When Is A Cake Not A Cake? Harmful Chemicals In Food
Note: This is an article that I wrote a few years ago on my old blog, republished, but it’s still relevant!
Harmful chemicals in food are really common and the cake that spurred this article was no exception. The ingredients used to make it were more like a science experiment than food, but unless you read the label you have no idea what you’re actually eating…
When it’s bought from a store! My son’s girlfriend brought home a cake that she’d been given at work for her birthday last week. It was supposed to be a chocolate mud cake made in the Coles bakery (Australia). I, for the most part generally avoid these cakes and things, but I did partake a little of this one no doubt to the detriment of my health. It looked like a cake, and tasted like cake (although not like a home made one), but there were some marked differences as you’ll read below.
I used to do quite a bit of baking when I was younger, and I know from experience that cakes are usually made from flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, butter, cocoa (for chocolate) and maybe some milk, with some icing sugar, butter and maybe cocoa to ice it.
They were generally the basic ingredients. Ingredients we all know and that could generally be found in our cupboards or pantry.
The ingredients in the Coles cake are listed as follows:
Sugar, flour, canola oil (containing antioxidant 320), water, egg, cocoa, milk powder, thickener (1442), raising agents (450, 500), wheaten corn flour, iodised salt, glycerine, colours (133,155), humectant (1520), emulsifier (471), flavour, thickener (412), acicity regulator (330), preservative (202), chocolate ganache (dark compound chocolate (minimum 13%) sugar, vegetable fat, cocoa, whey powder, emulsifiers (322 from soy, 492) flavour, salt) sugar, water, canola oil (again with antioxidant (320)), glycerine, emulsifier (471), flavour, preservative (202), white compound chocolate (minimum 1%), sugar, vegetable fat, whey powder, emulsifiers (322 from soy, 492).
Try baking THAT in your kitchen!
We all know what the sugar, flour, water, egg, cocoa, milk powder, corn flour, chocolate, whey powder and vegetable fat are. Most of these are things we don’t want too much of in our diets (we could live without them – apart from maybe the eggs), but we know what they are.
But all the other ingredients. Whoa! What are they?
Well let’s take a closer look shall we?
Canola oil – we all know canola oil right? Do we also know that much of it is made from genetically engineered canola? and even if it’s not, it’s a hydrogenated oil, full of trans fats that are going to contribute to heart disease and thyroid disease. Canola oil is best avoided but definitely not the worst ingredient in this little chemical cocktail.
Antioxidant 320 – This is in the Canola oil. It’s name is Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and it’s a Petroleum derivative! That means it’s made from Petroleum – mmmm tasty! This ingredient is banned in some countries and is known to potentially cause hay fever, headaches, wheezing, fatigue and asthma, as well as gastrointestinal, liver, endocrine and neurotoxicity, and to top it all off it’s carcinogenic too (which means it causes cancer).
Thickener 1442 – Hydroxypropyl Distarch Phosphate – This may be made from GM crops. It is a modified starch and the safety of modified starches is still uncertain, especially in infants.
Raising agent 450 – Potassium Pyrophosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate or Sodium Pyrophosphate – Regarded as safe in small amounts. Excess can cause kidney damage and osteoporisis. (How much is excess? OR How much cake do you eat?)
Raising agent 500 – Sodium Bicarbonate – We all know bicarb but I think there may be different types (ways of making it? so some may be safer than others perhaps? not sure). Large doses can cause rashes, respiratory distress, gastrointestinal bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, and shock.
Flavours – it doesn’t say which ones but no doubt they are made in a laboratory and anyway, why does this cake need them? My cakes I used to make in my kitchen tasted better than this bought one so WHY are they in there?
Colour 133 Brilliant Blue – FD&C Blue no. 1 Coal Tar Dye. Banned in some countries. Causes asthma, urticaria, hayfever, allergic reactions, aspirin sensitive individuals should avoid and it’s carcinogenic. Note: Chocolate cake is brown from the Cocoa. Why does this cake need Bright Blue dye?
Colour 155 Brown HT – Brown Coal Tar dye – Same as the Blue one pretty much in the health effects. This colour is also banned in some countries. Note: Again what happened to the colouring effect of Cocoa?
Humectant 1520 – Propylene Glycol – (Oh My God!) It’s made synthetically from Propylene or Glycerol or Propylene Oxide. Can cause contact dermatitis, lactic acidosis, dry skin, as well as respiratory, immuno and neuro toxicity. CNS depression and kidney damage. Note: I avoid this stuff in my personal care products and I’ve just eaten it in this garbage dressed up as a cake!
Emulsifier 471 – Mono and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids – May be of animal origin and may be GM. Generally regarded as safe in food.
Thickener 412 – Guar Gum – Generally regarded as safe at low levels. May have health benefits but can cause intestinal cramps, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea.
Acidity Regulator 330 – Citric Acid – Sounds harmless. Citric Acid is from citrus fruits and berries right? Not when it’s made synthetically. It may contain MSG or GM ingredients. Generally regarded as safe, however if it contains MSG then it may cause a whole host of problems.
Preservative 202 – Potassium Sorbate – May cause allergic reactions, asthma, skin irritation and behavioral problems.
Emulsifiier 322 – Lecithin – May be made from animal origin or soy. May contain GM. Generally regarded as safe.
Emulsifier 492 – Sorbitan Tristearate – May be animal origin. May be GM. Regarded as safe at low levels, however high amounts in the diet can cause intralobur fibrosis, growth retardation and liver enlargement.
I have eaten a small piece of this cake on Friday and again tonight and both times felt unwell after. I’m fairly sensitive to chemicals and noticed both times that I felt kind of wired after and while I knew there would be some not so good ingredients in it, I didn’t realise the extent until I did the research for this post.
I have promised myself to never again eat anything like this. My health and my body mean more to me that that. It’s no wonder I felt not quite right after it!
It’s not only the (known) effects of each individual chemical that’s in this cake, but the possible effects of the whole toxic cocktail mixed together. I find it disgusting that this can be sold under the guise of food (even if it is ‘junk’ food) for not only adults, but also for children to eat. Is it any wonder there are so many health problems out there and behavioral problems in children? And this is common. Harmful chemicals in food are common so read your labels!
Anyone for cake? Not for me!