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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Phone App!

I just got an email from the Center for Science in the Public Interest about a new phone app that I wanted to share with my readers. It sounds really interesting and a great way to help determine which foods are a healthier choice.

Shopping for groceries was a lot easier when more food came from farms, and not factories. And the tens of thousands of packaged foods on supermarket shelves have a bewildering array of chemical additives, designed to variously enhance the taste, texture, color, or shelf life of the product.

We decided to make life a little easier for those of you who want to satisfy your curiosity about some of the most commonly used food additives—from the convenience of your mobile device.

Introducing the Chemical Cuisine app—now available in the iTunes app store and the Android Market:   

Our staff scientists and I have pored over the literature on 130 of the most common food additives and have ranked their safety. Happily the vast majority is relatively safe—but we’ve flagged those that everybody should avoid, as well as a number of additives most people would do well to cut back on. The app features a randomly selected additive each time you use it—and lets you search for whatever you’re looking for, or browse among categories.

I think you might be surprised by some of what we’ve found. For instance:

POLYGLYCEROL POLYRICINOLEATE. It certainly sounds scary! It’s used in some chocolate candies and margarines. But it’s perfectly safe. You’d be better off worrying about the saturated and trans fat in foods that contain it.

QUORN/MYCOPROTEIN. This is a strange one—and it’s more of a food itself (loosely defined) than an additive. A British food company found a tiny fungus growing in a dirt sample, and then figured out how to grow it in giant vats and process it until it vaguely resembled chicken or other meats. But in some consumers, Quorn products cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and, less often, hives and potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions.

CARAMEL COLORING. Finally! A natural ingredient! But not so fast: Much of what goes by this innocent-sounding name is made with ammonia. And that “caramel coloring,” which is used in Coke, Pepsi, and other soft drinks, contains two carcinogens, 2- and 4-methylimidazole.

We’re offering Chemical Cuisine for 99 cents in the iTunes App Store and the Android Market.

Please consider downloading it today and recommending it to your friends who care about nutrition and the safety of their food. I can’t wait to hear what you think! You can let me know by reviewing the app at either of those stores or writing on our Facebook wall.

As you know, you can trust CSPI because we don’t take any money from the food industry (or any industry, for that matter), nor government agencies. We rely on you not only for financial support but your marketing muscle: Share this message via email, Facebook, and Twitter and urge your friends and colleagues to try the app as well.

Thank you—and I hope you find this application useful.


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

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