Food Additives …
What are they?




Nowadays, most people often eat convenient processed food in the supermarket, rather than preparing them at home. Many of them have at least one or two additives / preservatives. More than 3000 additives and preservatives can be found in such processed foods. For some food there are incredible numbers of additives can be found, such as cookies, chocolate, and gums.

Do not judge that certain products don't have artificial coloring because it does not look like from color appearance. For example, Snapple ice tea has artificial red color although the color of liquid is yellow. Yellow colored Dorito Chips have artificial red color as an additives as well. Artificial red color is in every one of M&M’s chocolate although most of them do not appear red.

When the food is to be stored for a long period, additives and preservatives are used to keep quality and flavor. The additives and preservatives prevents the excess water in the foods causing bacteria and fungal growth. They also keep proper pH of food, can act as leavening during manufacturing process, and gives better color.

Many preservatives can give health problems. They can cause different allergies and conditions such as hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder in the some people who are sensitive to specific chemicals. The foods containing additives can cause asthma, hay fever and certain reactions such as rashes, vomiting, headache, tight chest, hives and worsening of eczema. They may affect RNA, thyroid, and enzymes (affecting RNA can cause tumor growth). Most have not been studied for safety or toxicity. They are all synthesized chemicals that don't even have common names. Most artificial flavorings are derived from petroleum. Most artificial flavors actually contain many chemical ingredients, not just one. Many of those chemicals are volatile.




List of Artificial Flavor and Additives and their effect on health. The one that does not have explanation are not there because I have not listed them yet. Their impact on health range from negligible to adverse.

For a comprehensive list (but not complete) of food brands that have artificial colorings, click here, and read from page 19 to 25.

  • Aluminum Silicate
    Insoluble and used as a refractory in glassmaking. It is used as coagulation in food.

  • Amino Acid Compounds

  • Amaranth (Azoic red)

  • Ammonium Carbonates

  • Amyl Acetate
    This is pear and banana oil. Many artificial flavors are made using amyl acetate. It may cause nervous system depression, indigestion, chest pain, headaches, fatigue, and irritate the mucus membranes.

  • Amyl Alcohol
    Closely related to Amyl Acetate and also known to be toxic.

  • Annatto bixine (yellow orange)

  • Benzoates (including sodium benzoate)
    Can trigger the allergies such as skin rashes and asthma as well as believed to be causing brain damage.

  • Benzaldehyde
    Almond flavor, and when derived from nature, traces of hydrogen cyanide – a deadly poison – can be found in it. When made by mixing oil of clove and amyl acetate, no cyanide is produced. Nonetheless, both natural and artificial benzaldehyde can cause central nervous system depression and convulsions.

  • Benzyl Acetate
    Also related to Amyl Acetate and may cause gastrointestinal, bronchial, skin, and eye irritation.

  • Borneol
    Artificial flavoring that may cause gastrointestinal irritation, seizures, confusion, and dizziness.

  • Bromates
    Destroy the nutrients in the foods. It can give rise to nausea and diarrhea.

  • Butryic Acid
    Caused cancer in lab test with animals.

  • Butyl Acetate
    Related to Butryic Acid can be toxic in high quantities.

  • Butylates
    Responsible for high blood cholesterol levels as well as impaired liver and kidney function. Ex) Butylated Hydrozyttoluene (BHT), Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

  • Caffeine
    Colorant and flavorant that has diuretic, stimulant properties. It can cause nervousness, heart palpitations and occasionally heart defects, symptom you get when you drink caffeinated soft drinks such as coke and red bull. For more information about caffeine, read the Coffee Page.

    For the list of caffeine content in different soft drinks and foods, click here.

  • Canthaxanthin: Other names – Canthaxanthine, Carophyll Red, CI Food Orange 8, Colour Index No. 40850, E161, Roxanthin Red 10.

    Orange-red colored dye fed to farmed salmons in order to make their flesh look like wild salmon.

    Also used in some sunless-tanning product as a tanning pill. As a tanning agent, large quantity of Canthaxanthin is used. Canthaxanthin is deposited throughout the body, including in the layer of fat below the skin, which turns an orange-brown color. These types of tanning pills have been linked to various side effects, including hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy (yellow deposits form in the retina of the eye). Also linked with damage to the digestive system and skin surface. The FDA withdrew approval for use of canthaxanthin as a tanning agent, and has issued warnings concerning its use.

