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What food ingredients/related items do you completely avoid because of their dangers?

  • f

Not sure it's being a mom, or the fact that dh doesn't read any of this stuff, but there seem to be a million different things to be aware of in the modern supermarket, never mind in a restaurant. These things have been shown to be toxic!!! to our health and yet they are sold openly. How paranoid are you about these things? Do you avoid them completely?

Some of the items:

High Fructose Corn Syrup
Hydrogenated Oils
Water bottles that have been left in the heat can leak BPA- how many of the water bottles you buy have been refrigerated for the entire life of the bottle??
Sodium Benzoate
Maltose or other forms of added sugars that just make the food look low quality
Milk without the "hormone free" label

Or equally, foods with 20% of your sodium in a single serving, sugar or a substitute in the ingredients for something that's not a dessert, meat from factory farms. Where do you draw the line? Do you think about these things every time you go shopping? What about discussing it with your spouse/family members when visiting?

It is exhausting, no? I basically only buy unprocessed foods, but family members are living with us now and I try not to eat anything of which I don't know the content. However the cosntant ingredient checking is tiring, I kind of wish these products would be a little better regulated so I didn't have to do homework every time I examined a food product.

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  1. the only thing i avoid is fugu..

    all that worrying will drive u crazy....

    i dont go out of my way to avoid that much...
    i dont let my 3 yo eat every bad food for every meal...but a kids tv dinner once in a while for a treat never hurt her...
    she eats fruits and vegetables...
    she eats meat...
    she has an occasional snack food...
    as far as her doctor says...shes a healthy and happy kid...

    2 Replies
    1. re: srsone

      Fugu. Actually, I haven't had the opportunity to turn it down, but surely would!

      1. re: janeh

        A friend of mine has had it and says that if it wasn't so dangerous, no one would eat it. It's very uninteresting.


    2. I think by avoiding processed foods you'll take care of about 98% of your problems. The only other thing I routinely avoid are fish known to be high in mercury.

      1. I do avoid HFCS and hydrogenated oils, but it's pretty easy as I just don't buy things that have those in them, the sole exception being my hometown potato chips. When I am down that way, I have to pick up a bag, even though they have hydrogenated oil. We don't buy any factory farmed meat or milk with hormones and almost all of my canned goods now are beans from Edens, which is the only company using BPA-free cans.

        I find that just getting back to buying more real/natural products or making more things myself easily yields products without all these ingredients and without the necessary labeling. If I shop in a store that focuses on those items, they've already done most of the work for me, so I know I can shop in certain stores freely and not worry about label reading. I do spot check labels of course, but since almost all my grocery shopping is now done in natural food stores, I don't find as many offensive items.

        1. Avoid blue meat and you'll be fine.

          3 Replies
            1. re: beevod

              I tend to avoid the green meat.


              1. re: beevod

                why would I avoid blue meat (like a steak tartare) if it is very fresh and probably healthier than cooked meat?

              2. I made the decision a few years ago to generally buy organic. It costs more but that's ok. I shop at the Farmers' Market every week and try to eat more fruits and vegetables. What I buy canned, jarred or boxed--not including condiments/pickles/Chinese sauces--is probably fewer than a dozen items (tomatoes, beans, pasta, rice, coconut milk, brown sugar, tuna, yogurt.) They are simple foods with few ingredients. I think it is good to know what you're eating but bad to worry about it so much...as to discussing it with family, that can be a landmine unless they're interested.

                1. worry worry worry

                  dont eat chocolate, eat chocolate
                  dont drink coffee, drink coffee
                  dont drink red wine, drink red wine

                  if you let all these studies and hysteria run your life one would end up in a rubber room!

                  eat what you want in moderation, exercise, and be merry

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: joe777cool

                    I think a big part of the issue is that most of the food hysteria is just media generated garbage -- most of it isn't based on "studies" and if they are, it's generally based on studies like movies are based on real life stories.

                  2. I tend not to buythat many processed things, just because I'm less likely to like the taste. I don't spend a lot of time worrying that something might kill us, but by avoiding most processed foods, I can eliminate a lot of things on your list. And I do buy organic milk, which DH claims tastes better. My issue isn't so much avoidance of risk, although I do that when I can, but having a good taste experience. For example, I don't know anything about the health risks of sodium benzoate, but I do know that it is unspeakably bitter and absolutely ruins anything it touches.

