• A food additive is any substance added to food during production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage of the food.
  • Food additives are used for many different purposes in the food industry, including maintaining safety, freshness, nutritional value, taste, texture and appearance.
  • There are two types — direct and indirect food additives:
    1. Direct food additives are typically added during processing and will be identified on the ingredient list.
    2. Indirect food additives are substances that come in contact with the food during packaging, processing, or storage of the food item, but are not added directly to the food item.
  • Direct food additives can be man-made or natural. They’re usually added during processing to add nutrients or assist in processing or preparing the food. They also help to keep the product fresh and make the food more appealing.
  • Natural food additives include herbs and spices, which add flavor. Other examples are vinegar and salt for pickling and preserving foods.

Determining Intolerance to Food Additives

Traditional allergy testing such as skin prick testing or IgE blood testing cannot be used to diagnosis food additive intolerance. Recording your symptoms using a food diary can be helpful in pinpointing the offending additive, along with working with an allergist or a dietitian who is familiar with allergies and intolerances.

Common Food Additives to Avoid

  • Artificial sweeteners including aspartame, saccharin, sodium cyclamate, sucralose — Found in soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, baked goods, candy, pudding, jam, jelly, dairy products
  • Benzoic acid, benzoate, sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate — Found in fruit juice, jam, jelly, flavored syrups, salad dressing, sauces
  • Emulsifiers and food stabilizers such as lecithin, gelatins, cornstarch, waxes, gums, propylene glycol — Found in ice cream, margarine, salad dressing, sauces
  • Food coloring and dyes — Found in candy, soda, Jell-O, cake mix, yogurt, jam, jelly, pickles, ice cream, sauces
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) — Found in canned/cured/smoked meat, potato chips, gravy and seasoning mix, Chinese dishes
  • Sulfites — Found in alcoholic beverages, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, hot dogs, deli meats, baked goods, potato products, rice mixes

NOTE: Always double check the ingredient statement on any products you purchase. Food manufacturers may change their ingredients at any time.


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