The FDA’s role is to protect the public, but the rule of thumb always stands: buyer beware! You may want to start reading your food labels more diligently, because these popular food additives are readily approved by the FDA, but are quite unsavoury, and in some cases, unhealthy.

9 Food Additives To Avoid

1. BVO in Citrus Sodas

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is a food additive used to keep the citrus flavor in sodas from separating. Currently, the FDA allows it to be used as a food additive under certain conditions. Studies have shown that bromine builds up in the body and it’s linked to people experiencing memory loss and skin and nerve problems.

2. Titanium Dioxide in Skim Milk 

Titanium dioxide, the same chemical used to get paint to be white, is also added in food products like skim milk. Normally, skim milk has a blue-ish color which isn’t appealing to sell, so titanium dioxide is added to it to make the color white. Titanium dioxide isn’t even listed as a product ingredient because it is considered a “manufacturing aid” chemical formula that is used in paints, plastics, inks, and papers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers titanium dioxide as a possible carcinogen.

3. Bugs in Canned Mushrooms (And Other Canned Goods) 

Canned foods often contain bugs because in food processing plants, it’s not guaranteed that every bug is cleaned off when food is being processed. Therefore, it’s likely that bugs are also processed and cooked with the food. The FDA allows 100 maggots for every 100 grams of canned mushrooms. If that makes you squirm and you want to eat a bug-free meal, avoid eating canned goods, especially canned mushrooms.

4. Lanolin in Gum 

Lanolin, also known as wool wax or wool grease, is substance secreted from wool-bearing animals like sheep. It is used as a softener in gum and is labelled as “gum base” in the ingredient list. Lanolin is also used in many cosmetic, skincare and haircare products.

5. Wood Pulp in Processed Cheese

Cellulose (also known as wood pulp) is incorporated in processed cheese as an anti-caking agent. For example, it prevents grated cheese from clumping. Often, an item labelled as “added fiber” has cellulose in it. Cellulose is a legal, food-grade additive and the FDA allows up to 4% cellulose in products. If you want don’t want to be duped, avoid any processed cheese or any other products that claim to have more fibre.

6. Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet and Equal, is found in products with “diet” or “sugar-free” labels. There have been claims that this toxic sweetener is related to health effects such as brain tumor, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. It may also cause depression and anxiety attacks, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures. You’ll often find it in sugar-free or diet sodas, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, pudding, Kool-Aid, and many other food products.

7. High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is found in almost all processed foods in America. It is used as the number one artificial sweetener in food items such as bread, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, cereals, and many other processed foods. HFCS contributes to weight gain and it increases LDL (“bad”) cholesterols while causing tissue damage and other harmful effects. It also contributes to the development of diabetes.

8. Trans Fat

Trans fat is used in many products to extend shelf life but it’s extremely dangerous for your health. It’s often found in margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods, and fast foods. Several studies have shown that trans-fat increases LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems. Trans fatty acids exceeding 2% are now forbidden in the Danish market. As for the US, the FDA finalized its determination that trans fats are not generally recognized as safe, and set a three-year time limit for their removal on all processed foods starting on June 16, 2015.

9. Common Food Dyes

Previous studies have shown that artificial food colouring in soda, fruit juices, and salad dressings can reduce a child’s IQ and cause some behavioral problems.

Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133) is banned in Norway, Finland, and France. It’s found in candy, cereal, soft drinks, sports drinks and pet foods. It can potentially cause chromosomal damage.

Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124). This dye has been proven to cause thyroid cancer and chromosomal damage in laboratory animals. It was banned in 1990 but it’s still being sold until supplies run out. You will often find it in fruit cocktails, maraschino cherries, cherry pie mix, ice cream and more.

Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102) increased the number of kidney and adrenal gland tumors in laboratory animals. You can find it in products such as American cheese, macaron and cheese, lemonade, candy, carbonated beverages and more.


Be mindful of what goes into your food and avoid these additives as much as possible. Remember to always check the ingredient list and if one or more of these items are printed on the label, think twice about taking home that product or look for an alternative brand without any those harmful and icky ingredients.