Food Additives- The Hidden Killers | Photo Credits: The Foodie&nbsp

New Delhi: Food additives are the functional substances that are intentionally added to food in order to assist its processing or to improve certain characteristics like aroma, taste, texture, packaging, or shelf life. Ironically, the added life and enhanced appearance of the food comes with major health risk factors.

Today, more than 2500 additives are intentionally added to food in order to get the desired effect. The use of additives has been increased during the past years as foods are processed for conversion into a variety of products. 

Food Additives and Related Risks

Preservatives: Sulfites are preservatives and antioxidants which are used to prevent dry fruits to turn brown and stops unwanted bacteria to spoil the wine. Sulfites can cause allergic reactions, hives, and may lead to an asthma attack. Sulfur dioxide, metabisulfites are the examples of sulfur additives Nitrites and nitrates are added by manufacturers in food like sauces, salami, and bacon to give them colour and increase shelf life. Nitrites and nitrates in processed foods can form nitrosamines which can increase the risk of developing cancer. BHA, BHT, EDTA are examples of other preservatives

Artificial flavours: artificial flavours are the chemical substance that is used to mimic a natural flavour in some way. There are numerous artificial flavours and these can cause dizziness, chest pain, headaches, fatigue, depression, brain problems and much more. Diacetyl, ethyl decanoate, ethyl maltol, and methyl anthranilate are examples of chemicals used to add flavours. The artificial vanilla flavour is made from synthetic vanillin and is generally derived from wood pup waste, beaver’s castor glands, or even coal tar. It can lead to skin irritation, swelling, and sleep problems including insomnia.

Artificial colours: These colours make food bright and appealing and are added in beverages, desserts, candies, cereals, and some meat products. Food colouring leads to hyperactivity and behaviour problems in children. These can also cause severe allergy and asthma. Some of the artificial colours are blue 2, green 3, yellow3, yellow6, and red 3. Tartrazine- An integral component of orange-flavoured drinks, it is also known as yellow#5 and yellow#6. Yellow#6 is also known as “sunset yellow”. Tartrazine is known to cause allergic reactions when consumed. It is one of the most widely used artificial colours but is also known to be carcinogenic. It can also trigger the symptoms of Asthma.

Artificial Emulsifier: Emulsifier can form an emulsion and it also can interact with other food ingredients. It is used as an aerating agent and starch complexion agent. It is used in bread, salad dressings, chocolates, and ice creams to make it smoother and resistant to melting. The emulsifier is linked with metabolic syndrome which includes obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. It also leads to inflammatory bowel diseases that affect digestion. 


Synthetic food additives may enhance the appearance, flavours, and aroma but it is better to use natural ingredients instead. Keep the consumption of packaged food to a bare minimum and rely on local and seasonal fresh produce to enhance the texture, flavour, and aroma of your meal preparations.

Nmami Agarwal is a guest contributor. Views expressed are personal.

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