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Old 10-10-2008, 02:35 AM
Bites When Provoked Bites When Provoked is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,801
Aluminium in processed cheese slices

My father and step-mother have decided that processed cheese singles are evil because they contain aluminium. I can find no evidence anywhere to suggest that they do (other than unsupported claims in some woo-woo Alternative Health websites) and the little evidence I could find about aluminium consumption in generic foods seems to indicate that it's pretty hard for the human body to absorb any significant amounts via normal food intake.

However, I also can't find any information specifically refuting the claim, either - which seems a little surprising, since when I mentioned this latest 'naughty food' at work, a couple of people replied with variations on "Sure, that's common knowledge". Apparently not 'common' enough for me to find it easily with a Google search, but then again, I'd be lying if I said my Google-fu had never failed me.

Anyway, I'd really like to take 'processed cheese' off the list of evil stuff I need to take out of my fridge every time they come to stay, because frankly, I like the stuff. (This may, in itself, be proof that cheese singles are evil.)

Can anyone give me the Straight Dope on this one? Is there undisclosed aluminium in cheese singles? Is it going to send me (more) insane? I really can't imagine that processed cheese is a death trap in disguise (other than Death by Obesity, ultimately, perhaps) but if anyone can come up with a cite that suggests it is, I'll (reluctantly) consider removing it cutting back.
Old 10-10-2008, 02:45 AM
Sierra Indigo Sierra Indigo is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Elizabet' Nort'
Posts: 3,809
It appears that some cheese foods have Sodium Aluminium Phosphate in them as an emulsifying agent.

I can't get my hands on an Aussie packet of Kraft Singles, but the Health Canada website confirms this.

It also says that SALP is an approved additive for foods, taken from the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations.

Whether it does you harm in the long term, I can't find anything that's not a biased source confirming or denying that. But I can't imagine the risk is high if the Canadian government is allowing it in their foods.

As for it being "Common" knowledge, I'd never heard of it and a quick poll of a few friends & family brings up similar ignorance of the topic.
Old 10-10-2008, 02:55 AM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: California
Posts: 38,362
At least at some point, aluminum was suspected to have a role in Alzheimer's; mentioned here and here on the Straight Dope. I expect it became "common knowledge" among the food paranoids who read about such speculation and built it up into a supposed certainty over the years.

Last edited by Der Trihs; 10-10-2008 at 02:55 AM.
Old 10-10-2008, 11:38 AM
Furious_Marmot Furious_Marmot is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: The Midcon
Posts: 1,744
Aluminum is the third most common element in the Earth's crust (after oxygen and silicon). It is, to some degree, already in every plant and animal you eat, and you also ingest some everyday as a component of ordinary dust. It is highly unlikely that the relatively small amounts present as an emulsifier in a food that most people don't eat all that much of anyway present a health risk. If anything, modern industrialized folks eat less aluminum than pre-industrial people, because soil is more thoroughly washed off of our vegetables.
I'd say dismiss it all with a "Where's your control group?" . Not that your relatives will listen.
The real cause for alarm is that they would eat such an awful foodstuff to begin with.

Last edited by Furious_Marmot; 10-10-2008 at 11:39 AM.
Old 10-10-2008, 05:43 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Pure metallic aluminum may, plausibly, be bad for you (even though nobody's yet found any direct evidence for it), since it's so incredibly rare in nature, and highly reactive. Aluminum compounds, however, are friggin' everywhere, and if aluminum compounds in general were bad for us, we never would have survived as long as we did.
Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.
--As You Like It, III:ii:328
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Old 10-10-2008, 11:41 PM
Fubaya Fubaya is offline
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 3,898
Sodium aluminum phosphate is also used as a leavening agent in baked goods and probably hundreds of other products. I don't think there's anything to worry about, but if you DID want to go on a diet, you could probably cut down on a lot of foods by convincing yourself it's evil stuff.
Old 10-11-2008, 01:24 AM
Bites When Provoked Bites When Provoked is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 1,801
Thanks, everyone!

I knew aluminium was one of the most common things around (that it was in the top 3 surprised me, though) so the minute traces that might possibly be in cheese singles didn't seem an undue threat... but it's good to find it confirmed!

I doubt I'll be able to convince my father that it's not OMGTOXIC!!, mind you.
Old 10-11-2008, 02:26 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Kansas
Posts: 8,159
On the subject of "Common Knowledge", something that was taught to me a few years back was that the best way to tell if something is bullhockey is to see if "Everyone" knows it. Generally, if there is a factual basis for something, people will have a more concrete idea of where they learned it, rather than claim that "Everyone" knew it.
Quod Scripsi, Scripsi.
Old 10-11-2008, 05:49 AM
An Arky An Arky is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 8,333
The aluminum is the healthiest, most natural part of processed cheese food slices.

Last edited by An Arky; 10-11-2008 at 05:49 AM.
Old 10-11-2008, 09:58 AM
whiterabbit whiterabbit is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: In the mountains
Posts: 7,939
Bleah. Those things are evil, but it's not because of any aluminum, it's just that they're nasty.


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