruit juice.  Doesn’t that sound great?  If you were to ask your Grandmother what carmine or carminic acid was, she would have no idea.  She probably wouldn’t even want to try to spell it.  Good things to think about… would grandma recognize this food?  Could she (or I) spell it easily?  If not, maybe it’s not the best thing to eat!  In this case Grandma would be right, because carmine can cause allergic reactions in some people.  Other reactions to food coloring include hyperactivity, headaches, rashes, and an increased risk of asthma.  Some food colorings (for example, Tartrazine for the yellow color) have been banned in European countries but are still being used by food companies in the U.S.

Food Additives

I am not a biochemist, so to get some summary information about food additives, I turned to CSPI.  Nutrition Action Newsletter had a cover article called “Chemical Cuisine,” which classified additives as either “safe”, “cut back”, “caution”, “certain people should avoid”, and “everyone should avoid”.  Here are the food additives that they pegged as “everyone should avoid”:

-Acesulfame potassium.  Artificial sweetener used in chewing gum, diet soda, no-sugar based goods and desserts, tabletop sweetener (Sunett).

-Aspartame.  Artificial sweetener used in frozen desserts, diet soda, tabletop sweetener (Equal).

-Saccharin.  Artificial sweeteners in no-sugar added foods, tabletop sweetener (Sweet’ N Low).

-Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA).  Antioxidant (prevents spoiling) in packaged cereal, chewing gum, oil, potato chips.

. Fat substitute in chips.

Partially hydrogenated oil. See the Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange January 2009 Article, Make your home a trans-fat free zone

-Potassium bromate.
 Chemical dough strengthener.

-Propyl Gallate.  Antioxidant (prevents spoiling) in chewing gum, chicken soup, meat, potato chips, oil.

Sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite.  Colors, flavors and preserves bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, ham, lunch meat, smoked fish.

Here are the food colorings rated “everyone should avoid”:

-Blue 1
-Blue 2
-Green 3
-Red 3
-Yellow 6.

Pretty long list, eh?

Click here if you’d like to read the entire article from Nutrition Action.

On the food coloring topic, a study conducted in 2004 at the University of Southampton in England looked at the behaviors of 277 children ages 3-4 years old.  Over a series of weeks the kids were given either a fruit drink or a drink made with artificial colors and flavors that tasted exactly the same.  The kids didn’t know which drink they were given.  The kids with the artificial drink were observed as being more hyperactive that those that were given the fruit juice.  Weird, isn’t it?  “We assume that because these things do not make us drop dead, they’re safe,” says Dr. Vyvyan Howard, a leading expert on toxic substances at the University of Liverpool in England.  “It’s not true.  In my opinion, I would recommend that kids just stay away from them.”

Let’s Play “NAME THAT FOOD!”

Mystery Food #1 Ingredients: Enriched Corn Meal (Corn Meal, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil (Contains One or More of the Following: Corn, Soybean or Sunflower Oil), Maltodextrin, Salt, Sugar, Artificial Color (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5), Monosodium Glutamate, Autolyzed Yeast, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Whey, Onion, Whey Protein Concentrate, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural Flavor, Buttermilk, Garlic Powder, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Caseinate, Lactic Acid, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Nonfat Milk Solids, Sodium Citrate, and Carrageenan.

Mystery Food #1 Answer:
Click here to see Mystery Food #1

Mystery Food #2.  Ingredients:  Milk, Skim Milk, Sugar, Cream, Caramel Swirl (Sweetened Condensed Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Water, Coconut Oil, Pectin, Salt, Baking Soda, Vanilla Extract), Corn Syrup, Whey Protein, Egg Yolks, Tapioca Maltodextrin, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Buttermilk, Mono and Diglycerides, Butter, Cellulose Gum, Natural Flavor, Baking Soda, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Dextrose, Vitamin A Palmitate.

Mystery Food #2 Answer:
Click here to see Mystery Food #2


Are you grossed out yet?  Well, stay with me for just a little more.  Next time you are at the dinner table, announce that you are going to have a little game/contest.  See if your kids can spell:

-Interesterified and Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed

-Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives)

-Carnauba Wax

-Or any odd looking ingredient you might find on a highly processed food.

Then, ask them to spell grape, or apple, or berry.  Easy, huh?  Then finish dinner with a beautiful fruit salad!

So how do you enjoy tasty treats without the chemical additives?

You don’t have to be a party pooper and completely ban candy and treats from your house.  To see some amazing photos of candy available from The Natural Candy Store, please see this great blog from Inspired Everyday Living.  The photos were taken by an 8-year old child and will make your mouth water for these chemical-free goodies.

