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What's in your food?

Food additives are defined by the food industry as “any of a number of chemicals and other products incorporated into processed foods, including flavorings, preservatives, and dyes”. The Food and Drug Administration claims that food additives are a necessary means for food production. How can you identify food additives and are they healthy?

Below is a chart of common food additives and foods in which they are often found:

So are food additives safe? The FDA spends time and various resources to determine the safety and impact of additives. While food additive use is researched and regulated, many have still been linked to health problems. Although it may be difficult to completely eliminate food additives from your diet, decreasing your intake of highly processed foods can improve your health.

Below is a list of additives that, although cleared by the FDA, are considered potentially harmful.

  1. Aspartame and Acesulfame-K

  2. Potentially carcinogenic artificial sweeteners linked to kidney defect and emotional disorder

  3. Blue 1 and 2, Red 3, and Yellow 5 and 6

  4. Color additives linked to ADHD, thyroid defect and kidney tumors

  5. Sodium nitrate

  6. Preservatives used to improve color in packaged meat, potentially carcinogenic and linked to defected digestion

  7. BHA/BHT

  8. Preservative found in crackers, cereal, beer linked to neurological defect; BHA is known to be carcinogenic

  9. Sodium phosphate

  10. Preservative used to keep meat such as chicken fingers and sausages tender during storage, linked to heart and kidney disease

  11. Caramel color

  12. Possibly carcinogenic food additive used in many beverages

Specific additives linked to weight gain

  1. High fructose corn syrup

  2. Preservative and emulsifier found multitude of grocery products linked to weight gain, increased LDL cholesterol, and diabetes

  3. Obesity rate has risen in conjunction with increased use of HFCS

  4. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats)

  5. Preservative and emulsifier found in baked goods, peanut butter, margarine, and processed snack that is linked to heart disease

  6. Evaporated cane juice

  7. Goes through less processing than cane sugar but still similar effect on body although it sounds more natural

  8. Brominated vegetable oil

  9. Beverage emulsifier used to prevent flavor separation, linked to thyroid disorder and inflammation

  10. MSG

  11. Common in Chinese food, makes food taste better and effects satiety pathways leading to increased chances of overeating

  12. Hydrolyzed soy (or vegetable) protein

  13. Similar results and processing method as MSG but disguised under this name


"23 Worst Food Additives in America." Eat This Not That. N.p., 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <>.

"Food Additive." The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <>.

"Food Additives & Ingredients - Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives & Colors." US Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.


Mercola, Dr Joseph. "Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid." FOOD MATTERS®. Food Matters, 28 Mar. 2017. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <>.

"Top 10 Food Additives To Avoid." Hungry For Change. Food Matters, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <>.

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