Top Ten Food Additives To Avoid

This was my gig in the early 90’s.

I began to read labels and I decided that I wanted to do better for myself and my family.  I had a horrific diet, it showed up in my health and well being and I wanted to be around to see my grandchildren. The list below is from my informative three session workshop called Healthy Choices for Children. I created this class based on self exploration and discovery and as a way to spread the word.

The list below is an information sheet that was used as a basis for discussion. It is all referenced from a book that inspired me.

18 years later much of these food additives still exist; saccharin is pervasive in toothpaste and gum, maraschino cherry supplies have yet to run out, aspartame is a horrific addiction issue for many. Blue foods had a recent resurgence. The fact is these additives are exactly that – These are certainly not necessary for us to eat.

Below was my original list of things I refused to eat or serve my family.  It took me two years to clean it up and switch my pantry and my habits

Sourced from: Diet for a Poisoned Planet – How to choose safe foods for you and your family. (1990) by David Steinman – who is totally one of my heroes.

His recent campaigning is about unveiling the concerns of 1-4 Dioxane

Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid:

1. Aspartame

Also known as NutraSweet or Equal. Used as a sweetener. See methanol poisoning – page 190

Found in: Diet Pop, table top sweeteners, cereal, breathmints, pudding, jello, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, gum, toothpaste and more….


Preservative- keeps foods from changing color, changing flavor or becoming rancid. Effects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has potential to cause cancer

Found in: Potato chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy, jello

3. Blue #1 and Blue #2

Often not listed on the label

Banned in Norway, Finland and France

May cause chromosomal damage

Found in: candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods

4. BVO ( Brominated Vegetable Oil)

Used as an emulsifier and as a clouding agent

Bromate the main ingredient is a poison

Traces can be found in human fat tissue

Found in: orange pop, sports drinks

5. Citrus Red #2

Used to color skins of Florida oranges

May cause cancer and chromosomal damage

FDA has recommended a ban

6. MSG ( monosodium glutamate )

A food flavor enhancer that effects the person ingesting that food. Common symptom is headaches other symptoms include: flushing of the skin, tightness of the chest, heart palpatations and nausea. Can trigger allergic or asthmatic reactions. Also found in two other commonly used additives hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein and autolyzed yeast.

Found in: chinese food ( Chinese Restaurant Syndrome ) many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, most Campbell Soup products, frozen dinners , lunch meats and more

7. Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye)

Banned in 1990 after 8 years of debate from use in many foods and cosmetics. This dye continues to be on the market until supplies run out! Has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals, may also interfere with brain-nerve transmission

Found in: fruit cocktail, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream, candy, bakery products and more! Red #40 is suspected of being a carcinogen

8. Saccharin

Ten years after the FDA proposed banning, saccharin is still on the market. Studies in Canada confirmed what American studies have suggested: saccharin poses a significant risk of cancer for humans.

Found in: soft drinks, gum and toothpaste

9. Sodium Nitrate

Prevents spoilage that could lead to botulism and to retain color in meats. Nitrates can form cancer causing compounds in the gastrointestinal tract. Food with Nitrates should always be ingested with vitamin C rich foods. Often food companies will add vitamin C to nitrate cured foods.

Found in: cured meats such as bacon, ham and luncheon meat, hot dogs, anything smoked.

10. Yellow #6

Banned in Norway and Sweden

Increases the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals, may cause chromosomal damage.

Found in: American cheese, macaroni and cheese, candy and carbonated beverages, lemonade and more!

Foods to avoid: Red Light Foods or pesticide saturated foods – Peanuts, raisins, hot dogs, salami, bacon, bologna, fast food burgers ( including buns etc. ) ground beef, liver, pork sausages, roast beef, sirloin, veal, venison.
Fish ( see book ) Milk products including cheese. Processed foods such as: French fries, frozen pizza, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, coffee cake, milk chocolate, pumpkin pie, dill pickles, peanut butter, potato chips, hydrogenated oils, cottonseed, palm, coconut, “pure” olive oil, soybean oil

toxic flickr image

K a r e n     H a n r a h a n
Wellness Educator/Nutritional Consultant
Mentoring YOU to Health Success
Weight Loss

Member of BNI – West Suburban BNI: “Chapter Mentor”
Member of West Suburban Women Entrepreneurs
WSWE Board Member and Programming Chair 

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21 Responses to Top Ten Food Additives To Avoid

  1. Milijana says:

    Dear Karen,Based on this list what is left to eat then? I am trying so hard to make healthy choices for me and my family, but according to this I should just stop eating period. How did you manage to clean up your pantry, and what do you eat?I live in Northwestern Ontario, getting fresh produce is very challenging, and besides I am very reluctant to buy anything at the stores, since I know it was heavily sprayed. I grow my own vegetables, but the season is too short. We try to eat locally raised beef, chickens and pork, but it gets really expensive. I am coming from an “Old Country” where my mother cooks from scratch and that is what I do as well, but still it is very hard to avoid all that you have listed above. Any suggestions on how do you eat, or how to avoid all this stuff?

