An Insight into Food Additives

List of additives

Did you know there are over 300 food additives used in Australian food. These artificial food preservatives, food colors and flavour enhancers, can be dangerous and are known to be linked to hyperactivity, Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD), asthma, cancer, poisonings and other negative medical conditions. The scary fact is, that Australia considers some of these additives to be ‘safe’, where as some of our neighbouring countries have banned or limited its use in foods.

The reason why they are used in our foods is often to improve taste, appearance or keep the ingredients from separating. Some debate that because we live in such a big country, the additives assist with keeping the foods fresh when travelling to its destination.

The website ABC Health and Wellbeing states that the functions of food additives are separated into the following catagories.
• adding or restoring colour to foods (artificial colours have code numbers in 100s)
• preventing food from ‘going off’ (preservatives have code numbers in 200s)
• slowing or preventing the oxidative deterioration of foods (antioxidants have code numbers in 300s)
• improving the flavour of food (food enhancers have code numbers in the 600s).


More on the different groups of additives: (source: Choice)

Preservatives have been associated with intolerances, particularly among people with asthma. Sulfites (including sodium bisulphite (222), sodium metabisulphite (223) and potassium bisulphite (228)) found in wine, beer and dried fruit, are known to trigger asthmatic episodes and cause migraines in people who are sensitive to them.

Also sodium nitrate (251) and sodium nitrite (250), which are used in processed meats, have been classified as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ by the International Agency for Research of Cancer (IARC).

Flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) (621) is often used in Asian cooking and has been associated with ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ (a collection of symptoms including headache, numbness and tingling that some people experienced after eating foods containing MSG).

Food colourings, such as tartrazine (102), allura red (129) and ponceau 4R (124), are often credited as the cause of hyperactivity in children.

We all lead such busy lifestyles where sometimes the easiest meal option is to purchase foods which have been processed and full of 50 odd ingredients. So how can you try limit your additive intake?

1. Find easy quick recipes which use fresh produce
2. Make extra so you are not stuck for lunch the following day
3. When shopping, make a list of some basic fresh produce which can be used in multiple recipes ie spinach, kale, celery, carrots, sweet potato, onions and herbs. And grains and nuts, brown rice, quinoa, almond meal.
4. Look for organic options which have little or no added colours or preservatives
5. Read those labels! If a loaf of bread contains 40 ingredients you know its probably not worth buying.

Check out my recipes section for some easy, clean meal ideas.



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