As a good example of the kind of ingredients that are hidden on food labels, let's take a look at MSG, also called monosodium glutamate. MSG is an excitotoxin -- an ingredient known to cause nerve damage by overexciting nerves. This is exactly how MSG enhances the taste of foods: by overexciting the taste buds on your tongue. While MSG is sometimes listed directly on the label, it is more frequently hidden in other ingredients, such as yeast extract, autolyzed vegetable protein, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein. All three of these ingredients contain monosodium glutamate, and yet they are designed to mislead consumers by avoiding mentioning MSG directly on the label.
Other ingredients may be misleading without necessarily being dangerous. One such ingredient is carmine -- a red coloring frequently used in yogurt, candies, fruit drinks and sweets. Carmine is actually made from the dead, ground-up husks of female red beetles. These beetles, which are typically raised in the Canary Islands, are dried and ground up to create a red paste. This red paste is then exported to the United States and other countries where food is produced. It is added to foods to give them a rose-like color, something similar to a strawberry color. It's listed on the label as "carmine", not as "ground-up red beetles." And while carmine doesn't necessarily pose a health risk to American consumers, it is still an example of dishonest labeling, because people have the right to know when ground-up insects are being used in their foods. There are probably 100 items in your grocery store right now with carmine listed right on the label. You can go to your store right now and check it out, and verify that what I'm relating here is true. (Pick up practically any strawberry yogurt...)
There are other ingredients used on food labels that are, in fact, extremely toxic to the human body, and yet are not listed with appropriate descriptors. One such ingredient is sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is added to most packaged meat products found in a grocery store, and even in health food stores. To most people, sodium nitrite simply sounds like a form of salt, but, in fact, this ingredient is extremely carcinogenic. When combined with your saliva and digestive enzymes, sodium nitrite creates cancer-causing compounds known as nitrosamines. These nitrosamines are so toxic to biological systems that they are actually used to give lab rats cancer in laboratory tests. In humans, the consumption of sodium nitrite has been strongly correlated with brain tumors, leukemia, and cancers of the digestive tract. Yet this ingredient carries absolutely no warning on food labels, and in fact, seems to sound like a perfectly safe ingredient, like sodium. As with carmine, you can go to your grocery store and find hundreds, if not thousands, of products using sodium nitrite. Look for it on bacon, ham, pepperoni, and other packaged meat products. In fact, it's almost impossible to find a packaged meat product that isn't made with sodium nitrite. This ingredient is especially prevalent in hot dogs and lunch meats. It has been clinically proven to cause leukemia, brain tumors and other forms of cancer.
By the way, if sodium nitrite is so dangerous, why do food manufacturers use it? Because it adds red color to meat products that would otherwise appear to be a putrid gray color. By making them look red with the help of this color additive sodium nitrite, these meat products look more delicious and fresh, even though they are not. Some of these products have the shelf life of several months, which is far longer than any normal piece of meat would last without looking rather undesirable.
The three ingredients mentioned here are only small examples of the kind of ingredients used by food manufacturers that pose potential harm to consumers and yet are not appropriately described on the food labels. Food labeling is frequently a con game, where the food manufacturer attempts to put ingredients into foods that benefit the manufacturer and yet harm the consumer. Of course, the manufacturer does not want the consumer to be aware that these ingredients are harmful, or that they are even present in the foods, so they rely on confusing names or innocent-sounding names, like "carmine", in order to avoid the chance that consumers might be concerned.
Taken as a whole, this demonstrates the high level of dishonesty and lack of integrity at food manufacturing companies. Many such companies in the business of manufacturing the cheapest, most profitable processed foods that consumers will buy, regardless of how healthy they may be. And as we can see from manufacturing practices today (and examples throughout the history of modern food), food manufacturers will use practically any ingredient they can get away with, including ones that are well-known to cause chronic disease. In modern times, such ingredients include hydrogenated oils and homogenized milk fats, which are found in virtually all cow's milk products.
The bottom line to all this is that the new Act requiring accurate labeling of food allergens is certainly a small step in the right direction for protecting consumers from food manufacturing companies, but it barely scratches the surface of the kind of labeling requirements that need to be enforced in order to prevent consumers from being exposed to other ingredients that promote chronic disease.