Most people associate food additives with harmful side effects and adverse impacts on health. However, this is not necessarily the case. Most food additives serve an important purpose, otherwise they would not be added to your food. From extending shelf life to improving texture and much more, they have a wide range of benefits. However, it is true that some are not so good for you – below I take a look at some of the most common food additives, and explain why they are or aren’t safe for you to eat.
Also known as ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (yep, I copied and pasted that), EDTA is frequently found in a wide range of foods, from shellfish to salad dressings and margarine. What could it possibly be doing in there? Stopping you from becoming ill, actually. It draws out and eliminates traces of metal that can actually cause a food poisoning-like sickness. Not only is EDTA safe, it actually makes you safer!
You probably want to avoid this stuff, if you can. It is an artificial sweetener commonly used as an alternative to sugar, and you may be putting it in your coffee everyday without realising that it is likely to be unsafe. Not only has research suggested that it is a potentially cancer-causing ingredient at normal dietary doses, many believe that it promote the development of brain tumours
Here’s one you’d probably steer clear of if you believed everything you read in the media, however there seems to have been a lot of confusion around carrageenan. It is a naturally derived additive that comes from seaweed, and it serves a range of purposes as a thickener, emulsifier, preservative and more. A similar product called poligeenan that is unsafe causes the confusion, however it is not used in food. The carrageenan in your milk, cold cuts or beer is fine for you to consume.
This additive is actually a kind of butane, a gas that is a known carcinogen. It is used to make chicken nuggets last longer in a range of fast food chains, and some main chains have been pressured into removing it from their products. However, if you do consume nuggets with TBHQ, you may have an increased risk of developing cancer – definitely best to steer well away in that case.
Hopefully this blog post has demonstrated how varied food additives can be; some actually help our health, whilst others aren’t quite as safe.