Want to Know What's in Your Food? There's an App for That

New app helps you determine which food additives are safeIf you've ever wondered what those tongue-twisting, multi-syllabic ingredients in your food were, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has an app for you.

The nutrition, health and safety issue watchdog group has put its Chemical Cuisine database in a mobile application available for download at Apple's iTunes store and Motorola's Android Market. The app sends CSPI's food additive safety ratings directly to iPhones, iPads, the iPod Touch and Android-equipped mobile devices. The way it works is similar to the searchable online version of the database, with five color-coded sections: green for "safe," yellow for "cut back," orange for "caution," blue for "certain people should avoid" and red for "avoid" the food additive."Shopping for groceries was a lot easier when more food came from farms, and not factories," CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement. "And the tens of thousands of packaged foods on supermarket shelves have a bewildering array of chemical food additives, designed to variously enhance the taste, texture, color or shelf life of the product."

For example, on the "avoid" list is caramel coloring, with much of it being made with ammonia, sulfites and sometimes both -- CSPI recommends everyone avoid it. Coca-Cola and Pepsi recently drew the group's ire because those soft drinks contain caramel coloring, which the companies maintain is completely safe to consume.

Other apps that track food additives are already out there -- some are even free. What makes this one unique is it relies on CSPI's database. The group has been pushing for bans on synthetic food dyes, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a two-day hearing last month examining the dyes and possible effects on children. CSPI has filed a petition calling for the FDA to ban certain dyes.

Last year, the European Union mandated that products with synthetic food dyes had to carry warning labels -- something not required in the American marketplace. At the time of the EU mandate, the United States voiced concern to the World Trade Organization that the labels were not based on adequate scientific evidence.
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