Thursday, October 26, 2006

Demystifying Food Labels

In this age of increased awareness and information explosion – we want to know everything about anything – and so it is with the food we buy/eat.

It’s good to know that food labeling laws are becoming stricter and packaged food manufacturers now must declare everything (well, almost everything) that they add to the food.

When I examined the food labels of the products that were lying around at home, I noticed that, in addition to the obvious ingredients that were mentioned by name, there were also some numbers like “E330”, “211”, etc. that were mentioned.

I was very curious as to what these numbers meant – and it really started bothering me a lot – so I decided to dig deeper and find out a little more about what we are eating.

Thanks to these few days of Diwali, I finally got that time – so, while most people were out visiting others and exchanging sweets, etc. (loaded with these very additives!!), I set about trying to demystify our food labels… and here’s what I found out (thanks to Google).

1. Packaged food contains certain additives that make it necessary for manufacturers to actually “package” the product. These are necessary and beneficial (to stop food decay, prevent bacteria formation, etc.) and are required for increasing shelf-life and maintaining product consistency.
2. Some of these are just for “cosmetic” appeal. Here’s where the “added flavours and colours” comes in.
3. There is an “approved” list of “permitted” additives & colours, put out by various governments. In India we have our own Food & Drug Administration (FDA) authority and abroad, the USFDA lays down guidelines.
4. Labels are allowed to refer to these additives by just referring to their serial numbers.

Ok, so far so good … but, here’s the clincher … (you knew there was one, didn’t you?)

Though these are “approved” – which means they are safe for consumption in the specified amounts, no where is it mentioned that these additives have NO SIDE EFFECTS, when consumed in larger quantities – or when combined with other “permitted” additives!!

So, if you’re having, say, a Cola with Salted Wafers – Boy, are you in trouble!!! Which means, even these so-called “permitted” additives/colours can cause havoc to our health!

And, yes, I also found out what those numbers meant – and was not very happy about it!!

So it would mean that now we REALLY know what we’re eating, right? WRONG!

Here are a few of the products that kids love to eat (and amongst other things, these are the additives that are present in these products)…

Product A - Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Ammonium Hydrogen Carbonate, Lecithins, Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, Caramel I-Plain, Ponceau 4R.

Product B - Calcium Carbonate (Chalk), Citric Acid, Caramel IV-Ammonia Sulphite Process, Disodium 5'-Guanylate and Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate.

Product C - Pectins, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Metabisulphite, Azorubine/Carmoisine, Brilliant Blue FCF.

Could you guess which products are these? ….. No? OK, here are the answers …

Product A = Britannia Treat Bourbon Cream Biscuit
Product B = Maggi 2 Minute Noodles
Product C = Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam

I bet you’re surprised! Yeah, this is the stuff we are feeding our kids!!

The permitted Food Additive numbers are grouped together based on their “properties” and what they are used for. Here is the full classification:

100-199 = Colours
200-299 = Preservatives and Food Acids
300-399 = Antioxidants, Mineral Salts and Food Acids
400-499 = Emulsifiers, Humectants, Vegetable Gums & Processing Aids
500-599 = Anti Caking Agents, Firming Agents, Stabilisers & Processing Aids
600-899 = Flavour Enhancers
900-1201 = Sweetening Agents, Bleaching Agents, Propellants, Antifoaming Agents
1400-1450 = Thickeners
1505-1521 = Sequestrants and Solvents

The media has ensured that we are well aware of the usual suspects: Aspartame and Saccharin (Sugar substitutes), MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate), BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil) and, more recently, the pesticide content in Soft Drinks.

Now here is a list I compiled from my kitchen – which has everyday products like Biscuit, Soup, Pasta, Noodles, Jam, Juice, Crush, Colas, Soda! (The ones in BOLD are best avoided – especially by young children and those suffering from Asthma)
122 = Azorubine / Carmoisine
124 = Ponceau 4R
127 = Erythrosine
133 = Brilliant blue FCF

150 = Caramel I-plain
150c = Caramel III – ammonia process
150d = Caramel IV-ammonia sulphite process
160a = Carotenes
160b = Annatto extracts
170(i) = Calcium carbonate
211 = Sodium benzoate
223 = Sodium metabisulphite
260 = Acetic acid, glacial
300 = Ascorbic acid (L)
319 = Tertiary butylhydroquinone
322 = Lecithins
327 = Calcium lactate
330 = Citric acid
331 = Sodium citrates
338 = Orthophosphoric acid
341(i) = Monocalcium orthophosphate
415 = Xanthan Gum
440(i) = Pectins
471 = Mono-and di-glycerides of fatty acids
481(i) = Sodium stearoyl lactylates
500 = Sodium carbonates
500(ii) = Sodium hydrogen carbonate
503(ii) = Ammonium hydrogen carbonate
509 = Calcium chloride (Chalk)
627 = Disodium 5'-guanylate
631 = Disodium 5'-inosinate
1101(i) = Protease
1422 = Acetylated distarch adipate

Well, now that you are better informed, please rummage through your kitchen cabinet and fridge and decode what you’re eating … and what you're feeding your loved ones !!!

Seems like the best thing to do is stick to as many natural and fresh foods, as is possible.

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Words of Wisdom - 1

Very few thinkers, writers or philosophers (I would prefer calling them personal-motivators) have been able to really strike a chord within me .. Robin Sharma, Swami Ramdev, Osho Rajneesh, Steven Covey, Anthony Robbins, Robert J. Ringer, Richard P. Feynman are those that I would put ahead of the rest.