  • Caramel
    Very common flavoring and coloring agent that can cause vitamin B6 deficiencies. It can cause certain genetic defects and even cancer.

  • Carvacrol
    Artificial flavoring that can lead to respiratory and circulatory depression as well as cardiac failure.

  • Cinnamyl Formate
    Also simply known as formic acid, (artificial cinnamon – it may simply say "cinnamon flavor" in the label) has caused cancer in mice and may affect our kidneys.

  • Erythrosine (red)
    See Red Dye.

  • Red Dye 40
    Red dye is known to cause attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Also suspected to cause certain birth defects and possibly cancer. Click here to read more about its mental effect on children. Click here to see what type of items can have red dyes.

  • Mono and di-glycerides
    Can cause birth defects, genetic changes and cancer.

  • Monosodium Glutamate

  • Potassium Bromate

  • Potassium Sorbate

  • Propyl Gallate

  • Saccharin
    Causes toxic reactions and allergic response, affecting skin, gastrointestinal tract and heart. It may also cause tumors and bladder cancer.

  • Sodium Benzoate
    Also known as E211. Common preservative Fruit jellies, jams, fruit juices, soft drinks, coffee flavoring syrups, and condiments. The FDA classifies sodium benzoate as a safe preservative. However, sodium benzoate forms a chemical known as benzene when in the presence of vitamin C.

    Also heat converts sodium benzoate to benzene. Fruit jellies, jams, and fruit juices which are made with high vitamin C fruits with heat applied in the manufacturing process can be particularly dangerous due to the conversion to benzene from sodium benzoate. Benzene damage DNA and seems to play a role in a variety of diseases due to DNA damaging capabilities. It's also a known carcinogen.

    Some studies have shown that sodium benzoate in processed food along with artificial food colorings can cause children with ADHD to be more hyperactive.

  • Sodium Chloride
    Can lead to high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke and heart attack.

  • Sodium Nitrite
    Can be carcinogenic and have other adverse effects on health. Click more on the name to read more details.

  • Salt (common table salt is refined salt)
    Refined salt has depleted mineral and higher concentration of sodium then unrefined sundried sea salt.

  • Sugar (common white sugar is refined sugar)
    Most commonly used additives. Click the name to read more about health effects.

  • Tartrazine (Azoic yellow)

  • Vanillan
    Artificial vanilla, can cause allergic reactions. It can limit the liver enzyme dopamine sulphotransferase by 50%. Its sources are the waste product of paper mills and petroleum.


In addition this chart, look up the food additives list from Center for Science in the Public Interest.




People may say there is nothing harmful about salt and sugar but think again. Click salt and sugar in above listings to read more about them.

The FDA doesn't require manufacturers to list color or flavor additives on ingredients left, as long as they are regarded as safe. Some of these can cause allergic reactions in intolerant people, and these folks can find it hard to avoid those substances. Many times the ingredients will simply say "artificial flavors" without mentioning which ones. Most of them don't have common names but only have chemical names.

These chemicals, as I mentioned before, are rarely listed in ingredients. It does not even list how many of them are in. It will just say "artificial flavorings" or "natural flavorings." So you don't know if one or a hundred were used in the product and you certainly don't know which ones.

In most cases, natural flavors are better then artificial. However, it should be noted that in some cases artificial flavors are better than their natural counterparts. As you can see from Benzaldehyde. However, better doesn’t mean they are healthy. Also many 'natural flavors' are made from artificial ingredients, but as long as the chemical compound of the end product is same as the natural counter parts, it can be labeled as natural. The best way to avoid these risks is unless they are specified and you know what they are, if it says artificial or natural flavors, you should avoid them all. Eating unprocessed whole food is the best.

If you have to buy something prepackaged, read the ingredients – not nutritional facts. Choose foods that were made from truly natural flavors. Here is a list of excellent brand that you can choose from. I limited this mostly in vegan substitute food due to nature of this site.




Some good brand which make trustable processed food







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