Food additives are substances that are added to food to preserve and/or enhance its taste, flavour and texture. While natural preservatives such as oil, vinegar, salt and sugar have been used to preserve foods by pickling or making jams, recent years have seen an increase in synthetic additives that are used to preserve and increase the shelf life of foods.
It can get a little overwhelming to remember which additives to look out for, especially since we are bombarded every few days with forwarded emails and text messages with a different set of additives each time. We have compiled a list of top eight additives that you should be watching out for in your processed food.
Found in – soda, frozen desserts, gum, and fruit spreads, etc.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is linked with dizziness, headaches and hallucinations. It may also increase the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma and breast cancer.
Found in – Sugar free foods
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener used in place of sugar because it has fewer calories. Unfortunately foods containing saccharin are known to cause cancer in the uterus, bladder, ovaries and skin.
3. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Found in – chips, gum, cereal, etc.
BHA is an antioxidant that prevents the oil in the foods from turning rancid. Research has shown that this can be carcinogenic for humans.
4. Olestra (Olean)
Found in – “Less Oily” potato chips
Olestra is a fat substitute that causes severe diarrhoea, flatulence and cramping. It also depletes fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids in the body.
5. Colouring Agents
Found in – Most foods requiring artificial colours such as candies, sodas, etc.
Most colouring agents have coal tar as an ingredient. These are known carcinogens that are best avoided. Another side effect of these colouring agents is hyperactivity.
6. Potassium Bromate
Found in – Breads
Potassium Bromate is added to dough used for baking breads to increase volume. It has been known to cause cancer in animals. Bromine is an ingredient in Potassium Bromate and is known to be poisonous. Even a small amount of ingestion can cause problems for humans. It has been known to cause gastrointestinal pain, problems in the nervous system and kidney disorders.
7. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Found in – most Asian foods, canned foods, etc.
MSG is used to enhance the flavour of food. Found in most preserved foods and oriental food, this additive is known to cause extremes of headaches, heart palpitations, nausea and weakness.
Found in – Coffee, caffeinated drinks
Caffeine is a flavouring used in soft drinks, coffee, tea and chocolate that can interfere with sound sleep. High doses of caffeine have been found to cause miscarriage and birth defects. Other problems include making people jittery and cause sleeping problems.
Remember, you don’t need to feel shy about turning over the packets and taking the time to read the information on the packaging before you buy them.