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Most foods purchased by Americans contain 'concerning' additives: study

May 05, 2023May 05, 2023

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Americans have a lot of junk in their (car) trunk, as researchers note people are buying more ultra-processed foods than ever before.

Nearly 60% of food enjoyed by Americans contains additives — 10% more than reported in 2001, per new findings published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"Our research clearly shows that the proportion of ultra-processed foods with additives in Americans’ shopping carts increased significantly between 2001 and 2019," Dr. Elizabeth Dunford, the study's lead investigator, said in a statement Monday.

Commonly used for color, flavor, sweetener and preservation, additives can extend shelf life and improve texture of food.

But Dunford noted the "growing evidence" linking high consumption of processed foods to adverse health outcomes.

A study published last month determined nanoparticles found in popular food coloring may cause digestive distress and impairment.

Present in a variety of cereals, chips, candies and more, the jolly coloring could be wreaking unknown havoc to bodies.

And British food additive expert Erik Millstone told CBS News "there is evidence that [additives] may be toxic to human consumers, that it may even either initiate or promote the development of tumors."

A Food and Drug Administration spokesperson previously told The Post the agency frequently monitors food additives, which must be "supported by science" and meet safety standards in order to be used.

For this new study, researchers used Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel data from 2001 to 2019. Participants use a handheld scanner to record universal product codes on their foods.

Researchers found US consumers buy more than 400,000 different packaged food and beverage products each year at grocery stores.

The mean number of additives in these products increased from 3.7 in 2001 to 4.5 in 2019, according to the study.

Scientists noted a staggering 22% increase in purchases of ultra-processed baby food that contain additives, but say they found a silver lining: a decrease in flavor additives in sodas.

The research comes as Americans demand more transparency from labels and brands, said Dr. Barry Popkin, the study's senior investigator.

"We hope the findings from this study will be used to inform policymakers on where Americans — especially babies — are being exposed to additives, and how the packaged food supply is changing," Popkin said in a statement.

Previous studies have suggested that a diet heavily reliant on ultra-processed foods could lead to the development of dementia, cancer and depression.

A French study from 2019 claimed that, for every 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption, there was a 14% higher risk of early death.

Dunford hopes her study can "set the foundation" for further investigation, or, at the very least, spur more research into the ingredients US newborns are consuming.

"At a minimum, I hope this work leads to further investigation into the types and amounts of ingredients being used in the manufacturing of baby food products," Dunford said.

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