While there are things (these are not food) that should not be part of your pantry, there are three that need special focus and need to be removed from your pantry.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that is very cheap due to the governmental subsidies on corn and import taxes on sugar. While producers claim that it is not unhealthy and have a large ad campaigns to convince people to continue to use it. Believed to contribute to obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other diseases, HFCS is now getting more negative press. Several studies (including Princeton University, a study published in the journal Obesity, and another one in the medical journal Practical Gastroenterology) have listed avoiding foods with HFCS is one of their top recommendations. HFCS is defintely an ingredient that doesn't belong in your pantry! Just avoiding foods labeled with high fructose corn syrup may not be enough to keep it out of your pantry and your diet. Unfortunately, there are other names under which HFCS hides when it comes from other countries: glucose-fructose syrup (Great Britain), glucose/fructose (Canada), isoglucose (Europe), crystalline fructose (this powder form in much sweeter and typically used in frozen yogurt and drinks). Here are a few commonly found items (there are so many more....Read the label!) from the grocery store that contain HFCS (as of December 2012):
Capri Sun Juice
Dannon fruit on the bottom yogurt
Kellogg's Pop Tarts
Kraft Cheez Nips
Several Kellogg's cereals including Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Special K, and Smart Start
Nabisco Fig Newtons
Nabisco Wheat Thins
Planter's Trail Mix
Seagram's Tonic Water
Smuckers Uncrustables Peanut Butter/Strawberry Jam Sandwiches
Monoasodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a sodium salt, sometimes referred to as free glutamic acid, which is primarily used as a flavor enhancer. The Mayo Clinic has stated that some people are sensitive to MSG in their food and experience headaches, flushing, sweating, numbness, tingling or burning on the face or neck, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, or weakness. There has also been studies stating that they discovered that MSG promotes inflammation of the liver. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, infant animals exposed to MSG have developed neurobiological problems even when that exposure was because their mothers were fed MSG while pregnant. Dr. Blaylock feels that the exposureand change in brain function can be similar to human ADD and ADHD. MSG is not always easy to identify. Often it is found in salad dressings, sauces, flavored potato chips, seasoning mixes, and other highly processed foods. It can be difficult to remove from your pantry as it hides under dozens of names.
The following list contains those ingredients that always contain MSG and should be avoided. The "E" numbers are the European way of identifying additives which is important since so many foods are imported.
Glutamic Acid (E 620)
Anything "Glutamate" (E 621, E 622, E 623, E 624, E 625)
Calcium Caseinate, Sodium Caseinate
Anything "Soy Protein"
These frequently contain MSG or free glutamic acid. The decision to eat foods that contain these ingredients may require some research on your part.
Carageenan (E 407)
Bouillon, broth, stock
Anything "Flavors" or "Flavoring"
Citric Acid, Citrate (E330)
Anything containing "enzymes"
Anything "fermented" (excluding traditionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir)
Anything "protein fortified"
Many forms of "whey" protein
Per the FDA, color additives are used in foods for many reasons: 1) to offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; 2) to correct natural variations in color; 3) to enhance colors that occur naturally; and 4) to provide color to colorless and "fun" foods. Without color additives, colas wouldn't be brown, margarine wouldn't be yellow and mint ice cream wouldn't be green. Color additives are now recognized as part of practically all processed foods we eat.
One artificial color that needs particular attention is caramel. Many think that it's a natural substance, caramel is actually a blend of ammonia and sulfites mixed with sugar. Another type of caramel color, made only with ammonia tends to be in beer, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and other dark brown foods. Given the amount of caramel coloring used in the US in soft drinks, this could represent a potentially high carcinogenic exposure. On an interesting note, many products manufactured in this country using artificial colors are produced without those artificial colors when sold in other countries. Kraft, Kellogg, McDonald's, Mars, PepsiCo, and other companies all make their products with natural colors for other countries where the artificial colors are either outlawed or legislation requires a warning label. Artificial colors can be found in food products such as salad dressings, marshmallows, pickles, pie filling, jellies, and juices. Also in products such as vitamins, mouthwashes, medications, and cosmetics. If you eat, swallow, or wear artificial colors from these other sources, you are getting a significant exposure to them. Even wearing them can cause a problem. Remember that your skin is the largest body organ. What you put on it will make its way into your body.