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Watch out for these sweet flavours that could kill you

 Photo; Courtesy

Busy lifestyle and rapid industrialization have boosted the food industry, widening the range of processed foods available in our supermarkets.

Be it frozen potato wedges or cured meats and fish, a huge number is said to be loaded with dangerous food additives that create havoc on your health.

These additives can affect your health, increase your risk of heart problems, circulatory and nervous disorders and cancer.

Local food shoppers may have to be more careful on what they pick for their families as new evidence shows some additives previously thought to be safe are actually dangerous to human health.

Specifically, the Ministry of Health says some previously thought to be safe additives in processed foods sold locally could after all be bad for human consumption.

Mr. Robert Kilonzo; a food quality and safety expert said local and international groups have reached a consensus that three popular additives; Brilliant Blue, Chlorine dioxide and Formic acid be banned in food processing.

If effected, the ban which is under discussion, could affect thousands of products in the local market including maize and wheat flours, confectioneries and beverages.

Brilliant Blue is a popular food dye used to give attractive colors to dairy products such as yoghurt, in sweets and flavored drinks. Some studies have linked the consumption of the dye to hyperactivity and skin rashes.

The US Environmental Protection Agency lists Brilliant Blue among compounds linked to cancer. Formic acid is another food additive used to flavor juices, energy and sports drinks and ice creams but said to be highly corrosive and a possible cause for allergies.

The third food additive on the chopping block Kilonzo says is Chlorine dioxide, which is used to bleach flour to make it whiter. It is also used in disinfecting drinking water.


But shoppers may find it difficult to identify products containing these additives because some manufacturers will not indicate their presence or will use complex trade numbers only understandable by the industry.

 Kilonzo was making a presentation at a food safety workshop organized by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Kilonzo and his counterpart from Kenya Bureau of Standards Peter Mutua were hard pressed by an audience which felt their organizations were more bent on ensuring safety in products for export as opposed to foods in the local market.


For example, Prof Jasper Imungi, said although the use of saccharin, an artificial sweetener, 300 times sweeter than the ordinary table sugar was banned in 1974, beverages containing the additive are freely selling in the country.

In animal studies saccharin has been associated with cancer.

“While food additives are a necessary evil, Kenyans should consume them in moderation complementing them will unprocessed foods” he told the meeting.

He warned against the excessive use of some types of sauce, which are highly advertised locally and known to contain a Japanese additive called monosodium glutamate (MSG) which can lead to the so called Chinese restaurant syndrome.

The syndrome, may involve headache, sweating, skin flushing, burning throat and fatigue soon after eating food that contains this additive.

Another food expert, Prof Symon Mahungu said from innocent looking foods such as mandazi, chapatis to sugar free gum and ice cream Kenyans are exposed to too many food additives and need to consume these in moderation.

“Researching for this presentation I visited major supermarkets selling processed foods in Nairobi and the amount of additives in foods is staggering. I counted more than six different additives in sausages and a similar number in juices, coffee creamers and biscuits,” he said.

The Coca Cola Company put a strong case against what they said were unfounded reports on their use of colorings arguing they were always within the safe limits allowed in international standards.

Health Principal Secretary, Prof Fred Segor, said it was unethical for food manufacturers to mislead the consumer on the type and amount of additives in their products.

“You will agree with me that food additives, if not well regulated can lead to serious health issues,” he said.

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