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What Toxic Food Items are lurking in your pantry?

What Toxic Food Items are lurking in your pantry?

What does that question even mean? What are toxic food items, and why are they in my pantry anyway? While there are thousands of known toxins in our air, water and products, many of us are unaware of the potential level of toxicity in our everyday foods. These toxins are capable of causing disease when introduced to the body’s tissues. So where do we actually find these toxins?

One highly controversial toxin in today’s news is genetically- modified organisms (GMO)     and/or genetically-engineered (GE) food.  It can be very difficult with the two terms being used interchangeably to pin down their differences. 

While many types of food, plants and animals have been naturally crossbred and hybridized for centuries through normal reproductive processes to improve taste, yield, disease resistance, etc., GE alters the plants or animals DNA with the DNA from a different species of living organism, bacteria or virus to create such traits. They add foreign genes, thus creating a product that is does not occur in nature.

Not only has the FDA not tested these products for human consumption and long-term side effects, they also reject any labeling requirements for GMO/GE foods for its consumers.   While more than 60 nations do require the labeling of genetically modified food, and 38 countries have banned them worldwide, Americans have been kept in the dark about the 75% of their food supply that contains them. Currently the U.S. and Canada are the only two industrialized countries that do not require this labeling, even though the vast majority of people are in favor of it.

Since this is the case, avoiding genetically modified ingredients isn’t easy. If 75 percent of the food in supermarkets is genetically modified or contains genetically modified ingredients (Center for Food Safety 2013b), then it’s important to know what to look for when making informed purchasing decisions.  Knowing the following four most common GMOs and ingredients will help in your decision-making process:

Field corn and corn-derived ingredients

The U.S. plants more corn than any other crop, and it is the world’s largest producer of corn.  About 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified (USDA 2013b). The majority is field corn used in animal feed, with about 12% being used to make corn flour, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, masa, corn meal and corn oil to be eaten by consumers. It should be assumed that those ingredients in processed food on grocery store shelves are genetically modified.  Less than 1% of the American corn crop is sweet corn. Most sweet corn sold in supermarkets and farm stands is not grown from genetically modified seeds, however, there are a few varieties out there.

Soybeans and soybean-derived ingredients

Soybeans come in second in American crop production. Some 93 percent of soybeans grown in this country have been genetically modified (USDA 2013b). Soybean-based products and soybean-derived ingredients are extremely common on supermarket shelves.  Any product ingredient containing soy proteins, soybean oil, soy milk, soy flour, soy sauce, tofu or soy lecithin have been made with genetically modified ingredients unless they are certified organic or GMO-free.


About 55 percent of the sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, 95 percent of which have been genetically modified (USDA 2013c).  Any product label that does not specify “pure cane” sugar as an ingredient has a significant chance of containing genetically modified beet sugar.

Vegetable oils

Consumers should presume that vegetable oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil are all genetically modified. About 90% of our oilseed is derived from soybeans, (almost entirely genetically modified), with the remaining 10% being cottonseed, sunflower seed, canola (rapeseed), and peanut.  Cottonseed and canola oil primarily come from genetically modified varieties. More than 90 percent of corn oil is derived from genetically modified corn.

Other GMO foods in the news

In addition many other genetically modified foods are on their way.  These following have either been approved by the FDA or are presently being considered for approval: salmon, flax, plums, potato, radicchio, rice, tomato and wheat (FDA 2014).

In the news recently, the FDA is considering an application for genetically modified salmon. Salmon normally just produces growth hormones in the summer months. GMO salmon produce them year round and grow at twice the normal rate. If the FDA approves this salmon, it will be the first genetically modified animal available in American supermarkets.

While animals currently are not being genetically modified, it is important to note that 95% of our meat and animal products come from animals that are fed GE grains - not to mention being drugged and raised in concentrated animal feeding operations.

Two other controversial decisions facing the FDA are: approving apples genetically modified to keep from turning brown when sliced, peeled or bruised and new varieties of corn and soybean genetically modified to resist the toxic herbicide 2,4-D.  The need for more powerful herbicides has developed, some argue, because of the increased use of herbicide resistant GMOs in our plants.  “Superweeds” are developing resistance to herbicides, because the “modified seeds can tolerate greater use of certain herbicides and pesticides. And it's reportedly costing farmers $1 billion in lost crops.” (nbcnews.com, Sept. 30, 2014)

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