Controversial Ingredients

Food Additives

Published on Wednesday, 26 December 2012 16:57

What are Food Additives?

Food additives are ingredients used for a variety of reasons, such as prolonging shelf life, enhancing flavor, texture and/or appearance, or increasing food safety.  There are different categories of food additives, and one ingredient may fall into more than one category.


Preservatives: Ingredients that keep food from spoilage due to bacteria, fungus, mold, etc. They act as antioxidant to prevent rancidity and help maintain a foods texture, color and flavor. Examples include vitamin E, BHA, sodium benzoate, and sulfites.

Flavoring/Spices: Ingredients that add a specific flavor to a food. Examples include natural and artificial flavors.  You can read more about flavorings here.

Flavor Enhancers: Ingredients that strengthen existing flavor in a food without imparting new flavor. Examples include MSG, hydrolyzed proteins, autolyzed yeast extract.

Color Additives: Ingredients that enhance color of food product or replace color lost during processing. Examples include FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Yellow 5, grape skin extract, carmine.  You can read more about food coloring here.

Sweeteners: Ingredients that add sweetness to foods without additional calories. Examples include apsartame, sacchrin, acesulfame K.

Emulsifiers: Ingredients that keeps two liquids which are typically immiscible (un-blendable, like oil and water) from separating.  Examples include polysorbates, mono- and diglycerides, soy lecithin

Adapted from the FDA's website.

Commonly used controversial food additives:

  • Acesulfame potassium/K
  • Aspartame
  • Azodicarbonimide
  • Benzoic Acid
  • BHA
  • BHT
  • Carrageenan
  • Caramel color
  • Colors (any)
  • Diacetyl
  • Disodium Gunaylate
  • Disodium Inosinate
  • Flavors – natural or artificial
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Monosodium Glutamate (also known as/related to: MSG, Monopotassium  glutamate, hydrolyzed proteins, yeast  extract [autolyzed or hydrolyzed])
  • Polysorbate 60, 65, 80
  • Potassium Benzoate
  • Potassium bromate
  • Propyl Gallate
  • Saccharin
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Sodium bromate
  • Sodium nitrate/nitrite
  • Sulfites
  • TBHQ