What is in that box of food like stuff you’re eating?

If you’ve learned anything reading my blog it’s that I can be really stupid about what I’m eating sometimes. But thanks to my constant lack of discipline, I’ve learned a few things.

For one, ammonium bicarbonate is a really bad thing “they” put in food. Based on that observation, I found a great site to share on how processed your food really is.

Ok, I’ll start from the beginning. I eat breakfast at 6 and lunch at 11:30 AM. (school lunch hours) By the time I get home, I need a snack. I usually sit down and have a cup of white tea and a couple of cookies. I’ve been too lazy to make cookies lately so I’ve tried a few different kinds from Whole Foods. I read the labels and won’t usually…I say usually, buy anything with an ingredient I know nothing about.

I bought ginger snap cookies from Whole Foods recently. They looked safe enough, although I didn’t really know what ammonium bicarbonate was. This is when I’d usually pull out the Iphone and look it up, but I guess I thought, whatever, it’s probably just like baking soda.

I’ve been eating them for a few weeks, and in the last few weeks have noticed a return of mild hot flashes and an annoying little itch. So last night I stopped and thought, ok, the last time I was all flashy was when I realized it was the green tea I was drinking every day. So what is it that I am eating or drinking everyday that’s new?

Right. The cookies.

So I finally looked up ammonium bicarbonate.  Please keep in mind I use multiple sources to back up my findings. This is just a succinct version of the more scientific sites. This is what I found under uses on Wiki:

Ammonium bicarbonate is used in the food industry as a raising agent for flat baked goods, such as cookies and crackers, and in China in steamed buns and Chinese almond cookies. It was commonly used in the home before modern day baking powder was made available. In China it is called edible or food-grade “smelly powder”. Many baking cookbooks (especially from Scandinavian countries) may still refer to it as hartshorn or hornsalt [3][4] (e.g., FI: “hirvensarvisuola”, NO: “hjortetakksalt”, DK: “hjortetakssalt”, SE: “hjorthornssalt”, “salt of hart’s horn”) In many cases it may be substituted with baking soda or baking powder or a combination of both, depending on the recipe composition and leavening requirements.[5] Compared to baking soda or potash, hartshorn has the advantage of producing more gas for the same amount of agent, and of not leaving any salty or soapy taste in the finished product, as it completely decomposes into water and gaseous products that evaporate during baking. It cannot be used for moist, bulky baked goods however, such as normal bread or cakes, since some ammonia will be trapped inside and will cause an unpleasant taste.

It is commonly used as an inexpensive nitrogen fertilizer in China, but is now being phased out in favor of urea for quality and stability. This compound is used as a component in the production of fire-extinguishing compounds, pharmaceuticals, dyes, pigments, and it is also a basic fertilizer being a source of ammonia. Ammonium bicarbonate is still widely used in the plastic and rubber industry, in the manufacture of ceramics, in chrome leather tanning, and for the synthesis of catalysts.[citation needed]

Really? Holy sh!t… And I wonder why I’ve been sliding back down the histamine ladder with fat eyes, fatigue, itching, and flashes! I’ve pretty much been poisoning myself four cookies a day.

I kept researching food additives and stumbled over this great site. The Environmental Working Group tells you how much of your food is real and how much is processed. It also tells you how much of it is made with genetically modified materials. It lists Nutrition Concern, Ingredient Concern, and Processing Concern. It’s truly a great tool if you want to eat a few processed things and want to know what you’re eating. (A good example of why I might buy packaged food is that I just can’t make a decent cracker, so I buy them.)

I won’t buy anything in a box again before I check this site. I might never buy anything in a box again period! But we know me, and we know that’s not the case. I’ll fall off the wagon again. But at least next time I do, I’ll be armed with way more information about what’s in the box.

Now I’ve got to figure out what I want to snack on today because sadly those cookies are going right in the garbage!


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Posted in histamine intolerance, menopause, peri-menopause, Women's health
27 comments on “What is in that box of food like stuff you’re eating?
  1. beagarth says:

    Am a little jealous. Wish I could eat such things even if I made them! Which is what I did do for a while, but I still continued with the itchy bitchies, bleary head and migraines–though they weren’t as frequent as before, they still are not what I want at all in my life. However my bf is more like you. Loves his cookies and chips now and then. He even eats salsa at times with blue organic corn chips if the salsa is really fresh. He eats frozen berries in smoothies regularly. He also eats peanut butter and certain jams on gluten free bread. He has gotten way better being on a gluten free and relatively low histamine diet. But then sometimes he crashes and gets a migraine or a skin rash, and has to be back on the straight and narrow for a while again.

    • Ann says:

      Hi Dale.
      Bi Carb as we know it.
      Yes and our mothers and grandmothers use to put it into the water when cooking green leaf vegetables so they remained the green colour. They did not realize that it also bleached out the goodness of the vegetable! My husband uses it to clean the battery terminals on the cars! LOL
      Today I steam all our vegetables, I hate them cooked in the microwave.

  2. JoAnn says:

    It’s really disappointing when even Whole Foods (or should it be Not Really Whole Foods) does not filter the food they sell. It’s exhausting to have to be constantly hyper-vigilant even in a seemingly ‘safe’ zone. All of the stress of food policing can’t be good for histamine either!

  3. K.K. says:

    Great post, as always.

    I also use the EWG site to check out what is in cosmetics, etc.

    Here is that section:


    (FYI, I had to set it to something to get it to load properly, which is why it is randomly set on glycerin.)