  2. Karen Hanrahan says:

    I eliminated things slowly. I started with my breads, crackers, switched to brown rice. It happened in layers.
    I shifted to free range meats, and bought only what was on sale. I used my freezer. 
    We eat simply, chicken, beef and fish, dried beans, whole grains lots of vegetables and fruit. The emphasis on raw vegetables is very important.
    That’s what you eat!

  3. nadine sellers says:

    as a lifelong scratch cook, i never have trusted processed foods.yes i have at times eaten convenience treats. or resorted to purchase something at ten for ten, bargain. canned or long lived. a mini greenhouse with dense planting of favorite foods, for salads will insure a family’s mineral requirements. if planted on south wall of house, can be converted to heat source as well.there ways to find and use layers of insulating material for a window box..root vegetables may be left in sand box or ground covered with thick straw.fruits may be harvested in orchards and kept in a basement, airy, and dark. a fan helps to keep it dry.beans and rice, quinoa, all legumes and grains add protein to diet with minimal exposure to pesticide residues.and home made bread is so satisfying in winter, squash, pumpkin, so much to enjoy, i’m getting hungry!

  4. Karen Hanrahan says:

    You always have so many awesome suggestions nadine – thank you – I feel like I am always learning from you.   warmly thinking about you and all

  5. Jane Hersey says:

    This is great information! But it can be hard for many folks to navigate the supermarket jungle, especially if they are not ready to prepare all of their food from scratch. Fortunatley there is help. Since 1976 the non-profit Feingold Association of the US has been teaching people how to get rid of the worst of the additives and find much better food…which is generally available right in their own supermarket. They research brand name foods and publish books listing thousands of products that are free of the worst of the additives.They also have an inexpensive little book called “Healthier Food for Busy People” that shows folks simple things they can do to have a healthier diet. It’s available from the non-profit Feingold Association of the US at Sometimes it’s as easy as switching from the Kraft Mac & Cheese with the neon yellow dye to the one made with white cheddar. Another resource available from the Feingold Association is a CD called “What are all those funny things in food? And should I eat them?” We like to tell you the secrets the food industry would prefer you not know…for example, that when you pay $40 a pound for Godiva chocolate, you are getting fake vanilla (vanillin). But you can find natural chocolate at discount stores for a fraction of the cost…and it is delicious. And as for those synthetic dyes, most of them begin in petroleum refineries in China. They are allowed to be contaminated with heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic…just not too many of them (!) Dyes have been found to cause behavior problems, learning problems and a host of adverse health effects. See

  6. Erica says:

    Hi, I was wondering about the saccharin. I thought it was discovered that when it was given to laboratory mice, they gave the mice the equivalent of a regular person drinking about a case of diet soda per day. Therefore it was deemed save for humans because no human (hopefully, for so many reasons) would ingest that much diet soda in a 24 hour period.Has that finding changed??

  7. william chikodzore says:

    thank you a lot there are so many chinese suspect beverage to toothpaste floating around the whole wide world .

  8. Karen Hanrahan says:

    You’re very welcome Marguerite !!

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  17. Paola says:

    When I was a university student, I got a book called “Food Additives” by Ruth Winters, for my Food engineering class. It’s like a dictionary of food additives. It explains what they are, where they come from, and how harmful or desirable they are. I never really used it for my class, but now, I use it when I read a label and have no idea what something is. It helps, mostly, to expand your knowledge.

  18. Kristen says:

    BHA and BHT are also in a huge percentage of breakfast cereals. These additives cause my husband a lot of trouble, and when we finally cleaned up breakfast, it made a huge difference for him.

    • Kristen I know! It’s in all kinds of stuff. I know a woman who worked in a gum factory. Her job was the BHT. She dressed as if she was in a nuclear plant!! Complete with showers after a shift! Crazy!

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