                    1. I use water bottles that don't contain BPA, so not all of them would be toxic if left in the sun. I do avoid HFCS, because it consists of empty calories, and might possibly worsen incipient diabetes. I don't consider it toxic in the usual sense. The attitudes about sodium might possibly be changing.
                      It is fairly easy to buy lunchmeats without nitrate/nitrites, so when I buy them, I buy without.

                      It is one thing to be paranoid, and another to be informed and take action about what you know. If you make sure your child or children get well-balanced meals with natural foods, you should be fine. It seems to me that concentrating on what is good, and what is healthy to eat is better than fixating on all the toxic possibilities. But this is just my opinion.

                      1. There are very few foods that are dangerous or toxic when consumed in small or moderate quantities - most of the examples you gave are things that are bad for you when consumed in large quantities. HFCS is an issue, for example, because it shows up in everything, including things you wouldn't expect.

                        In general I try to eat good quality food that starts as ingredients - ie, meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, grains, plus things like pasta, bread, cheese, tofu, and to avoid too much overly processed or junk food. I also tend to avoid food substitutes (fake meat, margarine, "lite" anything, artificial sweeteners) partially on philosophical/scientific grounds, but mainly because I think they taste gross.

                        There are some things I plain-out won't eat for safety reasons, like uncooked blood, unrefrigerated night market sushi, or rare hamburgers.

                        I figure if 90% of what my dinners are made from is identifiable raw ingredients, then the other 10% isn't going to have that much of an impact. Plus, the stress of reading and freaking out over the labels is likely to take its own toll.

                        I also tend to look at the general issue of good vs bad foods from a scientists perspective. A significant fraction of the news reported claims about super foods, or horrible foods, are about studies that are still in progress. We *don't* fully understand most of the issues, exactly how the body processes different foods, in different combinations, in different diets, and what the true effect is. So being totally militant about HFCS, or saturated fats, or carbohydrates, is kind of pointless when the conclusions are likely to change over the next ten years, to totally different advice.

                        1. I agree with the "all things in moderation" approach. My kids eat mostly local/organic/whole grain/HFCS-free/grass-fed meats and homemade stuff. But they really like some treats like fried chicken tenders and vienna fingers and ritz crackers and cocacola, which I'd rather let them have on occasion than find them scarfing them down in the treehouse when nobody is looking. A child I grew up around was raised with all kinds of restrictions on what he could eat and he used to eat (stolen) candy bars in our bathroom and then hide the wrappers in the trashcan. That makes me feel sad-I've never forgotten it. I recently took my girls to ToysRUs and bought them the barbies they had been wanting for years...in the same vein. After a few weeks playing with them they don't really care for them so much but for an occasional prop in an imaginative game. We both won!

                          I have started avoiding mussels although i love them...they send my brother into atrial fibrillation and with my familial cardiac history I'm not willing to chance it.

                          It is a scary world out there and one thing I've done to cut down on the fear is to stop reading as much about it as I did when my girls were babies. I still read about food but try to stop when I feel myself getting that crazed sensation. ;)

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: amyamelia

                            I dont understand the part about mussels....steamed mussels are one of the healthiest seafoods

                            1. re: kpaxonite

                              Not if you're allergic to them! Sounds like her brother is, and allergies can have a genetic component...

                              1. re: Kajikit

                                I assume the OP was talking about the inherent dangers of foods not 'what are you allergic to'

                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                  sorry for the confusion. my brother was told that mussels are full of toxins (since they are bottom feeders) and that the toxins can cause a fib in patients that are otherwise susceptible. Yes, I think there is a genetic component to that and I don't care to find out.

                                  1. re: amyamelia

                                    i don't know who said that to your brother, but *all* bivalves (and most shellfish in general) are susceptible to many of the same toxins, and some of them originate from algae. i guess theoretically if the mussels were flooded with something like domoic acid (an algal toxin) and he ate a large amount of them it could have triggered an episode, but i've never heard of anything like that, and i keep pretty close tabs on this stuff because nearly every member of my family on my dad's side has A-fib. anyway, if you're so concerned that you really plan to avoid any potential triggers, you'll have to give up clams, scallops, shrimp, crab and lobster as well.

                          2. I do shop at the farmers market and natural food store every now and then, but most of my time grocery shopping is reading lables for grams of sugar per serving, due to digestive issues. That alone is exhausting. If I tried adding in everything that I read that's supposed to be bad for you, I'd have to set aside an entire day to read labels in the store.