    Yes, policing our foods, and such, can be time-consuming, and a little scary now that we know about the nasty ingredients, but try to not let all that get you down.

    Look at the flip side, that when we take the time to read the labels, and do our other research, we are educating ourselves, and others, leading to a better life.

    Knowledge is power. 🙂

  4. K.K. says:

    From the above site, their “EWG Cleaners Database Hall of Shame.”


  5. Sharon says:

    I’ve just done a quick bit of research and this product is not available in the UK in food. Our food standards are very different to other countries and very strict. It must be something else causing my histamine itching. I only buy fresh, simple foods, we make most of our own cakes, bread etc, don’t wear cosmetics etc, so I doubt it is chemical poisoning causing it in my case. Any other ideas?

    • What fresh simple foods do you buy? Additives in processed foods are just one issue.

      Spinach and avocado made me itch worse than anything else. Many of our healthiest natural whole foods are high in histamine.

      I’d check your diet against a list of foods high in histamine and see where you land. Let me know what you come up with.


  6. Cathy says:

    Trying so, so hard not to eat anything processed…nothing from a box. When I do, I feel it. So hard to stay away from it all though. Constantly searching for something natural and healthy that has some crunch to it. EWG is a great site…thanks!

  7. Cathy says:

    And I have to say, “fat eyes, fatigue, itching, and flashes!” oh how I feel you!

  8. JJones says:

    I’m a bit confused by your post. The quote you provided did not claim or show that ammonium bicarbonate is toxic/ bad for human consumption in baked goods. It is listed as an ingredient in the girl guide cookies I just bought. I really believe in having clean/ healthy food products, but we need to focus on the actual bad stuff and laypeople extrapolating conclusions is often not helpful. I hope you are feeling better though.

    • I am not extrapolating conclusions. Ammonium bicarbonate is made by combining carbon dioxide and ammonia. Hardly a natural ingredient. It’s used as a raising agent in baking but also as a fertilizer in China. It’s also used as a component in fire extinguisher compounds. It is known to be a skin, eyes, and respiratory irritant.

      If someone is histamine intolerant and is trying to reduce reactions, a great place to start is by analyzing the awful chemicals in processed foods.

      Just because you see it listed in the ingredients of a processed food does not mean it is a healthful addition to your diet. There are lists of things in processed foods that no one should ingest.

      For me, ammonium bicarbonate is a man made chemical that I choose not to ingest, along with all the dyes made from petroleum products and anything else that is unnatural.

      Trust me, if you found my site because you have a problem with histamine I’d take a second look at that stuff!


      • CC says:

        JJones! Well reasoned response, I thought the same thing when reading the article. Just because it’s used in other processes, doesn’t mean it’s bad for you by any means. I use apple cider vinegar for A LOT of non-food related things, obviously this doesn’t automatically qualify it as unhealthy (as I’m sure everyone here knows, it’s far from it).

        Dale I appreciate you looking into this and responding to replies. Ammonia is poison straight up and is not a natural ingredient, however, we aren’t talking about ammonia, we are talking about ammonium bicarbonate. You could say the exact same thing about sodium chloride (i.e. table salt) as its molecule is partially made up of chlorine (which is a very poisonous gas) but obviously, table salt is not poison. A molecule is more than the sum of its atoms 🙂

  9. Jennifer says:

    Thank you Dale!!

  10. Wow. Chill. Just because it is useful in industrial applications does not mean this chemical is any worse for you than baking soda. This item has been used for hundreds of years, and currently I can find no list of possible side effects reported. While I definitely agree that there are a lot of toxic chemicals in food and we need to be careful to about them, I don’t think this one is problematic, or the source of your woes.
    You may want to check external allergens.

  11. Ingrid says:

    They’re even putting it in “gluten-free” crackers as I’ve just noticed. Knowing a thing or two about chemistry I got curious about why they would put ammonia-anything in something we ingest? Having read that the raw ingredient can cause respiratory problems, including bronchitis is more than a little disturbing! And the only reason it’s not used in breads is because the ammonia that’s left tastes “bad”? We’re supposed to be throwing that stuff out of our bodies, NOT putting it in! It’s a metabolic by-product already produced in our bodies. So obviously we can’t even trust that going gluten-free will be good for us either…

  12. Eric Kehela says:

    Thank you for this article! I just received a box of crackers… LOL!! It’s one of Milton’s Party Pack. The Multigrain has Ammonium Bicarbonate, so after researching and eventually landing on your page, I wanted to say thank you!
    I appreciate you and the time you put into writing this article!

  13. Christine says:

    I have for many years been battling with allergies,, intolerance and migraines. Recently I have found that allergy to gluten may have caused many of my other allergies.

    While trying gluten free products I had major reaction. After several weeks of trying to find out what caused it it has come down to ammonium bicarbonate. Thank you for your comments on this topic and your difficulties. I have often felt so alone and very weird due to my allergies. It is good to know there are others out there who have similar difficulties.

  14. THAT IS IT! Thank you Dale.

    I have been reading labels since 2012, that’s when I learned about the unspoken killer of preservatives…

    Anyway, I am developing a plan to teach people about reading labels and the importance of such a task that will eliminate over 50% of any body’s illness or disease. Please be mindful that many people are harming themselves with the food they are eating and want to blame everyone else for the sufferings. They are not aware of this harm in food.

    I am very grateful that you have shared this information. I also warn the SupHerb people about these MANufactured products with inorganics that cause disease and illness. Much love to Dale and all of the people seeking betterment.

    We will be healthy and have the strength to make healthy food for ourselves, family and friends. Be self sustaining!


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