How to Avoid Phosphate Additives

Image Credit: Sylvar / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Where are Phosphate Additives Found?

In my videos Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola and Phosphate Additives in Chicken, I talked about the danger of phosphate and phosphate additives, and how phosphates are often added to chicken and turkey to help preserve the meat. But how often is poultry injected with phosphates? The vast majority of chicken products (more than 90%) were found to contain these additives. However, most packages did not list the additives on their label.

Sometimes they call the phosphate additives “flavorings” or “broth,” and sometimes the labels don’t say anything at all. In the video, How to Avoid Phosphate Additives, you can see the different ways phosphate additives have been listed (if they are listed at all) on ingredient labels. I’d recommend minimizing one’s intake of anything with the four letters: “phos”. These additives are also used in junk foods and fast food. Some products have phosphorus and aluminum additives. We see this a lot in processed cheeses. One grilled cheese sandwich may exceed the World Health Organization’s provisional tolerable daily intake of aluminum by 428%. (I’ve previously touched on the aluminum in cheese in Aluminum in Vaccines vs. Food). More concerning, though, are the levels of lead in some venison (Filled Full of Lead) and mercury in tuna (The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages).

The food industry no longer has to list phosphorus content on the nutrition facts label. There have been calls from the public health community to mandate that phosphorus content of foods be included back on the nutrition facts label, but I’m not holding my breath.

All these studies bring home the same strong message, “phosphorus-containing additives are present in most meat products and significantly increase the phosphorus content. Moreover, the lack of this information in the Nutrition Facts labels and even in nutrition databases prevents patients and dietitians from accurately estimating the phosphorus content of their food and their daily intake.”

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

32 responses to “Where are Phosphate Additives Found?

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  1. Phosphates, yet another reason to not eat meat. Too bad tonight’s news is more likely to inform us about new research that finds chocolate or wine is beneficial to our health. Combine the two and you can skip eating greens.

    Of topic, but my curiosity is peaked, Rachael Ray just chopped up some bacon for yet another meal her hubby loves. That repeating theme is directed al all women to cook it because hubby wants it. Anyway, she commented, “let all the fat drain off while it cooks.” Has Dr. Greger done a video on how much fat remains after Rachael cooks all the fat out? Is that our problem, we don’t cook meat enough?

    1. The idea of letting “all the fat” drain is misleading. It is possible to melt and drain the large visible veins of fat running through a cut of meat, but that is hardly “all the fat”. There is fat inside the muscle cells as well that is not removed. For example, according to the USDA, a 400 Calorie top sirloin beef steak -with fat trimmed to 0″ and broiled- still contains 18.6 g of fat. By calorie, that steak is about 41% fat.

      1. “Misleading”? It’s downright deceptive and consistent with media’s defiance of nutritional science to stay in favor of advertisers. Yesterday I met a talkative lady who shared she had diabetes, type II. I gently suggested she could improve her health if she didn’t eat meat and dairy. She claimed she tried the weight loss regimen and eating healthy but it didn’t work…she lost weight but still has the disease. I ask what her typical food was each day and she replied, ‘Subway”. I ask three different ways what was on her sub and she never told me. Her husband volunteered, “Salami” LOL She would tell me what she ate for her other meals either. I only ask because she kept insisting weight loss didn’t help diabetes…she “knew” because she tried it. I told her about this web site and Dr. McDougall three times. She feigned interest but didn’t write either down.
        All this supports my opinion that as long as selling nutritionally unregulated food is so profitable in the USA, most folks will indulge themselves. They wouldn’t cook at home and send a kit=d to the store because they needed this or that chemical to finish the meal. But people do escape responsibility for what they put in their mouths by eating at restaurants. The diabetic woman by her resistance to saying out loud what was other sub sandwich revealed to me she knew she was not eating healthy. Too many think taking doctors orders and the pills is the way to deal with the illness. Federal law should state, “Upon diagnoses with a fatal disease, residence of this Country are required to attend one month of Reality Nutrition School and reappear before a federal Judge with a signed certificate form Drs’ Greger or McDougall showing successful completion.
        BTW, One has to wonder how much fat is in the 400 calorie steak before it’s “all cooked out” as Rachael Ray likes ot say. I’d still like to know how much fat is in bacon after it’s cooked.

