Below is a list of 5 food additives that are commonly found in processed food. The point is not to cause fear, but instead light a fire underneath you to get involved in your health. Ask questions about what is being allowed into your food and learn what these ingredients are and how they have been studied with regard to human health.
1. Sodium Benzoate – Used as a preservative in margarine, bottled soft drinks, maraschino cherries, fruit juice, pickles, and jams. Nontoxic for external use, moderately toxic by ingestion. Caused birth defects in animal experiments. When combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), can form benzene, a known carcinogen. Can also form depending on heat, light, and shelf life.
2. Benzyl Acetate – A synthetic flavoring (ie: butter, cherry, etc.) additive for beverages, ice cream, candy, baked goods, and chewing gum. Can be irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Ingestion causes intestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Noted brain damage in rats and mice.
3. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – Used to intensify flavor in meats, condiments, pickles, soups, candy and baked goods. Causes brain damage in young rodents and brain damage effects in rats, rabbits, chicks, and monkeys. Depression, irritability, and other mood changes have been reported. On the FDA list of additives needing further study for mutagenic (causing cells to mutate), teratogenic (birth and developmental defects), and reproductive effects.
4. FD & C Colors (Food Drug & Cosmetic Colors) – Various color additives linked to cancer, tumors, infertility to name a few. Specific colors have different reports of risk. Some linked to hyperactivity in children. Many have been banned due to health risks and further studies are underway to determine safety of remaining allowed colors.
5. Butylated Hydroxyanisole/Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHA/BHT) – Preservatives found in beverages, ice cream, soup bases, potatoes, breakfast cereals, chewing gum, and baked goods. BHA affects liver and kidney functions. Serious concerns over carcinogenicity and estrogenic effects. Banned in Japan. BHT chemically similar to BHA with similar health concerns. BHT is banned in the UK.
References: Winter, Ruth. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives. Three Rivers Press: New York. 2004.