Toxic Timeout: Ammonia

What is it? Ammonia is often associated with cleaning supplies, but in recent years it has become clear that ammonia is not just being used to wash the kitchen sink. This toxic chemical can be found in processed meats which have developed a grotesque nickname: pink slime. But that’s not all – ammonia can be found in baked goods, chocolate, cheese, peanut butter and condiments.

Health Risk: Ammonia is used as a leavening agent, a way to control acidity and a way to to remove pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli. Sounds good, right? Think again. While ammonia has been labeled as “safe” in trace amounts, direct exposure to ammonia can cause severe irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and in extreme cases can be fatal. What this means is that ammonia is not only hazardous to consumers, it is extremely dangerous to the farm workers who must use ammonia in high quantities at a time. And the worst part? Ammonia is often considered a “processing aid,” which is not required by U.S. regulators to be included on food labels.

Safe Alternative: The good news is that there is a simple way to keep you and your family safe: look for the “USDA Organic” when grocery shopping. We trust brands such as MaraNatha while whipping up a PB&J, Vosges when we need a chocolate fix and Arrowhead Mills for all our baking needs.

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