                            1. I eat and drink:
                              bottled water, processed foods that taste good, coca-cola, unpasteurised milk and cheese, raw meat and fish, fried things, fugu.
                              I never eat fake things - fake sweetener in my coffee, processed food that tastes fake, margerine. Oh, and I stopped eating supermarket chicken.
                              Most importantly, I don't eat at restaurants that smell badly - regardless of where the smell comes from. If they don't clean one place, other places might be dirty as well.
                              I must say I'm happy and healthy like this.

                              1. i have a friend who has a legitimate health issue...
                                a friend of hers "found" online the email about aspartame poisoning...and sent it to her...
                                now she thinks not eating anything with aspartame will miraculously cure her

                                never mind that i showed her the evidence that the email is fake and the science behind it is crap..

                                but even after i tried ...im not going to worry about it if she does stop using aspartame..
                                and im not worried about it myself...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: srsone

                                  Life is not risk free, as much as some would like to think. Although you can reduce your risk in some areas like food. We have sought out different local producers of organic vegetables and fruits, eggs, meat poultry, beef pork small farm dairy products, all from pastured animals (butter, cottage cheese, cheese, all made from raw milk). Before I set up a relationship with a farm/producer I meet the owner tour his/her operation ask questions about feed, pesticides drugs, etc. I have found the small producer is very proud of his/her products and animals; conditions are far cleaner and more humane than large commercial operations and the food tastes much better, being fresh and local.
                                  The downside is...1. expense, it costs more sometines 2-3X supermarket factory farm items. 2. It takes time and fuel seeking out quality producers, driving all around for various products, 3. the seasonal nature of buying locally produced food, crops have seasons, the person who raises pastured pigs only processes in the Fall, sometimes my "egg lady" doesn't have enough production, hens molting, heat, etc. She has 20 hens and 2 roosters. Beef guy only has his grass fed steers processed on his schedule, not yours.
                                  Overall, for my purposes I avoid "suspect" commercially processed foods, chain fast food restaurants, and am very selective in the independent restaurants we frequent. I have found We eat better are happier with our food habits and I make new friends with the producer folks that we have established a relationship.

                                2. I don't completely avoid much. My FIL has poke salad growing in his yard and I won't touch it. I figure it's not worth the risk. Most posts agree that the danger/taste trade is tilted greatly. Same deal with fugu.

                                  I will avoid transfats and hydrogenated things but have no problem scarfing down a Kraft peanut butter sandwich. I maybe have a few a year so my intake of those things is pretty low.

                                  I've been overweight since I was a teenager but have always had good cholesterol and BP. I genearally over ate and drank too much and especially got too much hidden salt. I've now been on a diet for over a year and am getting close to a good weight for me. I'm probably healthier now at 44 than at 18.


                                    1. re: shecrab

                                      I'll sign on for that one. Most of the rest? Everything in moderation.

                                      1. re: shecrab

                                        she, I do know about the dangers of
                                        Mex. Vanilla extract, can you fill me in?

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          check this out. When you see a pint bottle of the stuff selling for $5, one is right to be skeptical.


                                          1. re: DGresh

                                            My Mexican vanilla says right not it, "Does not contain coumarin."

                                            It also has real vanilla beans inside.

                                            Don't ask me how much it cost. My parents brought it for me.


                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              I guess my issue is that I'm not necessarily very trusting of what is written on a bottle from Mexico, given the temptation to "cheat". If you can see beans, that's a good sign. But if the reason one buys it is that it is cheap, then it seems that one is taking a risk. I'd rather just buy the stuff here in the US.

                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                Well I'm not too concerned. I plan on using it and it's not like I buy it regularly so if there is a danger it's probably okay.


                                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                                  We bought a 6oz bottle of Mexican Vanilla somewhere in the middle of the Yucatan. It stated no coumarin. I used the last of it a couple of years ago, and I'm still here so I'm guessing it didn't kill me.

                                                  Really good stuff.

                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                    you eat chocolate, don't you? chocolate is one of the nastiest, disease-ridden products imaginable.

                                                    And mexican water is better than american. (thanks coca cola!)

                                          2. how do you all feel about eating swordfish, albacore tuna and tilefish? I ask because our market was selling tilefish and when I googled it (not familiary with the fish) it warned that these 3 fish have the highest concentrations of mercury.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: smartie

                                              How much mercury do each likely have, compared to one CFL, that gets broken?

                                              Just curious,


                                            2. I seldom will do anything with cobra venom, especially in a foam.

                                              I also generally avoid fugu, unless I know the chef, and have seen his/her credentials.

