Inquiry project - research round #1

Hi everyone!

This will be my first round of research for my inquiry project. My big inquiry project question is: How are chemicals in food hidden, what are they, and where can they be found?

For this round of research, I have been researching what the different chemicals in our food are and where they are found. Down below, I have bolded the names of the chemicals that I researched for this round.


Many chemicals are put in our food without us really knowing it. Sure we may read the ingredient labels, but when we see names like DHMO, do you really know what you’re eating? As I was researching this topic, I found out that most chemicals in our food are sometimes considered a little bit natural even though scientists classify them as chemicals. This “sort of natural” way is because originally, this chemical started off as a natural element. However, during the production of the food, as a result of the ingredients reacting to one another, they form a chemical. It’s kind of natural because you’re not adding anything to these ingredients to make a chemical, it’s just their own reaction. But because, you’re forcing them to react, and you could be adding stuff to it, that’s the artificial part of this process. These chemicals can be called food-processing-induced chemicals. (1)

DHMO, as mentioned above, is one of these sort of naturally made chemicals. DHMO is a chemical compound called Dihydrogen monoxide and is a chemical that manipulates water. Since DHMO really starts off as water, it is considered natural enough to not be scientifically classified as all artificial in government documents. Dihydrogen monoxide, commonly referred to as a variation of water, is a deathly chemical used in our daily lives (2). Without us really knowing it, DHMO is an additive slipped into junk food to make it more addictive. In fact, many juice boxes contain DHMO (3).

Not only is the chemical DHMO commonly found in our food, gelatin is also very common. Gelatin is found in many candies such as marshmallows, jell-o, gummy worms and bears, and pretty much every candy that is chewy (unless it says gelatin free) (4). Gelatin is on many food labels and most people think that it’s simply just something that helps the candy ingredients to stick together, but it’s more than that. Gelatin is a colourless, oderless, and pretty much tasteless substance. It is a chemical that is used as a way to get rid of the leftovers of the meat industries. It is made by boiling cartilage, skin (such as pork skin) and bones (such as cattle bones). Most often, Gelatin comes from pigs or cows, but there is no specific rule that says what animal Gelatin has to come from nor the part of the body. So really, by eating Gelatin, you could very well be eating toenails and tongues (5).

Many candies and treats such as red velvet cupcakes and Maynards’ swedish berries contain red food colouring to make them look nice and appealing. However, even though they may look appealing, once you know what is in the red dye, it’s pretty disgusting. Instead of using fruit for this red dye, manufacturers use bugs. They crush and grind up the bugs and take their pigment to create this bright red colour. One of these bugs is called a Cochineal insect (also known as scale insects). In fact, in 2012, Starbucks used the red pigment of these bugs for their Strawberries and Creme Frappuccinos (6). Red 40 is a more specific name for a red dye. It is a very common type of red dye used in the United States. Even though it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for many candy, cereals, and other treats, it is a serious chemical to your body. This chemical is an additive also known as FD&C Red No. 40 and Allura Red (7).

MSG (also known as Monosodium glutamate) is a flavour enhancer used most commonly in Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and meat. MSG is not necessarily considered a chemical to the Food and Drug Administration or to many scientists, but it is a huge chemical to our bodies (8). MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid which is found naturally in tomatoes, cheese and other foods (9). However, it has now been used as a food additive which makes the wrong foods more addicting (8).

Finally, the last chemical I researched was Corn Syrup. Corn Syrup is a processed sweetener (sugar) and a food preservative that is added to many foods (10). Corn syrup is made from the starch of corn and contains a diverse amount of maltose and higher oligosaccharides. Maltose is a substance that is purely sugar that is made from two units of glucose and oligosaccharides are carbohydrates. Corn syrup is also known as glucose syrup and this gives a big hint that it’s purely sugar. Any word that ends in ‘ose’ on food labels means it is sugar (like fructose) (11). Any sugar that doesn’t come naturally to our bodies, like from fruit and vegetables, is harmful to our bodies and has toxic effects (12). Corn syrup can be found in Oreos, some store-bought stuffing, Capri-Sun’s drinks like fruit punch, lemonade, mountain cooler, etc., some breads, rice Krispies, marshmallows, gummy bears, gummy worms, and more (10).


In my next round of research, I will be further elaborating on the hidden chemicals because I’ll be researching how these chemicals are hidden from us. I will be elaborating on the chemicals that I have mentioned above, as well as adding a couple of new ones.


My action to help the environment was to buy less food that's packaged and unreusable plastic. For this past week I recorded how much plastic was bought and used in grocery shopping and my lunch everyday. For this past week I didn't change anything in my daily life. This is the data (in percentages) that I collected that shows how much of my food, between only my lunch and grocery shopping, was plastic: 

May 6: 54%
May 7: 19%
May 8: 0%
May 9: 45%
May 10: 20%
May 11: 32%
May 12: 0%
May 13: 25%

For these next couple of weeks, I will be trying to make a difference with the amount of unreusable plastic that I use and buy. 




4. http://www.top10homeremedies.c...n-exposed-vegan.html









Thank you for reading my post and I look forward to hearing from you guys!

Original Post

Hey Neena,

Awesome first research round on Butterfly Effect. I love how you uncovered 3 main chemicals in our food already! I am very familiar with MSG since it is in a lot of Chinese food and red food colouring is well known around the world. Something I wonder is what would food taste like without all the chemicals? Or rather what do you think would happen to the food market if these chemicals weren't allowed to be in our food? If certain chemicals were proven to be harmful to us I hope they would be banned, but would people not buy as much processed food because it doesn't look appealing? Sorry for asking so many questions. I think it could be interesting if you uncovered some problems that could effect our food market. Anyways good luck and I look forward to your next research round.

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