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  • Writer's pictureAnita Hollerer-Squire

Food additives to avoid

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

Food additives are substances that are added to food to make them taste better, look better and keep them fresh for longer. Some additives have been used for ages - like salt, vinegar and sugar. Others have been artificially created for our consumer society and are used in processed foods - which were practically non-existent in our ancestor's lives.

Looking at ingredient lists can be very confusing, to say the least. Some food items have that many additives, they couldn't be further from real food. And the majority of us have no clue what most of them are.

If you want to avoid artificial ingredients, eat fresh food - the least processed the better. And if you can't get fresh fruit & vegetables use frozen. Instead of buying ready-made and processed food, start cooking yourself - this way you control what's going in your meals.

That's not to say that all additives are bad. Many additives are harmless and keep our food safe, however some have the potential to cause you harm if consumed on a daily basis. Food additives go hand-in-hand with processed food, and we all know by now that in order to stay healthy and keep our weight in check, we should stay away from it.

Here is a list of additives to watch out for:


E171 – Titanium dioxide

Used in:

Chocolates, sweets, pastries, lollies,

chewing gum, white coating on donuts

Avoid because:

Possible adverse effects on the reproductive

system. The International Agency for Research on

Cancer (IARC) classifies titanium dioxide as a Group 2B carcinogen, which means it's possibly carcinogenic to humans.


E220 - Sulfur Dioxide

E221 – Sodium sulphite

Also: E222, E223, E224, E225, E228

Used in:

Wine, dried fruit, ready meals, pizza, orange juice, beer

Avoid because:

This preservative can cause asthma, headaches and breathing problems in people with sulphite sensitivities.


E250 – Sodium nitrite

E251 – Sodium nitrate

E249, E252

Used in:

Processed meat, bacon, smoked fish

Avoid because:

Has been declared as “probably carcinogenic" by the International

Agency for Research of Cancer.


E320 - BHA Butylated hydroxyanisole

E321 - BHT Butylated hydroxytoluene

Used in:

Chips, cereals, chewing gum, candy, vegetable oil

Avoid because:

Impacts the neurological system of the brain; alters behaviour and has potential to cause cancer.


E407 - Carrageenan

Used in:

Almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk,

ice creams, nondairy desserts

Avoid because:

Can trigger inflammation, bloating, irritable bowel

syndrome, glucose intolerance, colon cancer, food allergies


E621 - MSG Monosodium Glutamate

Used in:

Chips, cookies, lunch meats, snack food,

Chinese food, frozen meals

Avoid because:

May result in depression, disorientation, eye damage,

fatigue, headache and obesity.


E951 – Aspartame

Used in:

“Diet” products, soft drinks, mints, sugar-free gum,

sweeteners like Equal and Splenda

Avoid because:

It is a neurotoxin and carcinogenic. May lead to depression,

headaches, brain tumour, diabetes etc.

Food colours

E102 – Tartrazine (yellow)

E104 - Quinoline (yellow)

E110 - Sunset yellow

E122 – Azorubine or Carmoisine (red)

E123 – Amaranth (purple)

E124 – Ponceau (red)

E128 - Red

E129 – Allura red

E133 – Brlliant blue

E142 – Green

E151 – Brilliant black

E153 – Carbon black E155 – Brown

Used in:

Ice cream, candy, bakery items, fruit cocktail, fruit juices, salad dressings

Avoid because:

May contribute to behavioural problems and hyperactivity in children and bring on allergic reactions. Animal studies have linked food colourings to cancer.



Food Additives and Ingredients Association UK:

Food Standards Australia New Zealand:

Food Standards Agency UK:

European Food Safety Authority:

Food Intolerance Network:


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