Check the Label

Listen 48:07
Courtesy of the Science History Institute

Courtesy of the Science History Institute

Who has time to read the small print — to go over all the “stuff” that’s in our food, medicine, or supplements? And what’s carrageenan or hexyldecyl laurate anyway? But maybe we should be paying closer attention — some ingredients can cause side effects and make us sick.

On this episode of The Pulse, a closer look at some of the things we put in our bodies, and why they matter. We talk to chemists, interrogate food labels, and go on the hunt for hidden ingredients that can have a big impact. Most of all, we ask what it all means for our health.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Reporter Sruthi Pinnamaneni on the stomach-turning history of food safety regulation in the U.S. The story begins with Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley’s grisly experiments — he was the founding father of the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning author Deborah Blum reveals what’s changed about food safety since the 19th century — and what hasn’t. Her new book is The Poison Squad.
  • Water sommelier Martin Riese explains the nuances behind the way water tastes, and why it matters beyond the snobbish world of fine dining.
  • When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to visit the White House in 1939, everything had to be perfect — including their tea. The Science History Institute archives reveal how scientists used chemistry to reverse-engineer the perfect London cuppa.
  • ER doc Avir Mitra describes the detective work physicians must do when patients come in suffering from dangerous drug interactions — and no idea what they’ve taken.

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