Food Additives

Food-Additives-1

FOOD ADDITIVES

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When was the last time you tasted food that did not contain any artificial additives or preservatives? While some additives might not have caused any tangible concerns; others are definitely not items you want to catch in your food!

Food additives are commonly used to enhance the appearance with attractive colours or hasten the manufacturing process. While preservatives ensure the longevity and ‘freshness’ of the product. We’ve collated a list of food additives and preservatives and their effects on the body.

GLOSSARY OF FOOD ADDITIVES / PRESERVATIVES

Arsenic

What is it?

Arsenic is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form. 

Where is it used?

Although found naturally, arsenic is also used in pesticides, which is further taken up by plants as they grow, and therefore present in fruits, vegetables and grains.

What harm can it cause? 

Long-term exposure to arsenic could play a role in the development of cancer, diabetes, lung and vascular disease. 

Butane

What is it?

Butane is an artificial anti-oxidant prevents cells of organisms from degrading. 

Where is it used?

It is used in frozen, packaged or pre-made processed foods with long shelf-lives such as frozen meals, crackers, chips, cereal bars and fast foods, essentially to keep such items ‘fresh’ in terms of its flavour and odour.

What harm can it cause?

Butane is proven to have adverse effects in humans such as vision disturbances, enlargement of the liver, neurotoxic effects, convulsions, and paralysis.

Carrageenan

What is it? 

Carrageenan is an additive that is extracted from red seaweed.

Where is it used?

It is used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks.

What harm can it cause?

Carrageenan could trigger inflammation, gastrointestinal ulcerations, and damage to the digestive system.

Sodium Nitrate 

What is it?

Sodium nitrate is a food preservative.

Where is it used?

It is found in processed meats, especially cured meats such as salami, beef jerky, ham and hot dogs.

What harm can it cause? 

High levels of sodium nitrate could lead to leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, heart disease and ovarian, stomach, esophageal, pancreatic and thyroid cancers.

Sodium Hydrosulphite (Bleaching Agent)

What is it?

Sodium hydrosulphite is commonly used as a bleaching agent.

Where is it used?

Usually used in textiles, dyeing, leather, paper pulp and other industries. It is also used as an adulterant to lighten the colour of jaggery being sold in markets. 

What harm can it cause? 

It may cause kidney impairment.

Tartrazine
 

What is it?

Tartrazine is an artificial food dye which gives a lemon-yellow colour.

Where is it used?

It is used to colour confections, cereals, snack foods, beverages, condiments, baked goods, powdered mixes, gelatin products, icings, jellies, spices, dressings, sauces, and yogurt. 

What harm can it cause?

Its harmful effects include anxiety, migraine, depression, blurred vision, itching, general weakness, hot sensations, a feeling of suffocation, purple skin patches, and sleep disturbances.

Yeast Extract

What is it?

Yeast extract is a food flavoring made from the same yeast used to make bread and beer. 

Where is it used?

It is added to foods like soy sauce, canned soups, stews, frozen dinners and salty snacks.

What harm can it cause? 

Yeast extract is very high in sodium, and therefore could cause issues for individuals with high blood pressure.

Monosodium Glutamate

What is it?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer.

Where is it used?

It is commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. 

What harm can it cause? 

MSG is known to cause a number of health issues such as headaches, flushing, numbness, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea and weakness.

Sodium Bicarbonate

What is it?

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is a chemical compound which usually appears as a fine powder. 

Where is it used?

It serves a variety of purposes, ranging from household uses such as baking and cleaning, to treating minor medical ailments like sunburn and insect bites. It is commonly used as a raising agent in idli, vada, cakes, breads, pancakes and fried foods. 

What harm can it cause? 

Long-term or excessive use of sodium bicarbonate could lead to stomach rupture and serious alterations in electrolyte levels. 

Dye

What is it?

Food dyes are water-soluble compounds.

Where is it used?

It is often added to processed foods, drinks, and condiments. They are used to maintain or improve the appearance of the food items like colourful candies and beverages. 

What harm can it cause? 

It has been linked with the prevalence of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Potassium Bromate

What is it?

Potassium bromate is a strong oxidizing agent.

Where is it used?

It bleaches bread dough, and enhances its elasticity, giving an end product which is fluffy, soft and unnaturally white. 

What harm can it cause? 

In large amounts, it is found to be linked to cancer.

Benzoic Acid

What is it?

Benzoic acid is a white solid organic compound.

Where is it used?

As a food additive, benzoic acid is used to preserve different kinds of foods including fruit juices, soft drinks, pickles, barbecue sauces and salad dressings. 

What harm can it cause? 

It has been linked to asthma problems and increased levels of hyperactivity in children.

Calcium Sulphate

What is it?

Calcium sulphate is an inorganic compound.

Where is it used?

Used in a wide variety of foods, calcium sulphate is present mostly as a stabiliser and thickening agent in pastas, breads, baking powder, cheese, jellies, candies and tofu. 

What harm can it cause?

Excessive amounts of calcium sulphate can lead to kidney stones.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole 

What is it? 

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) is an antioxidant food additive derived from petroleum.

Where is it used?

Butylated Hydroxyanisole is used in food items such as potato chips and butter to prevent oils from oxidizing and becoming rancid.

What harm can it cause?

Research has shown BHA to be reasonably anticipated as a human carcinogen based on evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.

Aspartame

What is it? 

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener.

Where is it used?

It is primarily used in diet sodas and tabletop sweeteners.

What harm can it cause?

There have been cases where the consumption of aspartame has triggered headaches, dizziness, memory loss and in rare cases, epileptic seizures.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

 What is it? 
 
It is a corn-derived sweetener representing more than 40 percent of all caloric sweeteners in the supermarket.
 

Where is it used? 

It is found in ice creams, chips, cereal, bread, ketchup, canned fruits, yogurt, and two-thirds of all sweetened beverages.

What harm can it cause?

Since its introduction, studies have shown a steady increase in obesity levels with its consumption.

Olestra

What is it? 

Olestra is a fat substitute that adds no calories to products.

Where is it used?

It is used in the preparation of otherwise high-fat foods such as potato chips, thereby lowering or eliminating their fat content.

What harm can it cause?

Olestra can cause diarrhea, intestinal cramps, and flatulence. Studies show that it impairs the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and vital carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Sulphur Dioxide

What is it?

Sulphur dioxide is an antioxidant. It’s a pungent corrosive gas that arises from burning coal or crude oil. 

Where is it used?

Sulphur dioxide is used as a preservative for dried apricots and other dried fruits due to its anti-microbial properties. It also helps maintain the appearance of the fruit and prevents it from rotting. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, syrups, jams, jellies and other preserves.

What harm can it cause?

Asthma attacks have been shown to have a link with sulphur dioxide. 

Propyl Gallate

What is it? 

Propyl Gallate is an artificial food additive in the form of a white crystalline powder.

Where is it used?

You may find propyl gallate in meat products, microwaveable popcorn, soup mixes, chewing gum, mayonnaise, and frozen meals. It’s used primarily for its antioxidant properties.

What harm can it cause?

Side effects of its consumption are stomach and skin irritability, as well as allergic reactions that impact breathing. It may also cause kidney and liver problems.

Trans Fat

What is it?

Trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are a form of unsaturated fat.

Where is it used?

Trans fat is found in junk and fast food, primarily due to the partially hydrogenated oil they are fried in. Commonly found in chips, fries, burgers.

What harm can it cause?

Trans fat increases the risk for heart attacks, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It also has an unhealthy effect on the cholesterol levels — increasing the LDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as bad cholesterol) and decreasing the HDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as good cholesterol).

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