Food. Additives. Stop and think a moment – isn’t it strange that these words are even in the same sentence?
Below is Core Health Dynamics top 5 Food Additives to avoid based on commonly available and ingested food and beverages. There are so many others that could be added here, especially if we were talking cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, however we’re concerned with good nutrition and great health, so we’ll stick to what we know!
There are approximately 300 additives allowed…
50 of these are considered questionable…
Food additives are used for a variety of means, from enhancing the tastes and colours of food and beverages, through to prolonging the shelf life and speeding up the manufacturing process.
There are approximately 300 of these additives allowed in Australian and New Zealand food (there are some variations between European*, US**, and Canadian** laws, however most are similar.) 50 of these are considered questionable when it comes to what sort of effects they may have on the human body , particularly on children. Considering the average person ingests 5kg of these additives per year , it’s perhaps best to be aware of what some of the more harmful food additives are that you should avoid!
When looking on the ingredients labels of food, try to avoid:
#1 – E102 – E160b – Colours red (Alkannin, Carminic acid, Azorubine, Ponceau 4R, Erythosine, Allura Red AC); yellow ( Tartrazine, Quinotine, Sunset Yellow FCF, Annatto extracts); black (Caramel II, Caramel III, Brilliant Black BN, Carbon Black); brown (Caramel I, Brown HT); blue (Brilliant Blue FCF); green ( Indigotine, Green 5, Fast green FCF) – pause for breath here!
The colour blue ‘was originally derived from coal tar,
although most manufacturers now make it from an oil base.'
You name it, these ‘colours’ are in it: beverages, processed foods, ice cream, biscuits, lollies (candy), cake mixes, canned foods, jams, flavoured milk, some chocolates (Booo!), cereals and dairy (why does ‘plain’ dairy even need colouring?).
Let’s pick on one of these colours randomly, say Blue. The colour blue ‘was originally derived from coal tar, although most manufacturers now make it from an oil base.' So your choices are Coal Tar, or Oil? I think i’ll forego the blue M&M’s thanks!
What’s alarming here is that these additives are across an awful lot of very available foods targeted at children. Hyperactivity anyone? This is from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) website :
If your child shows signs of hyperactivity or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eliminating some colours from their diet might have beneficial effects on their behaviour.
These colours include:
- sunset yellow (E110)
- quinoline yellow (E104)
- carmoisine (E122)
- allura red (E129)
- tartrazine (E102)
- ponceau 4R (E124)
This could turn into a Post all by itself! Let’s move on too:
#2: 201 – Sodium Sorbate – a Preservative prevalent in baked goods, bread, confectionary, pasta and icing. So basically a bunch of ‘food’ that is pretty terrible for you anyway! 201 is a derivative of Sorbic Acid, which naturally occurs in fruits. However, when utilised in a concentrated form such as in the above foods to prevent bacterial build up, it has been known to cause rashes, skin irritation, intestinal discomfort and respiratory inflammation. Pretty hard to swallow, huh? (pun intended). It should be noted that Sorbic Acid is used in small quantities in individual food items. The problem comes from this being an additive in so many readily available foods that are ingested several times per day, thereby providing a build up in the body.
#3: E202 – Potassium Sorbate – as per above, a derivative of Sorbic Acid, which has similar effects of causing skin irritations. It’s in similar foods to the ones listed above, however is also in…wait for it… Wine! Which kills me as I love my glass of Red once or twice a week (in fact, my wife and I got married in a Winery! Random…back to the Post!) However, if you moderate your intake, it will of course have less harmful effects than if you’re drinking a bottle every night!
#4: E203 – Calcium Sorbate – yep, Sorbic Acid too! And yep, in similar foods to the above. See the pattern emerging here? If you can go without lollies (candy), overly processed wheat based products such as pasta, and can walk past that bakery without being tempted (or find a bakery that uses organic ingredients and no gluten) then you’ll avoid additives #2, #3 and #4 most of the time.
