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Top Ten List of Food Additives to Avoid

Updated on August 1, 2019

An American Farm

An ideallyic childhood memory
An ideallyic childhood memory

Why does our food require food additives? Or does it? What are food additives? I would like to take a look at this topic and find some answers to these questions and share information concerning the top ten that should be avoided.

I have a wonderful childhood memory of visiting my best friends grandparent's farm. They lived in rural Illinois, where the corn stalks grew high into the mid-western sky. Everything we ate and drank for dinner was fresh food from their farm. I can still taste and smell the fresh green beans and corn on the cob, the biscuits and fresh butter, the potatoes and roasted chicken, fresh tomatoes and lemonade (the real thing) and fresh strawberries for dessert. Yum. Then we went out and jumped from the hayloft into the hay and played outdoors all day and into the evening. What has happened to this picture?


Food Inc. Documentary with Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma; What are Additives?

Now there are so many pesticides and hormones used in farming, it's questionable how much of our food is ever in a natural, organic state unless organically grown on organic soil. If you've ever read any of Michael Pollan's books about food in America, you know the severity of this situation. If not, I highly recommend any of his books, specifically In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules. He has written numerous books concerning food and is interviewed in the documentary, Food, Inc. He supplies a comprehensive, journalistic look into the problems with America's food industry. The documentary is a must see for anyone who cares about the quality of food in our country.

A great beginning to understand our food industry crisis is understanding why food additives are added to our food. An additive is a substance that is intentionally added to food to provide longer shelf life, enhance flavor and texture, enhance appearance and attractiveness, to make us want to buy that bright orange orange that doesn't look like that picked from the tree.

Unintentional additives may find their way into our foods by way of processing, packaging and storage. How do we really know what is in that box of macaroni and cheese that has a very long shelf life? Why do we need flavor enhancers? These are legitimate questions we should be asking.

Nothing 'sweet' about these drinks

'Can' the diet sodas
'Can' the diet sodas

Please, don't take my chips...

BHA or BHT on the list of ingredients?
BHA or BHT on the list of ingredients?

Pretty Poisons

Good bye lollipops...
Good bye lollipops...

No More Ramen Noodles

Always ask at take outs and restaurants.
Always ask at take outs and restaurants.

Just say NO.

Sodium nitrite is an ingredient
Sodium nitrite is an ingredient

Baker, baker, bake no more

Loaves with potassium bromate
Loaves with potassium bromate

Did you know that...

Zero does not equal zero?
Zero does not equal zero?

Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid

There are all kinds of top ten lists, but this list is one to post in your kitchen and memorize if you want to avoid unnecessary additives in your daily diet. I have listed them in alphabetical order (teacher genes), not in any order of one being more dangerous than another. I have listed the food colorings separate as I think each one of them is important to recognize as a separate and not simply grouped together as colorings.

  • Aspartame- (Nutra-Sweet, Equal)- A combination of two amino acids and methanol may lead to methanol poisoning. Found in 'diet' food such as low calorie desserts, soft drinks, jello, gum, cereal, breath mints, kool-aid, chewable vitamins, toothpaste. It is a sweet tasting neuro-toxin which not only causes weight gain, but its unnatural structure requires the body to process the amino acids differently. Eliminate it from your diet.
  • BHA and BHT- A preservative to help prevent foods from oxidation and helps to preserve color, flavor and prevents rancidity. It may promote cancer. Found in chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, shortening, candy, jello. They affect the neurological system of the brain which can alter behavior.
  • Food colors Blue #1, Blue #2- Can cause cancer in mice and chromosomal damage. Not always listed on US labels. Banned in France and Norway. Found in beverages, baked goods, candy and pet supplies.
  • Food color Citrus Red #2- The dye is a carcinogen injected into the skin of some Florida oranges which is said not to penetrate into the pulp. It makes the oranges a brighter orange to enhance appearance. Eating the skin may cause cancer and chromosomal damage.
  • Food colors Red #3, (Red #40) and Green #3- Red #3 is used to dye candy, fruit cocktail, cherries, pet food. It is proven to cause thyroid cancer. Banned in 1990 in US, but still in use until supplies run out! Green #3 can be linked to bladder cancer in lab animals and is found in candy and beverages.
  • Food color Yellow #6- An increase of tumors in adrenal glands and kidneys have been found in lab animals. It is banned in Sweden and Norway. It is found in candy, lemonade, carbonated beverages, macaroni & cheese, American cheese. {sigh}
  • MSG- An amino acid used as a flavor enhancer. it can cause headaches, migraines, tightness of the chest, nausea. Found in Asian foods, snacks, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, lunch meats, frozen dinners.
  • Sodium Nitrite - used to color and preserve and flavor meat products. "This would be at the top of my list of additives to cut from my diet." Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N. American Dietetic Association. Found in ham, bacon, lunch meats, hot dogs, smoked fish, corned beef. Cooked over high temperatures creates a compound which can promote cancer.
  • Potassium Bromate- Rare, but still legal in US. Used to increase volume in white flour, breads and rolls. It is known to cause cancer in lab animals and even in small amounts can cause risk.
  • Transfat- A hydrogenated fat made from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil is used to help extend shelf life and foods have a less greasy feel. Proven to cause heart disease, can cause kidney failure and limb loss due to vascular disease. Found in commercial baked goods and some fried foods such as french fries and doughnuts and can be found in shortening and margarine.

