Most concerns about food additives have to do with man-made ingredients that are added to foods, including:
- Antibiotics given to food producing animals
- Antioxidants in oily or fatty foods
- Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharine, and sodium cyclamate
- Benzoic acid in fruit juices
- Lecithin, gelatins, corn starch, waxes, gums, and propylene glycol in food stabilizers and emulsifiers
- Many different dyes and coloring substances
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Nitrates and nitrites in hot dogs and other meat products
- Sulfites in beer, wine, and packaged vegetables
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of food additives that are considered safe. Many have not been tested, but they are considered safe by most scientists. These substances are put on the "generally recognized as safe (GRAS)" list. The list contains about 700 items.
Congress defines safe as "reasonable certainty that no harm will result from use" of an additive. Examples of items on this list are: guar gum, sugar, salt, and vinegar. The list is re-checked regularly.
Some substances that are found to be harmful to people or animals may still be allowed, but only at the level of 1/100th of the amount that is considered harmful. People with any allergies or food intolerances should always check the ingredient list (label) for their own protection. Reactions to any additive can be mild or severe.
It is still important to gather information about the safety of food additives. Let the FDA know about any reactions you have to food or food additives.