You can also simply return to the natural colorful goodness of Mother Nature through simple and plant-based dishes.  I love the book Ripe for so many reasons.  The book is arranged in a clever way to look like a rainbow.  The photos are simply amazing.  It is for both adults and kids!  I recently talked with the photographer, Paulette Phlipot, about how this book is a favorite “car seat book” for kids (even though it is an adult cookbook).  Kids simply can’t put it down. They leaf through the photos and take in the beautiful sights of fruits and veggies.  Imagine the hard-wiring that is going on in that little precious brain.  Try a copy for your own kids!

Have a great month and Happy Food Day!

If you like our website, please help others to find out about it.  If you have a blog or website, or know someone who does, please consider linking to Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange.  Invite friends to join the newsletter distribution list, add us to your Facebook and Twitter or Pin Us on Pinterest.

Don’t forget to check out the recent posts on the Delicious and Nutritious, Green and Plenty and Wholesome Heart Blogs!

Delicious and Nutritious recipes are kid tested and range from breakfast to snacks.  We occasionally include a dessert as well –which we know is probably more delicious than it is nutritious, but we feel that people need a sweet treat here and there.  We hope you are inspired by our ideas!

Green and Plenty:  presents the latest in nutrition, delicious and seasonal recipes, green design and wellness tips for the reader and her family.

Wholesome Heart:  includes delicious recipes, time-saving tips, and nutrition tidbits.


This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.


  1. kathryn guylay says:

    thank you so much for your kind comments about Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange! Please sign up for our free newsletters to hear from us once per month! Best, Kathryn

  2. From Dr. Sears:
    Here are the best and worst foods for the brain.
    Smart Foods:
    • Blueberries
    • Nuts
    • Salmon
    • Spinach
    “Dumb” Foods:
    • Excitotoxins, e.g. MSG, aspartame, food colorings, and preservatives
    • Fiber-poor carbs
    • Hydrogenated oils
    • “Liquid candy” – sweetened beverages
    Exercise Improves Blood Flow to the Brain
    Physical exercise is good for brains as well as bodies, so get your kids up and moving. Consider movement another brain food. Improving blood flow to any organ, especially the brain, is like watering and fertilizing a garden. More blood means more nutrients. When you move your muscles, especially the large muscles in your arms and legs, which you use in vigorous exercise, your heart works harder to pump blood through your veins and arteries.

  3. More From CSPI: The Center for Science in the Public Interest has downgraded the rating for the artificial sweetener sucralose, best known as Splenda, from “safe” to “caution” in our Chemical Cuisine guide to food additives.

    We’re taking this unusual step because a preview of an Italian study indicated that sucralose caused leukemia in mice.

    In all likelihood, sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium—artificial sweeteners we list in our “avoid” category. But the Italian study warrants review before we can truly be confident that sucralose is safe for use in food.

    Despite its concerns about the risk posed by artificial sweeteners, consumers who drink soda are still probably better off drinking diet soda than sugar-sweetened soda, which poses the greater and demonstrable risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout, tooth decay, and other health problems. But to avoid the risks of both sugars and non-caloric sweeteners, CSPI urges people to switch to water, seltzer water, flavored unsweetened waters, seltzer mixed with some fruit juice, or unsweetened iced tea.

    For more information on artificial sweeteners and other food additives visit Chemical Cuisine.

  4. Kathryn says:

    Sign CSPI’s petition today re: bugs in yogurt!
    Are there bugs in your yogurt?

    If you eat Dannon’s Fruit on the Bottom Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry, or Boysenberry yogurt, or the Strawberry variety of Dannon’s Oikos Greek yogurt, you are eating carmine—an extract made from the dried and pulverized dead bodies of the cochineal insect. That dye is also used in two flavors of Dannon’s Light and Fit Greek line, as well as in six of its Activia yogurts!

    Using red food dye of any kind in these products is deceptive, since consumers rightly expect that the pink or red color in their strawberry, raspberry, cherry, or boysenberry yogurt comes from the fruit pictured on the label. And not some extract made from six-legged creepy crawlies. But it certainly saves Dannon money by replacing berries or cherries with a food coloring.

    For most people, carmine is safe. But for a small number of consumers, it can be a serious problem. Some experience hives after consuming products with carmine. Others have more potentially life-threatening anaphylactic shock. At the very least, Dannon should indicate on labels that carmine comes from an insect. Vegetarians who don’t have a dictionary handy would be especially interested to know.

    Please take a moment to sign this petition and tell Groupe Danone CEO Franck Riboud to put berries over bugs! If Dannon thinks its yogurt is insufficiently pink or red, they should use more strawberries, raspberries, cherries, or boysenberries—and not allergenic extracts made from insects.


    Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    Center for Science in the Public Interest

    P.S. Please forward this message to your friends and ask them to sign the petition as well. Out with the bug extract and in with the berries! And please Tweet this link (http://bit.ly/BerriesOverBugs) to the petition using hashtag #BerriesOverBugs.

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