Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have some sodium ferrocyanide in your diet

Building upon my last post regarding salt on wikipedia it caught my eye that sodium ferrocyanide is an approved anti caking agent for addition to salt. It caught my eye as cyanide is not a healthy substance at all (it is what makes peach stones poisonous and kill possums). It turns out that this type of cyanide stays well bound and is passed out in urine without being modified. 

Further wikiwpedia digging  and some WHO documents it turns out that the acceptable limit is 0.025mg/kg/day. A 100kg person can have 2.5 mg a day. This is a rather small amount - think of a 1ml syringe. These have 0.1ml divisions along it. 2.5 mg would be a quarter of one of these 0.1ml divisions (assuming the salt is the same density as water, which it is not, but lets not get to complex).

This by itself does not concern me, there are more things to worry about nutritionally than a bit of anti caking agent. However what I find deeply disturbing is the following two facts. Firstly that no long term animal or human studies have been carried out. The longest animal study was 13 weeks in duration and human studies were based upon one off injections. Secondly that this data was collated in 1974 and human work was published in 1942, 1951 and 1956.

The reason I find these two points deeply disturbing is that over the long term you reap what you sow. For example if I drink 4 bottles of wine a day it will take years maybe decades before the long term effects of alcohol abuse shows up. eg lose of brain function, destruction of hormones etc etc. Thus we don't know what the long term effects could be of this anti caking agent. We have no idea at all about what happens over a lifetime of having such compounds.

The second thing is that science has come a very long way since 1942, 1951 and 1956. To base our intake on data that is over 50 years old is skating over thin ice. One would expect work to be done with modern equipment to confirm that there are no issues with this additive.

Now like I said there are more important things to worry about nutritionally and to be honest my intake of sodium ferrocyanide does not concern me. However the issues highlighted about sodium ferrocyanide are indicative of the issues we face in most food additives. We don't know the long term effects (let alone any interactions) and data is often based of decades old science.

No wonder we are in so much trouble with our food and health.

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