Aluminum's Appearance in Food and Drink, An Industry's Call to Arms

Continued from Part One.

Fifty years ago, aluminum was barely present in our diets, yet today it is found almost everywhere. One or two private individuals have carried out long-term surveys that, while not reviewed by any recognized authority, do contain results from approved public health laboratories and at least anecdotally illustrate the rising use of aluminum compounds in our food chain.

One study lasting over ten years that started on pet foods, then extended to human foods, suggests levels have risen dramatically and often without manufacturers even being aware. Tests on baby foods showed aluminum contents of 2 ppm to 8 ppm, but tests on some health food herbal yeast and kelp products showed high levels of aluminum, from 25 ppm for Barley Green Powder to Herbal Protein Powder — 1380 ppm!

There are no official guidelines of safe levels of aluminum in food or drink. The WHO sets guidelines of 0.2 mg/liter of water. (Milligrams per liter are equivalent to parts per million.) In the US, the EPA only sets a secondary limit on aluminum in drinking water and does not require authorities to comply; their guideline limits are 0.05 to 0.2 mg/liter.

Is all this meant as scare tactics regarding the use of aluminum, or sensationalism about a “risk” that is really not a risk?

No; it is a call to attention for the industry.

It can either fund long-term research to establish what the real risks to the public are from this wonder metal, or it can hide behind the government’s lack of interest and do nothing. But failure to take a lead could be a re-run of the tobacco industry of the last century; it could be storing up a problem for itself that early and leading work could avoid.

Aluminum as a wrought metal has undoubtedly made our lives easier and safer, but as an insidious element in our diets, drinking water and environment, could be the source of major health issues in the future. Better the industry becomes part of the solution than be perceived merely as part of the problem.

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