A few of my students warned me recently about the news of illegal plasticizers and dispersants in Taiwanese soft-drinks and sport-
drinks. I thought I would write a brief explanation of what these chemicals are and why you might want to consider them all as potentially dangerous, not just the ones which have been made illegal as food additives here in Taiwan.

Plasticizers, otherwise known as dispersants are chemicals which change the consistency of products. They are used to alter the viscosity of some liquids, and to allow some chemicals to stay soluble. This is important to processed food, only in a aesthetic sense.

Try this experiment. Make some fresh green tea at home. Then let it sit for a few days in the refrigerator, and then carefully take it out. You will notice that the tea has sunk to the bottom, while the top as become watery. If food producing companies didn’t use dispersants in their drinks, then your green tea from 7-11 and almost all drinks on the store shelves would need a good shake to re-mix them. It’s only because people expect that their store-bought drinks should be uniform while sitting on the shelf for weeks that plasticizer is used. In essences, if you saw a drink on the shelf that had separated into different layers (like the homemade green tea experiment) then you would probably react by assuming it had been on the shelf longer than the other drinks when in fact that would not necessarily be the case. It also would be healthier for you considering that it would not have any plasticizer. That is some food for thought. Do your expectations about the look of store-bought processed food actually do more damage to your health? Is eating a healthy looking poison the direction you want to guide your diet?

Of course plasticizers have other important roles in many other industrial products. Plastics, soaps, cement, oil, shampoo, etc. In most cases they are less dangerous because people don’t consume them. However, although some plasticizers are bio-friendly to a certain degree, none of them are necessarily natural to our diet, or safe for long-term consumption. In fact because they are relatively new, I would argue that long term health risks are generally poorly understood. My advice is to stay away as much as possible. The Taiwan Times article this week revealed that studies show that people who consume processed drinks on a daily basis suffer from sexual disfunction 5 times more often than those who do not consume processed drinks daily.

All of them are toxic to a certain degree and must be removed from our blood and digestive tract via our liver. This can lead to stress, liver disease, cancer, and perhaps even diabetes. When considering that a large food companies goal is simply to make as much money as possible and not to produce healthy natural food, then it would be safe to say that they don’t consider it their responsibility to consider any options further than the cheapest legal chemicals available on the market. Otherwise, their shareholders would be up in arms (upset).

These facts, my friends, are why I try to strongly limit my consumption of processed foods. I will drink water and freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices, as well as make my best effort to only consume foods that I can recognize as a plant, or animal. Foods that have been processed more or less to any extent will contain some plasticizers and preservatives which are all damaging to our health in some way or another.

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