Mayonnaise. Ice cream. Bread. Processed meat. What do all of these foods have in common? They all use emulsifiers, one of the most common preservatives that can be found in your shopping cart.Emulsifiers help improve the shelf life of food and prevent oil/fat in products from separating from other, water-based ingredients. A recent study from researchers at Georgia State University has found that consumption of emulsifiers is linked to colon cancer in mice.
The researchers tested out their theory by regularly feeding mice two common types of emulsifiers over a period of time, which “led to changes in intestinal bacteria that promoted inflammation and colon cancer,” according to the report.
According to current U.S. Department of Agriculture food regulations, a single emulsifier can only comprise 1 to 2 percent of a product, but there is no limit the number of different emulsifiers that can be used in a single product. Oftentimes, in highly processed foods, there are many different types of emulsifiers, all working to create a desired texture and mouthfeel of the product.
“I would tell people to try to cook instead of using food industry products,” researcher Emilie Viennois said in a press release. “In meals, mix processed foods with some homemade food so you don’t have huge exposure to emulsifiers in one meal.”