      1. Sounds like you do not eat meat at all, but I do eat organic chicken and pork (as well as wild caught fish).

        Whole Foods states that organic chicken, for example, “must be fed certified organic feed for their entire lives. Organic feed cannot contain animal by-products, antibiotics or genetically engineered grains and cannot be grown using persistent pesticides or chemical fertilizers. It is prohibited to give drugs, antibiotics and hormones to organic birds”.

        This would imply that organic chicken is better for you than non-organic. But I wonder whether phosphate additives can still be legally added. Does anyone know?

        1. Hi Janet B.

          Correct, I don’t eat “meat”…that means any muscle…red, white, poultry, or fish.

          Since “organic meat” may not have the contaminants found in typical animals slaughtered for mass distribution, so, free of those, it’s best to consider whether meat by itself is beneficial to your family’s health. Is it?

          I don’t understand what is gained nutritionally by eating meat. Has it ever been prescribed by a doctor for any illness? My understanding is knowledgeable medical doctors advise against eating meat and dairy when their patients want to avoid cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and type II diabetes. They “prescribe, greens, fruit, veggies, and whole grains but not meat or dairy. Why is that?

          1. As I remarked yest, my oncologist refused to admit that I could be a vegan after my radiation treatments. She told me to eat animal protein! That is a U.S. doctor at M.D. Anderson.

            1. A friend of mine lost her husband to prostate cancer. His doctor (at one of the Nation’s premier clinics) told him not to eat flaxseed as it was bad for prostate cancer. He avoided red meat and instead ate lots of poultry.
              The food police are all around us. They infuse the airwaves with false nutritional information and indoctrinate us to believe the nutritional nonsense bombarded by media. Too bad all Americans aren’t wired to and some of the other medical doctors who devote their lives’ and careers to debunking the misinformation we’re overwhelmed with daily. It’s notillegal to lie about food values.

              1. That’s too bad, sorry to hear. Flax is one of the most beneficial inclusions in a diet for preventing these hormone dependent diseases. Its really unbelievable how the myth that flax is bad in these situations continues to spread. Then again, Dr.’s do not get nutrition education. I am unsure if even that would be enough, as current RD’s are not taught this either.

                1. I am sorry, but disagree about the reason of the ¨ingnorance¨ of the drs. I truly believe that greed plays a huge role in this, some docs are in the pockets of the pharmas, get kickbacks, add names to the studies (for drugs) that are false, get $ for surgery when there are healthy life style choices, etc. On my last visit to the oncologist for my breast cancer, my dr. introduced to me, in his office, the pharma rep! Then prescribed arimidex, an estrogen blocker, which was a product of the rep. They offered to help me get a reduced rate on the drug, prescribed for 5 years! I went to the pharmacy, the damned thing was 10$ a pill, to be taken every day. And no generic. Yes, I got my eyes opened on this deal alright. And have never trusted a doctor since, and probably will not. I was an idiot to have stayed in the room, and should have refused to pay for the visit.I´m still mad about it, and that was almost 5 years ago. Oh, after reading the side effects, etc. I opted out.

                  1. I think most Dr.’s are well intentioned people who genuinely believe they are making a difference. I am sure there are some bad apples out there, and I don’t know if the same passion lasts through out the entire career

                    1. How can a medical doctor be “well intentioned” when knowledge is available and she turns her head away? Even worse, any medical doctor I’ve ever discussed nutrition with challenges the benefits of a plant based diet and the avoidance of meat and dairy. They like to claim it’s the patients fault because they won’t eat a plant based diet.. Their passion is to be successful, which is measured by profits.

                    2. Doctors are taught to be evidence based, if those specific doctors are open minded enough, sharing some papers would be useful.

                    3. We can agree that any topic we pick can be proved or disproved by papers we find on the internet. Should each doctor be “educated” based on whichever bias they were exposed to? Doctor ignorance is a stray issue. The obstacle between good health and good nutritional knowledge is fear of a dip in our Gross national Product.. Politicians careers are based on statistical numbers and perception. They’re elections are financed (and sabatoged0 by lobbyists who dictate even what the Government’s food pyramid is made of. It’s about money and power. People are motivated by some combination of needs. For “power” “affiliation” and “achievement”. Those with a strong need for power go into low, teaching, sales, preaching, education, politics, and medicine, It’s a mistake to believe they think like folks with a strong need for achievement or affiliation. They don’t. Most don’t go into politics because they aren’t interested (in power). yet others campaign to be high school class president. Their motivational type is established early.

                    4. Medical students are spoon fed information. They don’t indipendantly prove or disprove all they are taught. Once they are medical doctors their bias is set.

