Top 10 Dangers of Food Additives & Reasons for Using Additives

A lot of research has been done on the dangers of food additives of these additives and some harms have also been identified by these researches. Today I will examine the disadvantages of food additives, which I am always against and avoid eating foods that have additives.

Food additives have been used naturally for centuries to flavor foods or preserve foods and are still being used in the same old ways. Nowadays, in the food industry, quasi-natural or artificial (chemical) additives are used for flavoring and increasing shelf life, etc.

These additives have harmful effects on human health and such effects can be: allergies and sensitivity, bad effect on brain function, risk of cancer and many other cases that I will discuss in the rest of the article. So stay with me to learn more about these irreparable dangers.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) examines all food additives (preservatives, flavorings, colors, thickeners, etc.), how they are used, how much they are added to food, and how safe they are for consumers.

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Disadvantages and Dangers of food additives:

Dangers of food additives


Some danger of food additives can cause side effects in humans.  Not all people who use these food additives will have these side effects. These complications are different in different people and will be different in different conditions.

Additives may cause side effects such as digestive disorders, neurological disorders, allergies, increased risk of cancer and underlying diseases, which we will explain each of these side effects below.

1. Digestive disorders:

High consumption of food with additives may cause digestive disorders such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartache, stomachache, abdominal cramps and food poisoning.

2. Neurological disorders:


Nervous disorders caused by the consumption of food containing artificial additives and preservatives are such as children’s hyperactivity, insomnia and restlessness.

In the last 20 years, the prevalence of hyperactivity disorder in children has increased. Many doctors and specialists have done research on this issue.

Some of these researches have shown that children’s hyperactivity can be related to preservatives and other additives, especially artificial food colors in children’s food and snacks.

Clinical trials in some researches have shown that the color in children’s foods causes or increases hyperactive behavior in children.

Some parents also report that artificial colors and preservatives cause hyperactivity in their children.  Therefore, it is better to be more careful in feeding children and use foods that do not contain preservatives and artificial chemical colors.

In addition to hyperactivity in children, additives can also cause insomnia and restlessness in adults.

3. Allergy:


If the body’s immune system considers a substance to be pathogenic or the cause of the disease, it will react to it allergically, and sometimes it may consider additives in the category of pathogenic factors.

Research has shown that sensitivities or allergic reactions to food additives are increasing, especially during the last 20 years. Allergic reactions to food additives are usually mild and may not occur in the short term.

allergic reactions to food additives

Some of these allergic reactions are asthma, cough, wheezing, sneezing, runny nose, skin rash, hives, eczema, itching, inflammation and swelling of the lips, tongue and skin, tingling or itching in the mouth. In rare cases, a dangerous anaphylaxis or hypersensitivity reaction may occur.

Anaphylaxis is a serious and life-threatening allergic reaction that begins suddenly and can lead to death.

This disease can lead to symptoms such as skin lesions, itching, swelling of the throat, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and suffocation, and urgent medical measures are needed to resolve it.

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4. Increased risk of cancer:


One of the dangers of food additives is Increased risk of cancer. Reports from some research centers show that artificial food colors pose many risks to consumers.

These reports indicate that many artificial food colors cause DNA damage. Experiments conducted on animals have shown the occurrence of cancer caused by the consumption of these substances.

Many researchers believe that these substances are dangerous and always recommend to stop adding these substances to foods.

The results of experiments on animals of some food additives, especially aspartame, saccharin, nitrites and benzoates have shown the occurrence of cancer. Because they produce carcinogenic compounds in the animal’s body.

But food and drug organizations believe that the amount of additives used in food products is low enough not to cause cancer.

Perhaps in the short term, the harmful effects of these substances on the human body will not be observed, but in the long term, negative effects, including cancer, will definitely occur.

Toxicological testing and health concerns

Food additives and their metabolites are subjected to rigorous toxicological analysis prior to their approval for use in the industry. Feeding studies are carried out using animal species (e.g., rats, mice, dogs) in order to determine the possible acute, short-term, and long-term toxic effects of these chemicals.