Yeah, I know .. a lot of you will be aghast at the fact that these names from very diverse fields and backgrounds appear side by side .. well .. it’s MY life .. and MY blog .. so that settles it ... I guess !

In my own way, I would like to pay Obeisance (wow, I don’t know if that’s going to be possible) to them, by reproducing a few really hard-hitting ideas that have made an impression on me.

Its possible that a few of these may reach out and touch you … stir you .. motivate you .. into getting the most out of yourself.

Go ahead … discover your true calling ...
....Discover your Dharma ... and set yourself free !

Here's Part 1 .. from ....
Robin Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari...

1. Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakens.

2. There are no absolutes. What really separates people who are habitually upbeat and optimistic, from those who are consistently miserable, is how the circumstances of life are interpreted and processed.

3. There are no mistakes in life. Only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn, advance along the road of self-mastery. From struggle comes strength.

4. Most people have grown the most from their most challenging experiences.

5. The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.

6. The secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all of your energy towards doing it.

7. Success like happiness cannot be pursued. It must ensue – Victor Frankl.

8. Saying that you don’t have time to improve your thoughts and your life is like saying you don’t have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving. Eventually it will catch up with you.

9. Weak minds lead to weak actions.

10. Never be ashamed of doing that which is right; decide on what you think is good and then stick to it.

11. Every second you spend thinking about someone else’s dreams you take time away from your own.

12. Fatigue is a creation of the mind.

13. He who serves the most, reaps the most, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

14. The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

15. Anyone can revolutionize their lives once they revolutionize the direction in which they are moving. But if you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever know when you get there.

16. You will never be able to hit a target you cannot see.

17. Every experience offers lessons. Stop majoring in the minor things. Enjoy your life.

18. Here, in our society we have lost our passion. We do not do things because we love to do them. We do things because we feel we have to do them. This is a formula for misery.

19. Change is the most powerful force in our society today. Most people fear it, the wise embrace it.

20. No man is free who is not a master of himself – Epictetus.

21. The only limits on your life are those that you set yourself.

22. When you are doing what you truly love to do you are bound to find deep contentment.

23. Pain is a precursor to personal growth. Don’t dread it. Instead, embrace it.

24. You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, you sow a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap your destiny.

25. To build a will of iron, it is essential to take small, tiny acts in tribute to the virtue of personal discipline.

26. Self-discipline will provide you with the mental reserves required to persevere when life throws you one of its little curves.

27. Truly enlightened people never seek to be like others. Rather, they seek to be superior to their former selves. Don’t race against others. Race against yourself.

28. People have liberty but lack freedom. They lack a key ingredient to a meaningful, enlightened life: the freedom to see the forest beyond the trees, the freedom to choose what is right over what seems pressing.

29. Positive always overcomes negative.

30. Wage war against the weaker thoughts that have crept into the palace of your mind. They will see that they are unwanted and leave like unwelcome visitors.

31. When you control your thoughts, you control your mind. When you control your mind, you control your life. And once you reach the stage of being in total control of your life, you become the master of your destiny.

32. Small victories lead to large victories. You must build on the small to achieve the great.

33. What separates those who build exceptional lives from the “also rans” is the way they use their time.

34. Time mastery leads to life mastery. Guard time well. It’s a non-renewable resource.

35. Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

36. Stop living your life in compartments and understand once and for all that all you do forms one indivisible whole. The way you act at home affects the way you act at work. The way you treat your people at the office affects the way you will treat your family and friends.

37. Enlightened people are priority driven.

38. Don’t let others steal your time. Be wary of time thieves.

39. Learn to say no. Having the courage to say no to the little things in life will give you the power to say yes to the big things.

40. Laughter opens your heart and soothes your soul. No one should take life so seriously that they forget to laugh at themselves.

41. Imagine waking up every day and asking yourself the simple question; “What would I do today if it was my last?”

42. You will start focusing on all the meaningful things that you have been putting off, and stop squandering time on all those petty things that have dragged you down into the quagmire of crisis and chaos.

43. Act as if failure is impossible, and your success will be assured.

44. The quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution.

45. A little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses. When you work to improve the lives of others, you indirectly elevate your own life in the process.

46. Every dawn is a new day to the one who is enlightened.

47. The most important moment is now. Learn to live in it and savor it fully.

48. Being engaged in a pursuit that truly challenges you is the surest route to personal satisfaction.

49. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

50. Goals energize your life. Never put off happiness for the sake of achievement.

51. Live your children’s childhood. What is the point of climbing the steps of success if you have missed the first steps of your own kids ?

52. What good is owning the biggest house on the block if you have not taken the time to create a home?

53. The best gift you can ever give your children is your love. Pretty soon they will be off, building lives and families of their own. Then it will be too late, the time will be gone.

54. Happiness is a journey. It is also a choice you make.

55. The size of your bank account and the size of your house has nothing to do with living life with a sense of joy and wonder. The world is full of unhappy millionaires.

56. We all have something that we are meant to do. Your genius will shine through, and happiness will fill your life, the instant you discover your higher purpose and then direct all your energies towards it.

57. Let this new day be the defining moment of your life, the day that you make the decision once and for all to focus on what is truly important to you.

58. Stop putting off your happiness for the sake of achievement. Instead why not enjoy the process? Revive your spirit and start tending to your soul. This is the way to Nirvana.

59. We are all here for some special reason. Meditate on what your true calling is, and how you can give yourself to others.

60. Today, light your spark of life and let it blaze brightly. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future.

BTW, all the copyrights belong to Mr. Robin Sharma .. and he deserves it !

Which one(s) connected with you, the most ? Please let me know ...

Well ... and that's how I feel ...