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Fields & Applications Environmental, Food, Beverage & Agriculture

I Do Not Want Green Eggs and Ham

Food often contains substances that some of us do not wish to consume. Some substances may be considered undesirable for religious or ethical reasons, while others (for example allergens, lactose or gluten) can cause immediate serious illness or discomfort. Many consumers don’t feel comfortable consuming food containing measurable levels of agricultural chemicals (for example, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics) or environmental contaminants (for example, dioxins, PCBs or mercury).

In a perfect world, we consumers would be able to quickly and simply test our food for substances that we do not want to ingest. Although rapid test kits already exist for many allergens, agricultural chemicals and environmental contaminants, none are currently suitable for proper use by the average consumer, so we must rely on the food industry and governments for information through food labeling. Food labeling is not normally required for whole fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables and meat products. And consumers can be confident that the apples or potatoes they are buying do not contain peanuts... But this is not the case with processed foods – a frozen apple pie could very well contain traces of peanut protein. In addition, many non-food chemicals, such as emulsifiers, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial flavors and colors, may be added to processed foods. As a result, processed foods tend to require food labeling that provides the consumer with the information about ingredients with a potential health risk.

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About the Author

Jim Lawrence

James Lawrence is now retired, after a successful career at Health Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

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