                    5. well, I can tell you that, in my experience, they may not have studied nutrition at all, but they sure studied 1)medicare billing 2) how to spend 2min 2 seconds with a patient, 3) how to entice patients to more tests, etc. like they did my mom 4) how to cheat on mcare (I spent about 7 min with a nurse practitioner, she billed one hour, one on one. I called the billing people, they said, “oh, we know how to do the billing so you don’t get charged personally”). 5) how to keep a patient who wants to get rid of her breathing machine when she wants to get rid of it. 6)how to get your buddies to submit a bill in the o.r. for passing thru while you’re out of it 7)how to generate extra income, perks from the big pharmas, lobbyists 8)how to order jillions of unnessary tests and more. They probably have a class in med school called “accounting”.

                      No, we’re in a new generation of doctors, health professionals now.

                    6. Jackie, you put it very well. Thanks. Some doctors are so arrogant they don’t know some patients see how greedy and incompetent they are so look at them with disgust. They would argue patients won’t eat healthy.
                      Locally (Dayton, OH), we have a chiropractor who does a one-hour radio show every Saturday and he always bolster his own ego by jabbering about traveling around teaching medical doctors “nutrition.” It’s funny, he faults the medical doctors for much of what the rest of us are critical about, but then he teaches them meat and dairy are healthy foods. Someone in his family owns a vitamin store so he always advises a group of vitamins to treat whatever the callers need help for.
                      Most often it’s about money and ego. One simple solution would be to have a “medical” or health school where doctors are trained to keep people well. I think they would have a thriving business saving millions form the other doctors. But if they are taught what other MD’s are taught with a couple nutrition courses thrown in, their motive and incentive is to practice conventional medicine.
                      Somewhere Dr. Greger (I believe) mentioned Obamacare covers “wellness” care outside of hospitals. I’l like to learn more about that. For example, what was available before Obamacare, and how it’s different now. If “wellness: is covered then I can understand why Rush Limbaugh and big business is opposed to Obamacare. They’re opposed to you and me being healthy.

                    7. amen. they have to pay for those univ and med school loans some way or other, right? and…publish or perish.
                      This sob oncologist gave my mother option of chemo and radiation, when she only had weeks to live. Cancer wide-spread, everywhere. He told her “you can have a miracle”. She opted yes, and the first chemo treatment put her in the hospital. He “changed the receipt” for the next treatment, and again, she couldn’t even get home. That was the end of that. The radiation burned her skin. For what? one day longer? Of being sick, throwing up. And how much $ did he make off that little venture? And then my own little horrible episode with the oncologist. No, not the same one. Their favorite line ” you want to do EVERYTHING you can” to prevent recurrence, don’t you? Well, they don’t tell you the side effects.

                    8. Sadly, Jackie, medical doctors peddle futile, expensive, painful treatment under the guise of “giving hope”.

                      What if all ill people had a George Baily moment (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) and they could look back and see how their life would have been different without meat and dairy. People undiagnosed say they want to eat meat and dairy to “enjoy life”. What do they say in their final moments? I doubt any think it was worth it.

                2. Toxins, agreed, myths keep most from eating healthy. And true, doctors aren’t educated in nutrition (that’s on purpose). But not having an education on nutrition does not explain away why a medical doctor advises his patient that flaxseed is harmful to treating prostate cancer. “I don’t know” seems more appropriate.

                  Last time I told a medical doctor I was vegan he ask’ “WHY”. The same doctor wanted to replace my knee because I had swelling and a click in my knee. His diagnosis was “arthritis” and claimed I didn’t have pain because my mind suppressed it. The symptoms I described to him have been the same for thirty years…since my military days. Nothing had gotten worse, just an occasional swelling and stiffness. If it’s caused by arthritis today what caused the exact same symptoms back then? I went to another doctor who said “you need NO surgery”. I suppose medical doctors who actually know nutrition aren’t likely comfortable practicing medicine in the usual manner. The rest are in denial.

                  If all medical doctors were educated on nutrition they’d be obligated to help their patients differently…to avoid disease and illness. How do you suppose that would affect their industry?

                  1. Larry that’s a very cynical view. Imagine all the medical students right now. Do you really believe that each one of them is doing it exclusively to make money at any cost? Most of these people are well intentioned and want to help people. Yes they want to make money (dont we all) but they feel this is a noble way of doing it. The problem is not that every doctor knows about the efficacy of diet and lives in fear of the word getting out, they simply do not know the power of diet. They are not taught this, how can they know?

