How well do you know what you're really eating?

Published 04/24 2014 10:16PM

Updated 04/25 2014 12:20PM

When was the last time you looked at a nutrition label? Some foods list dozens of ingredients, with names hard to pronounce. So, how are these ingredients studied and approved for our consumption? 

Factory foods have made chemical additives a significant part of our diet. They're in sodas, chips and most foods that come in a box.

Watch out for sodium nitrite, a preservative that some studies have linked to cancer. Saccharin is an artificial sweetener that has also been linked to cancer in animal studies. Olestra is another potentially harmful additive, used as a fat substitute in chips. Dietitians also recommend avoiding too much caffeine and food dye. 

Sugar and salt in high amounts can cause even more harm than questionable additives. Kathy Wehrle, a registered dietitian with Parkview Live, suggests eating plenty of produce and local foods from a farmer's market. 

You might think some federal agency is overseeing the safety of ingredients in U.S. food. But companies can say an additive is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) without FDA approval. This means the additive can be marketed right away without any further research. 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) offers a list summarizing the safety of all food additives:

Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.