Our great-grandparents, even our grandparents, didn’t really have to worry about the food they fed their children. Their concerns about food were more likely to be about staying fresh not whether pesticides were used, whether it was processed, or whether ingredients were used that are harmful. Our information about food was limited and the “facts” seemed to change as more was learned and were dependent on who was telling the “facts”.
Over a decade ago, the American Psychological Association published a paper, The impact of food advertising on childhood obesity. They found that there are strong association between the increases in advertising for non-nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity. Food ads on television make up 50 % of all ad time on children’s shows and children ages 2-7 were exposed in one year to 4,427 ads (29 1/3 hours of their life). I wonder how many hours of ads it is today?
There are numerous government agencies concerned about the food we serve our children. They evaluate foods for pesticides, for metals like lead and arsenic, require labels about ingredients, and monitor for infections connected with food products. Government agencies that work to make our food safe do publish their information but there are not over 4000 ads about healthy food on children’s programing.
Unfortunately here is where ancient Latin reminds us about Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware. This ancient saying states that the buyer is responsible to learn about what they are buying as they should know that the seller will only show the good points. This is not easy but labels help and being aware of the many problems in processed foods helps.
Recently The Washington Post reported on a problem reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA said brominated vegetable oil, used to keep fruity flavors from separating is not considered safe after animal studies showed it had toxic effects. The studies showed brominated oil is potentially harmful to the thyroid, liver and heart and could cause neurological problems. This oil is used to keep fruit flavors from separating in drinks and floating to the top. This oil is/has been found in Sun Drop as well as store-brand orange, pineapple and citrus flavored sodas from Giant, Food Lion, Walmart and others. The FDA is suggesting banning brominated vegetable oil and many companies are redoing their drinks. The label will say if the product contains brominated oil.
This real case shows that drinking a fruit flavored drink could cause harm. There is limited nutritional value in a fruit flavored drink so why buy it. Besides the brominated oil there is the problem of sugar and the dyes used to make the drink look and taste fruity.
All grocery shoppers need to be aware how their buying is influenced and know that children are not the only ones influenced about what they want by advertisements.
By Sally Robinson, MD
Keeping Kids Healthy
University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB)
Published November 2023