Yes. Some additives should be avoided. Others need only to be limited by most people. The following table outlines some of the claimed risks and side effects of these common food additives. It is important to note that many of these issues are controversial. Some problems are not widely accepted by the scientific community. The recommendations below are from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Also listed is information from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
|Name of Additive||Foods It Is Found In||Possible Risk||Recommendation From CSPI||FDA information|
| Acesulfame K (artificial sweetener)||Packets or tablets, beverage mixes, coffee or tea beverages, desserts (gelatins, puddings)||Artificial sweeteners, like acesulfame K, have been linked to cancer in rats.||Avoid||There is not enough evidence to conclude that artificial sweeteners are unsafe. |
|Artificial colorings||Numerous||While this is very controversial, some dyes are suspected of being cancer-causing.||Avoid Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6||The FDA has a list of approved dyes. Yellow 5 can cause hives in a some people.|
|Aspartame (artificial sweetener)||Packets or tablets, beverage mixes, coffee or tea beverages, desserts (gelatins, puddings), yogurts, a myriad of “sugar-free” products||Like other artificial sweeteners, this has been linked to cancer in rats.
||Avoid||People with phenylketonuria
should avoid sweeteners with aspartame.|
|BHA/BHT (preservative)||Added to foods that contain oil to prevent them from oxidizing and becoming rancid||These additives have also been linked to cancer in rats.||Avoid||BHA and BHT are approved for use in food. |
|Monosodium glutamate or MSG (flavor enhancer)||Often added to certain seasonings, especially in Chinese food, in order to boost the overall flavor||
This is another controversial issue. MSG may cause migraines, chest tightness, wheezing, and asthma
attacks in certain people.
||Avoid if sensitive||MSG is considered "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), but the additive must be clearly labeled on the product.|
|Nitrites and nitrates (meat preservatives)||Processed meats||
There are claims that these preservatives increase the risk of
certain cancers, including
||Avoid||Nitrites and nitrates are also recognized as safe.|
|Olestra (synthetic fat replacement)||Potato chips, snack foods||Olestra can affect the gastrointestinal tract, causing diarrhea and loss of important fat-soluble vitamins.||Avoid||The FDA has approved this fat substitute.|
|Potassium bromate||Bread products||This additive may increase the risk of cancer.||Avoid||The FDA has not banned this additive, but it is not used as often anymore.|
|Saccharine (artificial sweetener)||Packets, diet beverages||
This artificial sweetener has also been linked to cancer in rats.||Avoid||There is not enough evidence to conclude that artificial sweeteners are unsafe. |
|Sulfites||Dried fruits, shrimp, wine||Sulfites may cause asthma attacks or even anaphylactic shock in vulnerable people.||Avoid if sensitive||Sulfites can be used in products, but they must be listed on the label.|
|Sucralose (artificial sweetener)||Baked goods, frozen desserts, ice cream, soft drinks||None||Caution||This sweetener is approved by the FDA.|