Dangers of Food Additives & Preservative -You're Eating What?

What Does The Food and Drug Administartion Regulate?

After reading the top ten list, you may wonder, how did this happen? Why are we allowed to put additives in our foods that are not healthy? The answer could produce an entire article or book by itself. Many foods are manufactured and no longer grown or produced as they were 50 years ago. The agriculture giants do things to our food that we have every right to know. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has the oversight of deciding what additives are safe and may be added to our foods. There is a lengthy process in order for an additive to be approved. Manufacturers test the additives and prove its effectiveness and safety. A public hearing is granted for both experts and consumers to voice opinions as to why an addictive should or shouldn't be approved.

The FDA then regulates by stating what amount, purpose and in which foods the additive may be used. If an additive is found to cause cancer in animals or humans, it is not supposed to remain on the list. Every US citizen has a right to know what is being regulated and may comment or sign petitions concerning specific regulations. The FDA has a comprehensive website and a section where the public may be advised on how to comment on proposed regulations. We owe it to ourselves and our families to be educated about the foods we eat and make our voice heard. I hope this article has helped in some way to give information concerning ten food additives that we should avoid or monitor closely in our food choices. Happy, healthy eating. Read labels, shop the periphery of grocery stores, frequent local farmers markets, grow a garden.

(As with anything regarding health and medical conditions, always seek the advice from your physician or a registered dietitian concerning your dietary needs.)

Does the FDA even know what's in our food?

In 1958 an exemption was added to a law which allows common food ingredients 'generally recognized as safe', to be added to our food without FDA approval. Back when this was added, it referred to ingredients such as vinegar and oil and other food substances commonly known. Now thousands of chemicals/additives are imported and added to our food without FDA approval. Watch this NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) video to learn more.

NRDC Report on Chemicals in Food

Thank You for Reading and Please Feel Free to Leave a Comment.

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    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Glenn, I appreciate the comment and am always happy to help educate anyone about what is being put into our foods. It's this time of year that a lot of sickness takes hold of communities and a part of it is because of the food that is consumed between Halloween and the New Year. There are so many dangerous additives in candy and commercial holiday foods and it wears down our immune systems. I work in the education system and we see it routinely each and every year. Halloween marks the start of the cold and virus season. I have these additives memorized, especially the food colorings. You can carry a small list with you when grocery shopping and post one on your refrigerator door. If you have a dog, check their food labels. A lot of additives are in commercial dog food. Eating healthier adds energy and vitality to your life and is a huge boost to your immune system. After a while you won't miss the junk you eliminate from your diet. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for sharing. Happy healthy eating.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Another well-organized and educational hub of yours. I always thought I was eating healthy by staying away from processed foods and candies. But I realize now after reading your hub that I missed an awful lot. Thanks for the education.

      For example, I knew that cooking meat at high temperatures can cause cancer producing carcinogens. But I didn't realize that it was the Sodium Nitrite added to it that was the problem. I'm going to watch for that on labels now.

      I'm also really shocked to see that the FDA doesn't outlaw additives found to cause cancer in animals or humans, even though it's not supposed to remain on the list of acceptable additives, as you had mentioned. Why is it that the United States is less concerned than other countries, like France and Sweden who outlaw these things.

      I'm going to pass a link to your hub around to friends of mine who, like me, are concerned about our health.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      9 years ago from Peru, South America

      I so agree with what you say about dangerous food additives. Unfortunately, in Peru MSG is used in almost every kitchen. It's sold in little packets and labeled "ajinomoto" which sounds so innocent. We have been spreading the word about the dangers of consuming it, of course, and hope its popularity will diminish in time.

    • fucsia profile image


      10 years ago

      This Hub is very useful. I like to have a healthy nitrition but often I wonder: It is really healthy? Thanks to help me to better understand what is better to avoid.

    • Sunnyglitter profile image


      10 years ago from Cyberspace

      This was an excellent article on additives. I'm obsessed with nutrition, and consider myself fairly knowledgeable about additives, but you had a lot of things I didn't know in this hub. I loved reading about how the artificial colors have been banned in France, Norway, and Sweden.

    • fbliangcha profile image


      10 years ago from Guangxi-Zhuang, China

      This is a very important topic. Thank you for sharing it.

      Another reason to go local and organic because we can no longer trust what is really in the labels and some countries like canada cannot be held accountable for food labeling because there is none.

    • lyjo profile image


      11 years ago


    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks for the comments everyone. I'm glad to know it has helped. just giving up a few can dramatically improve our health. memorize the list and read labels carefully. happy eating. :]

    • Lady_E profile image


      11 years ago from London, UK

      I found this very useful and have linked it to a recent published Hub. So many are unaware of the role Additives play in the body. Thanks.