                                              I also did turn down some "fried baby scorpions" recently, but that might have been more a matter of taste.


                                              1. Lately I've been avoiding bean sprouts. Even before the latest issues in Germany (I know they aren't sure where the e. coli came from) we were off sprouts at my house

                                                1. I see no compelling reason to ever eat trans fat, though I don't go and purge if some happens to find its way to my plate either.

                                                  The other stuff - not so much that i avoid the specific ingredients - heck, AFAIK there's nothing wrong with maltose or most water bottles. I have no idea whether milk from hormone-jacked cows is less healthy than hormone free, but I haven't seen any convincing data either way. Generally speaking though, aside from nitrites I tend to avoid all of the above, not as individual ingredients but because they are mostly found in low quality, less healthy, less delicious foods that I have little interest in eating.

                                                  I'm not phobic of scientific sounding ingredients though - I'm sure I take in some maltose with my beer. I cook with xanthan gum sometimes. I know nitrites aren't super healthy but there are some very tasty products I enjoy that use em, so to hell with abstinence.

                                                  It's all a matter of risk vs reward. There's very little reward for hydrogenated oils or HFCS, so I don't eat em much.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    These are my thoughts, too. If it's not tasty and it's bad for you, or even questionably bad for you, why bother? I might eat less of something I enjoy, if it's not good for me, eg. bacon, but I don't abstain.

                                                  2. man...what a buzzkill....I was going to come on here and state fugu, but the rest of you beat me to it.

                                                    But yeah, that's pretty much the only thing I'd avoid if it were even available.

                                                    The rest of it? life's just too short to spend my life reading every fricking label. We eat mostly fresh food, anyway, so I don't get too fussed if somebody has something bad onc e in a while.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      You don't really have to read labels that much - if you're eating cured meats, you're probably eating nitrites. If you're eating processed food with any sweet component whatsoever, you're probably eating HFCS. If you're eating condiments, salad dressing, or soda - basically acidic processed foods that are stored at room temp before opening - you're likely eating sodium benzoate. Processed baked goods - good chance you're eating some trans fat.

                                                      Of course there are plenty of exceptions. But if the label on what you're eating says 'Snackwells,' you can wager that the ingredients list is longer than 'flour, sugar, butter, love.'

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        I believe "love" is the first ingredient in snackwells.

                                                      2. Do you know about the "Clean Food" author Terry Walters? She does recipes with minimally processed ingredients. Not my cup of tea but might be helpful in addressing some of your concerns.

                                                        1. There is nothing readily on sale that I choose to avoid on grounds of danger.

                                                          1. Today's 'you will die if you eat this' are likely to be next years 'oh, we were wrong...' and vice versa. If you try to avoid every single thing that they tell you may be bad for your health, you'll starve to death. I follow the policy of all things in moderation, and I won't have to have a stroke just from worrying about food labels. I avoid msg and too much salt because I've always had fairly high blood-pressure, but 'too much' means 'I tried it and it tasted bad', not some arbitrary number on the label. I don't worry about restaurant food at all - what you can't see won't hurt you. If it tastes good I'll eat it, if it tastes bad, I won't.

                                                            I also don't buy (much) artificially sweetened food. They tend to have a very artificial too-sweet or plain nasty taste, and the first bite is enough to put me off. But there are a few factory-made desserts that taste fine and I don't eat them often enough to fret over the ingredients list.

                                                            1. I compulsively read labels - or look stuff up on nutritiondata.com - but I don't make an effort to avoid anything; the way we eat means that I don't generally get too many of these ingredients so I don't worry about it.

                                                              I don't like soda pop, and I'm not into sweets. The kinds of things we buy don't have hydrogenated oil. (The only fast food chain we have in the county where I live is Subway...only a very few "mom and pop" restaurants unless you go 50-60 miles from the house, so we don't bother; so we're not getting transfats sneaked in that way, either.) We don't buy bottled water. We don't buy microwaveable dinners (no microwave) or noodle/rice mixes. We do buy things like canned tomatoes, olives, etc.

                                                              I cook a lot of stuff from scratch. I use some things and make some things that include too much salt, but I *like* salt. A lot. lol.

                                                              (We do keep canned soup around for "cook it yourself" nights; some of those are high salt.)

                                                              I dunno. I just don't worry about it. They seem to change their mind every decade about what you should worry about anyway and as long as I don't overdo...*shrug*.