                    1. Toxins, that’s a very naïve view. Medical students are a far cry from practicing physicians. But even they have visions of sugar plums.. You keep defending them claiming ignorance of nutrition. I’m saying they choose to be ignorant. The medical board and the academics who set the curriculum for a medical degree are doctors. Do you suppose all the medical doctors who know this stuff are hiding it from the rest? Read John McDougall, MD. He tells about being a medical student in Michigan asking his profs if food played any part in health. That question always irritated the powers that be. Finally he was taken aside and told if he wanted to have a successful practice to forget al the nonsense about nutrition and health because his success was based on writing prescriptions for high blood pressure medicine.

                      He graduated and did his internship in Hawaii and noticed the older Asians were healthy and the younger one were not. The difference was the old world diet of rice and the new world diet of American food. He also noticed healthy Asians who moved to Hawaii and changed to Americanized eating got American diseases.

                      Over thirty years ago Dr. McDougall “discovered” in his own practice he could take patients off high blood pressure meds by removing meat and dairy from their diet. Funny thing, he had a great mentor who knew it thirty years before him. Even I know about those experiences so the problem can’t be Dr. McDougall, and Dr. Greger, and other dedicated doctors are hiding the science.

                      My own personal experience found me conversing with two nurses just before minor surgery to remove a “cyst” from my neck. They were shocked my pulse was in the fifties and my BP was 114 over (whatever). They ask why I was so healthy and I told them I didn’t eat meat and dairy and I rode my bike 15 miles most days. Apparently they told the surgeon because as I laid face down on a table and he was starting his incision (with the two nurses in the room) he ask, “To WHAT do you owe your excellent health? I’m not one to argue with a knife to my neck and I sensed he wasn’t really interested so I said, , “Oh, I don’t know
                      . to shut him up. he insisted on continuing…”Are you married…do you have children…what is your job?” He concluded my “excellent health” was a result of no stress in my life. The doctor never ask “How long have you been a vegan?” He was satisfied that he convinced nurses diet isn’t a health determinant. Funny thing, this was in a “Seventh day Adventist” hospital where they are suppose to be particular about what they eat.
                      It’s hard for me to imagine doctors aren’t questioned by patients about nutrition. Illness is big business. In my opinion you have too much faith in the integrity of doctors. Like dr. McDougall, and others say, doctors are great for lancing boils, setting bones, and treating illnesses after the disease but they don’t make money preventing disease.

                      What do I know? Not much. I’m just parroting what medical doctors say about their own kind. Why don’t you convince them the other doctors don’t have access to the same nutritional science. Dr. McDougall fought for several years (or longer) to get a bill passed in California requiring medical students to have one little class on nutrition. After he got it passed I phoned my representative and suggested a similar bill and was told he wouldn’t do that because it would “cost jobs”.

                      Enough “truth” is known to not eat meat and dairy. That change alone would eliminate 100% of heart disease. (From clogged arteries.) Other countries don’t have heart disease. Their medical schools don’t even teach students to diagnose heart disease. American medical doctors are selectively stupid.

            2. I would think your goal is to maintain an optimal immune system and help heal, and not put anything in your body that might trigger your illness.

        2. Toxins from polluted air, polluted food, and polluted water are stored in the fat tissue of the animal. How are you going to keep those toxins out? That’s enough reason NOT to eat meat even it’s organic. This is a big cause of many cancers.

  2. I recently ate “Chicken tenderloins”..frozen boneless,skinless chicken with”no hormones or steroids added” My husband bought and cooked it for was so proud of the label( he knows I’m a bit picky)..The next day I was as sick as I am when I ingest I checked the MSG..but it did list Sodium Phosphates..So I googled this..and discovered this is an “arterial toxin”..No wonder my head throbbed..and my whole body hurt.

    I emailed the company blasted them for using something so toxic..they refunded my money! And now I know..thx for this article..I will be on the lookout for “broth” in chickens,also.Such deception!!

    1. You’d be well advised to avoid “chicken” in chicken. Your husband might want to know chicken consumption contributes to prostrate cancer and is as high (or higher) in cholesterol as red meat. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. Why tempt fate?

  3. I’ve been eating frozen oil-free hashbrowns that contain less than 2% sodium acid pyrophosphate to preserve color. How much of a problem is this?

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