Students assess importance of food safety in healthy decision-making



Ingredients: Thiamine Mononitrate, Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Inosinate and the list goes on. These are just a few of the ingredients included in a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. According to a 2014 Global Snacking Survey conducted by Nielsen, information and measurement company, the most common snacks in the United States are chips. Of the additives in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, 14 are chemicals and color dyes.

And that’s 14 reasons why sophomore Alex Waples is not one who will typically indulge on these types of foods. Waples’s eating style differs from that of many other teenagers in that she tries to limit her plate to only foods with chemical names that she can pronounce. Waples attributes this eating style to her family, who has always stressed healthy eating.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.16.16 PMWaples said, “My mom has always encouraged me to eat healthy ever since I was little. She even hand made my baby food. In that, I grew up eating relatively healthy, but in recent years, I’ve continued to eat well in order to stay in the best possible condition for both golf and track. I also think that healthier types of food taste better than junk food and in turn, it makes me feel better inside and out.”

However, according to Meghan Wilson, registered dietician nutritionist of Food and Nutrition Services for Carmel Clay Schools, not all difficult-to-pronounce foods are necessarily bad for consumption.

Wilson said via email, “I commend any student who takes the time to research and investigate the food they are eating. There has been a lot of controversial research on food additives and preservatives and how they affect our overall health. However, not all additives and ingredients are harmful to our health, even if we cannot pronounce them.”Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.19.19 PM

Sophomore Maggie Sweet holds similar perspectives as Wilson on those who eat only foods with chemical names they can pronounce. While both Sweet and Waples try to consume mostly organic foods, Sweet differs from Waples in that she does not dwell on the chemicals she consumes.

“I think that (eating only the foods with chemical names you can pronounce) would be really hard, because everything has something you can’t articulate. I think that it’s a good idea in theory, but it could possibly take foods and nutrients out that (are) actually good for you and just coincidentally had something in it that you can’t pronounce,” Sweet said.

According to a study conducted in 2015 by Pew Research, differences in education can affect people’s view on the safety of their food. Of the surveyed high school students, 40 percent thought that genetically modified foods (GMOs) were safe to eat. On the other hand, 89 percent of those affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) thought that GMOs were safe.

Both Waples and Sweet said they agreed that the majority of students at CHS are not proficiently educated about chemical food safety and established that health classes are great opportunities to educate students on food awareness.

“I feel CHS students are probably as aware as any other teen living in this generation. The schools should be bringing as much awareness about healthy and safe food choices as possible, whether it is through the cafeteria, classes, extra-curricular activities or expanding the school garden,” Wilson said.

To aid her relatively unique eating habit, Waples uses the application “Fooducate” to help make healthier and safer food choices. By scanning barcodes of packaged foods, “Fooducate” grades items and lists reasons why they would or would not be safe to consume. Waples said this app is particularly helpful at grocery stores,  as it is simpler and quicker than looking at every single nutrition label.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.19.28 PMWilson said, “I think knowledge is power. If people want to know more and understand more, then they will most likely be the ones to implement changes. Sometimes providing information and education on a subject helps to kick start ideas and motivation to make lifestyle changes.”

While Sweet said she thinks that teens should be more concerned about the chemicals in food, she said it is easy for people to be careless with what they eat and think it won’t affect their health. She also noted that it is simple to place health as a second priority.

Although Waples makes an effort to be more aware of her diet, she said the chemicals in foods do not faze her.

“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked by the chemical names, because a lot of foods in America are extremely unhealthy and have a lot of preservatives and hydrogenated oils,” Waples said.

Upon the subject of the new menu items added to cafeterias at CHS, Wilson said, “The food service department has the kids’ health and best interest at the core of what we serve and provide for meals. We understand how important it is to serve well-balanced and healthy food choices to our students and strive to do just that.

“Taking care of your health and body while you are still young is extremely important. Your 70-year-old self will thank you for eating whole, balanced meals daily, drinking plenty of water and (limiting) soda or sugared beverages and exercising while you are young.”