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What do Ingredient Labels Really Mean?

Updated on September 25, 2016
What is really lurking inside that wrapper?
What is really lurking inside that wrapper?

Are you sure you want to still eat that?

After a good few months of research into why I was suddenly displaying allergic reactions to a lot of different foods which I had previously not been allergic to, and literally having a migraine a day, I was advised to inspect food ingredient labels, to see exactly what I was eating.

So many parents complain of hyperactive children who are inattentive, and who don't want to eat wholesome foods, while also complaining of abdominal cramps and headaches almost constantly.

With the fast-paced world we now live in, it is all too easy to pick up a take away meal or purchase a ready made meal in the frozen food section of the local supermarket and pop it in the microwave. But how many people take the time to stop and read exactly what is in the so-called 'food' that they are putting into their bodies?

The photo above is of a seemingly innocent bar of chocolate made by Cadbury here in South Africa. It looks and tastes good, so most people assume that because it is on the shelf, it is safe for human consumption. Unfortunately, 'safe for consumption' definitely doesn't mean that it is healthy. Many ingredients found in foods today actually aren't safe for human consumption at all, but because manufacturers know that 95% of the population don't take the time to read food labels or lists of ingredients, they know that they will get away with adding these harmful substances to their food products.

Let's take a look at the list of ingredients in the chocolate bar in the photo above. To me, alarm bells ring when I see ingredients masked as E numbers. I don't know about you, but I like to know exactly what I'm eating. When I see a list of E numbers that is as long as the pen I am using to mark off my shopping list, I eliminate that item from my list, because to me, manufacturers must have something to hide when they aren't willing to openly list what is in their products in a way that the public can understand what they are.

How many people will actually go and check to see exactly what each and every E number is? Not many. Very few in fact. Well, I am one of those who does check - and very carefully indeed. After doing a little research, I was shocked to discover exactly what goes into something like a chocolate bar to make it aesthetically appealing and supposedly tasty - especially to children.

I found that almost all sweet products on our shelves here in South Africa are actually not suitable for children. Wherever colourants are concerned, these will almost always have extremely negative effects on your child's health, concentration and behaviour.

Inspection of the E numbers on the wrapper above revealed the following facts about the ingredients is this chocolate bar:


E133 - Brilliant Blue:

This colourant has been banned in most EU countries because of the negative effects it has on children, one of the main side effects being that it causes severe hyperactivity. It is definitely not suitable for consumption by children at all.

E110 - Sunset Yellow/FCF:

This colourant has many adverse side effects, among them being that it can cause hives, allergic rhinitis (nope Mom, it isn't always pollen and grass that causes your child's allergy symptoms!), abdominal pain, indigestion/heartburn, nausea, vomiting and chronic hyperactivity.

E124 - Cochineal Red:

This colourant has been known to cause severe hyperactivity, as well as severely allergic reactions for asthmatics. It is also definitely not recommended for consumption by children.

E104 - Quinoline Yellow:

This colourant has been known to cause severe dermatitis, and is also found in many cosmetic products. It is also definitely not recommended for children. The next time your make up or lipstick gives you a nasty rash or skin irritation, you know exactly what the culprit could be.

Each of the above colourants is 100% synthetic, and derives its origins from coal tar dye. Shocking, isn't it?

Now, those were just the four colourants that were on that label. Let's move on to the rest of what you'll most likely find in a store-bought chocolate bar.

E322 - Lecithin:

While lecithin itself is a naturally occurring substance, it's origins these days stand a very good chance of being genetically modified. Not good. Not good at all, seeing as though GM food products seems to be doing our environment and people more harm than good.

E476 - Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate:

This ingredient is a cheap filler ingredient that is used to reduce the amount of cocoa butter needed in chocolate. It derives it's origins from castor oil and glycerol esters. Basically, by using more of this than the cocoa butter, it is far cheaper to produce the item, and therefore a lot more profit is made, never mind whether it is actually healthy for a person or not.

E500 - Sodium Carbonates:

No adverse effects seem to have been reported regarding this food additive. If you know of any, please feel free to comment and let me know. It is used as a raising agent in food.

E223 -Sodium Metabisulfate:

This raising agent, however, is an entirely different matter and should be avoided at all costs, as it can cause skin irritations, gastric irritation and may also cause severe reactions in asthmatics.

All of that in a single bar of chocolate.

So many cases of ADHD are being reported these days, and people are asking "why?" 10 or even 15 years ago, there weren't so many food additives around, and 'strangely enough,' there were a lot fewer cases of ADHD as well back then.

Parents need to be more aware of what they are feeding their children. I often hear the excuse of, "I can't stop giving them everything they like." But, at the end of the day, would you rather have a child who is healthy, and who doesn't need to be diagnosed with ADHD and have to use Ritalin, or would you rather have a child who is not able to live up to their full potential due to the side effects of being on Ritalin?

There are many safe, preservative-free treats available for children - and adults! Parents need to stand their ground and realize that a family is not a democracy, so they need to do what is best for the health of their family.


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      Dave e 12 months ago

      I just read your article about TBHQ after waking up with another headache and nausea. The product I ate was Taco shells. We thought or know that my headache are coming from bleached flour and have avoided them, but the new headache turned up with taco made from Limed corn flour with the TBHQ preservative. I looked up the preservative and found your article. A little research on the author, a photographer, she must be good thanks for the confirmation (at least for now). I'm in the States and just started in this riddle after getting little from the doctors. I'm an engineer who won't stop to I find the exact cause. So far bleached flour and preservatives are gone. Dave e

    • profile image

      3 years ago

      I just wish I could get my family and friends to believe it...and not just roll their eyes at me. I'm also one of those 'mad' people that make shopping into an event as I read every label. What i've realised, especially in sa is that most candy bars don't even bother labelling the 'flavorant' or 'colouring' with an e so you have no way of even checking what you're eating... I've even seen this on cheese?! Wtbleep?! Anyway to all the 'non believers' out there all I can say is I hardly ever have migraines anymore and find I can focus all day on just one morning coffee! Thanx for posting this, its great to find other sensible people out there!

    • Shona Venter profile image

      Shona Venter 6 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you, RichERich1175. It's scary to see what people are willingly consuming these days, and many times, it is without a second thought.

    • RichERich1175 profile image

      RichERich1175 6 years ago

      I do not know if I can look at chocolate the same way every again?!?! I might have to cancel my trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Well-written and enlightening, young lady!!