Be aware of fruit and veg stickers on health risk

If you are ever tempted to buy children a packet of custom sticker stickers for their fruit and veg, think again. The fruit and veg stickers, which are sold on your local supermarket’s shelves…

Be aware of fruit and veg stickers on health risk

If you are ever tempted to buy children a packet of custom sticker stickers for their fruit and veg, think again.

The fruit and veg stickers, which are sold on your local supermarket’s shelves as stickers to advertise products, can contain dangerous chemical additives, and even require food labelling requirements.

Like candy pieces, pre-cut stickers can be tricky to get your hands on, with the culprits being large families or very enthusiastic children, who will try to ‘borrow’ another child’s present. Fruit and vegetable stickers are non-carcinogenic and do not contain salt, sugar or fat, but they do contain a range of artificial chemicals that may be dangerous if absorbed through the skin or onto your eyes.

So what is the risk of food poisoning when you eat stickers? The problem comes down to the chemicals in the stickers that are not listed on the label and found in the produce.

Common examples include Citric Acid (used as flavour enhancer for sugar products), Baking Powder (used to improve the colour and texture of fresh fruits and vegetables) and Cyanide (an irritant for some people). Adding even more to the mix is a widely used preservative called Hydroxyphosphate, which acts as a colour booster for pre-cut fruit.

This warning is supported by scientific evidence.

The recall of three-course packs with Safe Onions crisps in New Zealand in 2016 warned of methyl salicylate, a dangerous chemical which can be added as a colour enhancer to potatoes, onion rings and onion burgers.

Another citrus additive is artemisinin, a banned drug used as a stabiliser in corn and citrus oils for safe storage and long-term storage. Over-dosing has led to a dangerous trend of capsaicin popping, in which long-used capsaicin oil which affects the brain and can lead to coughs, sleeplessness and migraine in some people.

In the UK, Natural England highlighted the risk of taste enhancers from artemisinin. The problem is that artemisinin is mostly used as a preservative in the production of palm oil, which we commonly use to flavour fruit juices and drinks.

When the artist Grayson Perry first came across these stickers he was worried that they could prove harmful to children. Why do these food additives have a health risk?

The problem is that artemisinin has a relatively rare pharmacologic effect and in high doses is thought to act as a neuro-toxin, potentially damaging the brain of children. These types of preservatives are long-standing substance used in the manufacture of pre-cut fruit. Even worse, use of artemisinin as a flavour enhancer does not restrict which fruit must be processed, so is available for use in ready meals and confectionery products.

The residue of artemisinin can be inhaled when large amounts of table salt are applied to one’s skin. Also, unlike sugar content, artemisinin cannot be seen on the label of fruit, so it is hard to know whether the chemical is present in quantity. Even with the most thorough laboratory testing, it is difficult to trace artemisinin across the globe and is not known to be banned.

Finally, as for the active agent of all pre-cut fruit, citric acid, research has shown that it has a range of toxic effects on the kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract, which may not be well understood due to its direct effects on the human body. The possible adverse effects of these added nutrients in processed food products are yet to be determined.

We don’t know the full impact of artemisinin on humans, but we have to protect our children from added artificial chemicals found in this popular pre-cut fruit.

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