    • profile image

      The Narrower  

      11 years ago

      I would start war against food manufacture in Supermarket :mad: I cannot believe, How FDA allowed us to let this happen ?. I Understand that business is greater than our health, Food company should go to hell before many consumers declare war against their business

    • LivingFood profile image


      11 years ago

      This is great information! I watched food inc, and would recommend the movie to everyone.

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      11 years ago

      Wonderful hub, well written and researched. I loved the beginning reminded me so much of my own childhood. Your the best!!!

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 

      11 years ago from U.S.

      I'm glad I gave up soda many years ago! Thanks for the interesting hub.

      Glad to be a fan. :-)



    • susanlang profile image


      11 years ago

      rebekahelle hi. Detail..detail..detail well written and I believe no stone left unturned in this hub. When I was age 22, I had a bad reaction to MSG and landed in the ER with a rash and some breathing problems. The ER doc asked me what it was I had to eat and at what time before coming to the ER. After I filled in the blanks and without saying what food I ate (without upsetting some food guru) I stopped eating that food and some others with MSG and never had that reaction again. So this hub has helped many Im sure. Good read.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thank partin and lamme! yes, we are all consuming them hidden in our foods and drinks. we just have to read labels and cast our vote by not buying those products.

      kwame, thanks so much for reading and taking the moment to leave such a nice comment. much appreciated!

    • KwameG profile image


      11 years ago from MS

      really great hub, great information, thanks alot...

    • Lamme profile image


      11 years ago

      This is an excellent hub! Thanks for sharing such important information.

    • K Partin profile image

      K Partin 

      11 years ago from Garden City, Michigan

      Wow great hub and so important. Good job. And the sad part is we all are probably guilty of consuming these additives. Thanks for sharing. K.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks MOW for reading! when I was in France, I loved the little markets with fresh produce so close to the street! we were on a hunt for fresh cherries and they were amazing! so, no fresh markets in London? that is too bad. where do you buy fresh farm produce? :/ maybe check your area online and you will find a market!

      thanks obscurely, A LOT has changed and for the most part, the public knows very little, but now it is becoming more open what the food industry has done and continues to do to our food. I included these particular 10, as they showed up most often as the worst while researching the material. the FOODinc. site is a wealth of information.

    • Obscurely Diverse profile image

      Obscurely Diverse 

      11 years ago from Tennessee, U.S., Earth, Milky Way via Cosmos

      Nice hub... Yeah, a lot has changed over the last few decades and it's not the food that is killing people, it is all the chemicals/crap they add and/or inject into it. Artificial colors & dyes, sodium nitrite, trans fat, it's all harmful to a person's health. Of course, the sad truth is, there are loads more that didn't make your top ten list; but, you had to stop somewhere. ;)

    • myownworld profile image


      11 years ago from uk

      Living in France, I remember waking up early on sunday mornings and going to the local 'farmer's market' where the juiciest farm grown vegetables, fruits, cheese and bread was sold. I miss that so much since moving to london! Anyway, this was an excellent hub as usual, nicely presented and full of healthy tips! Thank you... :)

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks philip, it's good you've cut down on the diet soda. you can replace it with water or unsweetened juices. when we look at the disease and obesity in our country, I think it's easy where to look for the cause. growing an organic garden is one great solution!

      tatjana, thanks for commenting and I do agree with the gardening. even if in small pots in the window, it helps! :]

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image


      11 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Organic garden is certainly the best solution...the other options are just not healthy. Gread Hub,Rebekah - thumbs up.

    • profile image

      philip carey 61 

      11 years ago

      I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke (I've cut way back, fortunately). You just wonder what they'll find out about heavy exposure to the many unnatural substances in our foods and drinks. Nicely written.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks sandy, always nice to see you. have to love that avatar!

      ds, thanks for reading and leaving such a nice comment. coming from you, that means a lot with the quality of hubs you produce. it's an important subject and happy to know you'll be sharing the info with your family and friends. :)

    • darkside profile image


      11 years ago from Australia

      Well written and highly informative. I'll be recommending this one to family and friends.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Well researched on this subject. Thanks.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks pamela, it seems many of the worst are the most common and yet some companies have cut down on the amount they use or have eliminated the offending additives. it's important to check labels.

      west, thank you and hooray for you and your organic garden.

      there's something very rewarding about planting and growing an organic garden, especially knowing the risks of pesticides.

      always great to see you maita and thanks for the very nice comments! :]

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      11 years ago from US

      well wriiten, well researched and excellent hub! thumbs up and rated it! thank you Ms Rebekahelle! Maita

    • west40 profile image


      11 years ago from Canandaigua, NY

      Very informative Hub! There is so much out there that we need to stay away from - that is why I have an organic garden and can't wait until spring gets a little closer.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      11 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a good hub with the list of the most common additives. I hate that thought as you know they have to be bad for you. Thanks for such a thorough hub.


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