Dear Marion: What's in Our Food?

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Why you should care

Because this stuff is in just about everything we eat.

Food additives are a dizzying array of substances with a million uses: boosting a beverage’s flavor, fixing the texture of that energy bar, extending the life of the cereal in your kitchen cabinet. By some estimates, there are 10,000 sprinkled throughout our food supply. The polysyllabic wonders come from a wide range of synthetic and natural sources, but thankfully the federal government is there to check on the safety of each one, right?

Sorta.

We caught up with Marion Nestle, professor of food studies, nutrition and public health at New York University and author of Food Politics, who is one of many critics of Uncle Sam’s oversight on these matters. By law, products must be checked out by the Food and Drug Administration before they can be added to our food. But since 1958, there has been a growing list of exemptions. Nestle told OZY it’s hard to know whether some chemicals in the food supply are a problem because while we consume them in very small amounts day-to-day, over time these add up. “Part of the problem is that there’s a big unknown here,” she said.

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Numbers and factoids --- fodder for your next cocktail party.