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Allergic to Food Additives

Why am I writing abut food additives on an allergy blog?

Food additive aren’t absolutely necessary in most foods. Most have no added nutrients for our bodies to use. I feel they are dangerous and unnecessary in foods and can cause health problems as well as allergic reactions. The FDA currently maintains a list of ingredients called “Everything Added to Food in the United States” (EAFUS), which features more than 3,000 items and counting. Thankfully, most EAFUS ingredients are benign, but a few of them do have potentially harmful effects.  It’s a mystery to me and most everyone else, why so many are legal.

Caramel Coloring

When made from only from sugar, it’s relatively safe. If it is produced with ammonia it gives off 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, chemicals that have been linked to cancer in mice.  Unfortunately, companies aren’t required to disclose whether their coloring is made with ammonia or sugar.


Used in foods as a fat replacement. Warning labels are no longer required  to notify customers about the risk of “loose stools.”Olestra also appears to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb some crucial nutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene.

Potassium Bromate

Potassium bromate causes thyroid and kidney tumors in rats, and it’s banned from food use in many countries, but not the U.S.

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)

Studies have linked saccharin to bladder tumors in rats, and in 1977, the FDA required warning labels on all saccharin-containing foods. In 2000, the FDA changed its stance and allowed saccharin to be sold without warning labels. But that doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe. A 2008 Purdue study found that replacing sugar with saccharin in rats’ diets actually made them gain more weight.


The Department of Health and Human Services says BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” yet the FDA allows it to be used anyway. BHT is considered less dangerous, but in animal research, it too has resulted in cancer.

Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Partially hydrogenated fats are the principle sources of trans fat in the American diet, and a Harvard study estimated that trans fat causes 70,000 heart attacks every year. This fat became very popular during the cholesterol scare in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Food manufacturers at that time scrabbled to label products “Cholesterol Free” even if that meant adding trans fats that are worse than eating the cholesterol that was naturally contained in foods. This is a food additive to avoid.


Humans have used sulfites to keep food fresh for thousands of years, but some people—especially asthma sufferers—experience breathing difficulties when exposed. Sulfites have been used for centuries, mainly as food additives, but can also occur naturally in foods such as fermented beverages and wines.


This chemical is used most frequently in the production of industrial foam plastic, and although the FDA has approved its use for food in the States. The United Kingdom has labeled it a potential cause of asthma.


Seaweed is actually good for you, but carrageenan is a mere seaweed byproduct. Through animal studies, it has been linked to cancer, colon trouble, and ulcers. It isn’t certain that carrageenan harms humans, but avoiding it is clearly the safer option.

Aspartame (Equal)

Over the past 30 years, the FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints due mostly to neurological symptoms such as headaches dizziness, memory loss, and, in rare cases, epileptic seizures. Many studies have shown the sweetener to be completely harmless, while other have linked the additive to cancer. Why take a chance when other sweeteners like Stevia are safer.

 Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

After forty years of scrutiny, research has yet to reach a definitive verdict on MSG. Studies have shown that injecting the amino acid into mice causes brain-cell damage, but the FDA believes these results are not typical for humans. Still, the administration fields complaints every year for nausea, headaches, chest pains, and weakness. It could be that the results are limited to people with acute MSG sensitivity (read: allergy), so the FDA continues to allow manufacturers to use it. If you are allergic to MSG it is a very serious problem.

Nitrates and nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites have a tendency to fuse with amino acids to become carcinogenic nitrosamines. Ironically, the processed meats into which nitrates are commonly added are rich with amino acids, making nitrosamine formation very likely. In addition to concerns about cancer, increased nitrate and nitrite intake has been linked to deaths in Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s patients. Despite the risks, the valuable use of nitrates and nitrites as inhibitors of botulism warrant their acceptance as food additives in the eyes of the FDA.

Blue #2

A study published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest showed that the ingestion of Blue #2 led to increases in tumor development in the brain and mammary glands in lab rats. The FDA dismissed these findings, citing a variety of nebulous weaknesses in the study’s methods. The bottom line: whether or not artificial dyes are harmful, the foods they appear in are the most heavily processed, nutritionally bankrupt foods in the supermarket.


It’s been documented that parabens act as mild estrogens, and according to the Environmental Working Group, they can disrupt the natural balance of hormones in your body. In a Japanese study, male rats fed propyl paraben daily for four weeks suffered lower sperm and testosterone production, and other studies have found parabens present in breast cancer tissues.

Check your food labels carefully, some of the above food additives may be causing you problems and should be limited in your diet.


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