Food Safety Tips: Why Are Food Additives Used In Food?

Are food additives safe? There are very few foods that we can buy in the market today that are free of additives. Read on.

There are very few foods that we can buy in the market today that are free of additives. An additive free food would be one that does not have anything in it that did not occur naturally.

So what then is an additive? It is any preservative that is used to prevent spoilage, vitamins and minerals, sugar, salt, any flavorings that may be used to improve taste, and dyes to improve the color of a product.

There are approximately 2,800 food additives that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many people question the safety of many of these additives, but the fact is that there is not much proof to show any major health risks to most people.

Some of the more common additives are sugar, corn syrup, salt, and other types of sweeteners. These are used to both make the foods taste better and also to act as a preservative. Many other types of additives act as a health benefit to many people. Some examples of these types of additives would be: calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B, and beta carotene.

Some of the additives that raise question in the public eye are those which act as bleaching agents in baked goods or those that have strange names that we do not understand. These are not considered harmful, but people are afraid of what they do not understand.

Most of these additives are very safe. There is, of course the exception, and these are then removed from the market. A couple of examples of this would be red dye #2 and Violet #1. They were removed from the market as they were suspected of causing various types of cancer.

On the other side, there have been some scare over products without any real reason. A good example of this would be the issues over artificial sweetners. This fight began around 1951 when the FDA approved cyclamates as an artificial way of sweetening. In 1969 some researchers stated that there was an increase in cancer among some rats that they had been testing. This led to the FDA ban on cycamates. Since that time, several other studies have failed to prove this and cyclamates are still used in about forty other countries with no problems.

The FDA has not reinstated the use of the product in this country, but have banned any attempts to stop the use of other like products. It also did not stop them from approving the arificial sweetener-aspartame, which has been proven to increase seizures in epileptic patients.

These are just some of the additives that we know about, but what about the ones that we do not? These would be the ones that are foods are exposed to during growing, processing, and packaging. Some of these can cause more serious health risks than the direct additives ever would.

Many of our foods contain traces of pesticides that are sprayed on crops or applied to the soil. Much of our food contains environmental pollutants such as murcury and lead. These can be very harmful if swollowed in large quantities.

Many of the food allergies that are being blamed on intential additives are actually the fault of the accidental additives. You will find this often in people who can eat a food one time and then the next have an out break of hives or worse.

An example of this would be a person who can normally drink milk becomes very ill when having a glass. How does this happen? Maybe the cow had been treated for a problem. It could have been given penicillin. The drug then gets into the milk and if you have a penicillin allergy you become very ill from drinking the milk. It was not the milk or anything used to preserve it that made you ill, rather the drug that was used to treat the cow.

Even though in most cases food additives are very safe, we still must use our heads when using them. There are certain contitions that would prevent us from using certain things. For example, a person with high blood presure or heart disease would have to watch their sodium intake. Does this mean that salt is not a safe additive? Not in most cases, but to this group of people--yes!

Many people have allergies to certain food dyes. Does this mean that these dyes should be taken off the market. Of course not, this only affects a small percentage of people and is totally harmless to the many other millions of people.

Then there are the people who have a tendency to store up too much iron. This is a disease which is known as hemochromatosis. Would foods that are high in iron be safe for them? No! They would, however be perfectly alright for the rest of the population, and in many cases very benifitial.

***Consumer worries over food additives often arrise from confusion or from lack of knowledge. The fact is that everything that goes into your food has to be approved by the government and maintain their high standards. It is by no means what goes into our food that should concern us, but rather those that go on it that no one has any control over.***

The following is a small list of some food additives and what they do.

Antimicrobials: Benzoic acid These expand

Nitrites shelf life of

Nitrates a product.


Antioxidants: Vitamin C Keep juices from

Vitamin E turning color.

Colorings: Beta carotene Make food look

Carmel Better

Carrot oil




Flavor MSG Improve flavor

Enhancers: vegetable



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