“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking….If you could please return to your seats and ensure they are in the upright position…your cabin crew is now serving lunch and you’re about to fly through a chemical sh#%t storm…..” This should have been the announcement on a recent Qantas flight from Brisbane to Sydney. Instead ‘lunch’ was being served by the friendly staff unaware that their seemingly healthy alternative – a ham and mayonnaise sandwich – contained more chemicals than your average backyard swimming pool.

The chemicals (along with their corresponding classification number) contained in lunch were as follows:

Emulsifiers – used in the mayonnaise to prevent it from separating into oil and water and prevent mould from forming.

Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (481)
Diacetyltartaric (472e)

Mineral Salts – used as a bread enhancer

Triphosphates (451)
Pyrophosphates (450)
Polyphosphates (452)

Flavour Enhancers – as the title suggests – chemical substances with flavouring properties.

Monosodium L-glutamate (621) – a salt of glutamate, one of the building blocks that make up animal and vegetable protein. The jury is still out on whether this well known additive in Chinese take away is harmful or not.

Antioxidants – substances which prevent food from turning rancid in order to extend their shelf life.

Sodium Erythorbate (316)

Preservatives – substances which reduce the growth of microbes which, if not prevented, can lead to, dangerous level of toxins in the food.

Sodium Nitrite (250) – mainly added to processed meats ie ham, bacon, hot dogs etc to preserve the colour of the meat (it keeps it pink rather than grey even after cooking) and to inhibit the lethal botulism bacteria. Sodium nitrate (a type of salt) is a naturally occurring mineral present in all kinds of root vegetables ie carrots and leafy greens. This is because anything out of the ground draws sodium nitrate out of the soil. When we eat these foods the sodium nitrate is converted to sodium nitrite by our digestive process.

Potassium Sorbate (202) – used to inhibit moulds and yeast in many foods including cheese, wine, yogurt, soft drinks, fruit drinks and baked goods.

The bread, leg ham, mayonnaise and mustard all contained sugar or derivatives of sugar (dextrose, glucose) as well as honey.

The Australian Standards on food additives advocate against high intake of MSG, Sodium Nitrite and Potassium Sorbate, however, I found articles advocating both positive and negative for each additive I researched. The way I see it, we all have a moral tolerance to what we’ll eat and what we won’t in order to enjoy a healthy diet…it’s up to you to know what that is.

So did I eat the ham and mayo sandwich? Of course not. Did I go without lunch? Wrong again. I know airline food is chocked full of salt, sugar and fat, so before leaving home I made my own ham and salad sanger and popped it in a chill bag.

Lunch…without the chemicals….and turbulence.