5. Increased risk of underlying diseases:

Consumption of food containing chemical and artificial additives and preservatives also causes underlying diseases such as diabetes, obesity, blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. One of the danger of food additives is Increased risk of underlying diseases.

6. Effect on intestinal bacteria:

intestinal bacteria


One of the danger of food additives are emulsifiers that allow water and oil to mix together.

Emulsifiers are used in some breads, chocolate, margarine, processed meats, etc.
Previous studies conducted on laboratory animals have shown that emulsifiers can change the intestinal bacteria (microbiome), cause mild inflammation and increase the risk of obesity and metabolic disorders.

In some research conducted on humans, it has been determined that food additives can affect intestinal bacteria and cause inflammation.
Today, both the prevalence of inflammatory bowel diseases and problems such as anxiety have increased.

Considering that there is a connection between gut health and the bacteria in it with mental health, recently a group of researchers investigated the effect of two common emulsifiers called carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and polysorbate-80 (P80) on mental health.

The results of this new study conducted on mice showed that P80 and CMC cause changes in behavior and mental state.

Notes for dangers of food additives:

  • Always pay attention to the nutrition facts table and ingredient list of processed foods that are made from more than one ingredient.
  • Gradually, empty your kitchen and refrigerator of processed foods that contain harmful additives.

Reasons for using additives:


Today, for the following reasons, food manufacturers use additives in their products.

1. Increased shelf life:

Additives fight bacteria and virus growth that cause food spoilage. They maintain the quality of food products for a longer period of time.

2. Conserve and increase nutrients:


Additives preserve the nutritional value of the processed product. Some additives are also added to products to increase nutrients (such as dietary supplements).

Although additives should protect nutrients or add nutritional value, in practice, in most cases, the result is the opposite. Because additives replace real ingredients and make poor quality food look appetizing.

3. Increase in taste:

Food processing can change its taste.  For this reason, flavorings are used to give flavor to food.

4. Preservation of tissue:

Some additives are added to food to give it a better texture and appearance. They also contribute to the consistency and stability of the product.

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5. Mass production:


In order to be economical, the products must be mass produced. For mass production, raw materials are processed, packaged and then stored.

Food without preservatives spoils very quickly and must be stored in cold storage for a long time, which is not possible for all products. With additives, the shelf life of the product increases, and therefore mass production and storage of products in normal warehouses becomes possible.

6. Reducing corruption and spoilage of food:

Additives help keep food fresh, thereby reducing food waste.

7. Reduction in food prices:


Food additives (artificial additives) have helped reduce food prices. Because preservatives make the product last longer and enable mass production, which helps to reduce the production price.

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Some common food additives that may cause problems

Some food additives that may cause problems for some people include:

  • Flavour enhancers – monosodium glutamate (MSG) 621
  • Food colourings – tartrazine 102; yellow 2G107; sunset yellow FCF110; cochineal 120
  • Preservatives – benzoates 210, 211, 212, 213; nitrates 249, 250, 251, 252; sulphites 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225 and 228
  • Artificial sweetener – aspartame 951.


Conclusion for dangers of food additives:

Food preservatives are chemical substances that are used to increase the life of food, medicine, cosmetics, agriculture, etc, due to their properties.

Compounds such as citric acid, ascorbic acid, phosphoric acid, calcium propionate, etc, are in this category of food preservatives.

Nowadays, the high consumption of preservatives has become a concern and has attracted a lot of attention. Using them increases the shelf life and health of food, increases the availability of food and reduces food waste.

In addition, it causes things like poisoning, sensitivity, abdominal and digestive problems, etc. Therefore, it is suggested to use fresh food as much as possible and not to use frozen and ready-made food.

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Chef Haghighi

I am Chef Haghighi with ten years of cooking experience and setting up many restaurants and fast food in Iran and Turkey. I am interested in writing recipes on my website. I have the TCA international culinary qualification.

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