Food Additives

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Harmless or Healthy Food Additives

A small number of food additives have been found to be harmless or even healthy. Those in the “harmless” category include MSG, citric acid, stevia (in limited amounts), and erythritol. Of all added sweeteners, only date sugar and molasses are considered to be health-promoting. Black pepper and gum arabic appear to offer health benefits.

Harmful Food Additives

Many food additives may be harmful to human health such as nitrate, a carcinogenic substance found abundantly in hot dogs and cured meats. Another dangerous additive is phosphate, found mostly in chicken meat. Other harmful additives include the preservatives sodium benzoate, potassium sorbatesulfites, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, arsenic compounds, and coumarin (which has been banned). Diacetyl, an artificial flavoring for popcorn, and most types of artificial coloring (found in farmed fish as well) have been linked to disease risk. Red dye number 3 has been associated with ADHD symptoms in children, cancer, and liver and thyroid diseases. Aluminum, found in many cheeses, the “fortifying” nutrient folic acid, and flavor additives salt, corn syrup, and NutraSweet also introduce health risks.  

Some additives have themselves been found to be contaminated with mercury. The meat industry is currently considering additives to try to make meat safer.

Topic summary contributed by Linda.

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