#5: E407 – Carrageenan – this is everywhere, and very controversial in food manufacturing and nutrition circles. The reason it’s controversial is that there is just as much evidence against this being an additive to avoid , as there is for evidence telling you it’s nothing to worry about. A study in 2011 stated that “the role of CGN (Carrageenan) and dCGN (degraded Carrageenan) as carcinogens still remains controversial” .
Manufactured from seaweed, Carrageenan is a form of Polysaccharide, and therefore a sugar. This in itself is not much of a problem as various forms of Saccharides naturally occur in many edible foods. The problem again is that this additive is present in many foods as a Thickener and Stabiliser, and in high concentrations. This in turn has made it a suspected culprit in Gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation and illnesses, through to possible tumours in the Colon. For these reasons alone, I try to steer clear of it.
Dishonourable mentions are:
– E220 (Sulphur Dioxide) prevalent in processed meats, preserved fruit, juices, and unfortunately, most if not all non-Organic and non Bio-dynamic wines.
– E385 (Calcium disodium EDTA) a regular ingredient in canned fish and fruit drinks (and pharmaceuticals scarily enough!)
– and of course E621 (Monosodium L-glutmate) which is present in a staggering 9,000+ different foods , despite attempts to reduce this over the last couple of decades.
So what can you do to try to avoid these?
Avoid processed foods that have more than
7 – 8 ingredients…
1. Try and buy fresh, organic food and beverages where and when possible.
2. Check the ingredients when you have to buy packaged, tinned, bottled or frozen foods and beverages. The ingredient mentioned first on the item indicates that it is the most prevalent. The other ingredients then go in descending order. For example, the image of the Tomato Sauce label below shows ‘Tomatoes’ first, meaning that this bottle has more tomatoes in it than anything else:
3. Avoid processed foods that have more than 7 – 8 ingredients listed. You’re buying one item, not a three course meal in a pack (though I am sure they are out there), therefore less ingredients means the product is more likely to be purer and fresher.
4. Don’t be fooled by smaller sizes. “If it’s high in fat,salt or sugar, the manufacturer may make the serving size less so the numbers look better” , according to Sharon Natoli, Dietitian at Food and Nutrition Australia. The same goes for food additives. Smaller doesn’t necessarily mean better for you!
5. Finally, when checking the ingredients, try to avoid anything with the additive numbers on the label discussed in this Post.
Impossible? No. Try to:
- eat fresh and organic *** vegetables
- grass fed, free range meats
- Keep pre-packaged, canned, packet and processed foods to a minimum
- for a treat, have a couple of glasses of red wine per week ( I know, I know…) and chocolate should be the dark, high cacao variety.
I love talking about this stuff, so as per usual find me at email@example.com !
Sources and Notes:
 Food Additives Guide, Stefan Mager, aracaria guides – http://aracariaguides.com
 Where does Blue food dye come from?, Brendan Borrell, Scientific American, January 30, 2009 – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-does-blue-food-dye/
 NHS, Food colours and Hyperactivity, 12th June, 2012 – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-additive-intolerance/Pages/Introduction.aspx
 Taché, S, Peiffer, G, Millet, A-S, and Corpet, DE. Carrageenan gel and aberrant crypt foci in the colon of conventional and human flora-associated rats. Nutr Cancer 37:75–80, 2000.
 Kanneganti, M., Mino-Kenudson, M., & Mizoguchi, E. (2011). Animal models of colitis-associated carcinogenesis. BioMed Research International, 2011.
 Food Labels, Decoded – Men’s Health, March 2013
*In Europe, food additive numbers have the ‘E’ prefix. In Australia and New Zealand, we simply use the numbers. The ‘E’ has been included here to cover all aspects, so even imported foods should be easily identifiable.
** In the US and Canada, the ‘E’ prefix can be used interchangeably, however the numbers still refer to the same additives.
*** To ensure you are actually buying genuine Organic products, look for these logo’s: