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Common food additives
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Algin A compound extracted from algae Puddings, milkshakes, ice cream Make foods creamier and thicker, extend shelf life None
Aspartame Chemical compound made of methanol, aspartic acid and phenylalanine Beverages, puddings, yogurt, chewing gum, and sold as Nutrasweet, Spoonful and Equal Low-calorie sweetener Some people are allergic to aspartame. Migraine headaches a common reaction in these people
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) A phenolic chemical compound Foods high in fats and oils such as butter; also meats, cereals, baked goods, beer, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes, chewing gum Preservative, keeps food from going rancid; also as defoaming agent for yeast Inconclusive; in large doses may cause tumors in lab animals
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) A phenolic chemical compound Cereals, shortening, foods high in fats and oils Preservative, keeps food from changing flavor, odor, color Inconclusive, in large doses may cause tumors in lab animals
Calcium Carbonate Compound containing the nutrient calcium Some bakery products, frozen desserts, and flour Emulsifier, bleaching agent, dietary supplement No negative effects as a food additive *
Carrageenan Compound extracted from Irish Moss, a type of seaweed Puddings, milkshakes, ice cream Make foods jell, stabilize foods to keep color and flavor even None
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Citric Acid An acid which occurs naturally in fruits such as lemons and limes Canned fruit juices, cheese, margarine, salad dressings Flavoring and neutralizing agent (keeps food at proper acidity) None
Erythorbic acid Acidic substance, also known as iso-ascorbic acid Soft drinks, juice, wine Preservative, maintains color and flavor None
Folic Acid B-complex vitamin Breakfast cereals, enriched breads, flour, corn meal, rice, noodles, macaroni and other grain products Dietary supplement, helps prevent heart disease None
Fumaric Acid Chemical produced when humans digest carbohydrates; also synthetically manufactured Fruit jellies and preserves Controls acidity/alkalinity in foods, also dietary supplement None
Glycerin A syrupy type of alcohol derived from sugar Food flavorings Maintaining desired food consistency None
Guar Gum Substance made from seeds of the guar plant, a legume grown in India Cheese, including processed cheese, ice cream, jelly and preserves, and dressings Stabilizer None
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Iron A metal necessary in the diet Breakfast cereals, enriched breads Dietary supplement None as a food additive *
Lactic Acid A bitter-tasting substance obtained from sour milk Bakery products, cheese, frozen desserts, fruit butters, jellies and preserves Neutralizing agent, flavoring None
Lecithin An emulsifying agent found naturally in milk and some vegetables Cacao bean products such as cocoa butter and chocolate, bakery products, margarine and cheese products Keeps food products from separating None
Methylcellulose A number of gummy substances, produced through reaction between cellulose and methyls Fruit butters, jellies Keeps food products from separating None
Mono- and Diglycerides Emulsifying agents, may be derived from soybean fat Shortening, margarine, cacao products, bakery products Keeps food products from separating None
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) A salt of the amino acid glutamic acid Canned vegetables, canned tuna, dressings, many frozen foods Flavor enhancer Generally recognized as safe; however, those on low-sodium diets should avoid it. Negative side effects also appear in some people when eaten in large amounts, and in some asthmatics.
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Pectin A water-soluble substance present in various ripe fruits and vegetables Canned fruit, fruit butters, jellies and preserves Making foods jell, also to keep foods from separating None
Phosphoric Acid A substance created by exposing phosphorous to oxygen Acidified skim milk, cheese Acidifying agent, emulsifier None
Potassium Bisulfite Type of sulfite Wine, dried apples, dehydrated potatoes Preventing fruit discoloration, inhibiting bacterial growth in wine Some humans allergic to sulfites; in U.S., FDA prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables
Potassium Metabisulfite Type of sulfite Wine, dried apples, dehydrated potatoes Preventing fruit discoloration, inhibiting bacterial growth in wine Some humans allergic to sulfites; in U.S., FDA prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables
Potassium Nitrite One of a number of nitrites used with salt to prevent food from spoiling Cured red meat and poultry products Preservative None known
Propionic Acid A type of bacteria found naturally in the production of cheese; also made synthetically Cheese, bread Mold inhibitor, preservative None
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Saccharin Non-nutritive water-soluble sugar substitute Fruit juice drinks, carbonated beverages, canned fruits, fruit butters, jellies, preservatives, and in sugar substitutes for cooking, table use Sweetener Known to cause cancer in laboratory animals
Sodium Aluminosilicate A naturally-occurring mineral Dried whole eggs and egg yolks, grated cheeses Keeps food from caking and clumping up None
Sodium Benzoate A granular salt Soft drinks, packaged beverages, fruit preserves and jellies, concentrated orange juice, margarine, fast-food burgers Preservative None
Sodium Bicarbonate A crystalline salt; also known as baking soda Baked goods, canned vegetables, cereal flours Leavening agent, also maintains acid balance in canned products Significant source of sodium; those on low-sodium diets should avoid consuming large quantities
Sodium Bisulfite Type of sulfite Bottled lemon juice, wine, dried apples, dehydrated potatoes Preventing fruit discoloration, inhibiting bacterial growth in wine Some humans allergic to sulfites; in U.S., FDA prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables
Sodium Metabisulfite Type of sulfite Wine, dried apples, dehydrated potatoes Preventing fruit discoloration, inhibiting bacterial growth in wine Some humans allergic to sulfites; in U.S., FDA prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Sodium Nitrite A salt, also used in the manufacture of dyes Smoked or cured fish, including salmon, and in meat-curing preparations Preservative (prevents botulism), color fixative Can combine with chemicals in stomach to form nitrosamine, a highly carcinogenic substance
Sodium Sulfite Type of sulfite Wine, dried apples, dehydrated potatoes Preventing fruit discoloration Some humans allergic to sulfites; in U.S., FDA prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables
Sulfur Dioxide Type of sulfite Wine, dried apples, dehydrated potatoes Preventing fruit discoloration, inhibiting bacterial growth in wine and on grapes Some humans allergic to sulfites; in U.S., FDA prohibits its use on raw fruits and vegetables
Vitamin A (incl. beta-carotene) A fat-soluble vitamin. The human body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A in the liver Milk and cream, margarine, cheeses and cheese products Dietary supplement None as an additive *
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Vitamin found in legumes and other sources, helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy Macaroni products, cereal flours Dietary supplement None
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Vitamin found in yogurt, wheat germ and other sources Cereal flours, bakery products Dietary supplement None
Additive Description Used in: Purpose Side effects
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Vitamin found in abundance in liver, chicken, tuna, whole-grain cereals Cereal flours, enriched bread, macaroni and noodle products Dietary supplement None
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Water-soluble vitamin Cereal flours, jellies and preserves, canned mushrooms and artichokes Preservative, dietary supplement None
Vitamin D A fat-soluble vitamin humans can produce naturally through exposure to direct sunlight Milk, macaroni products, cereal products Nutritional purposes, prevents rickets None as an additive *
Yeast Single-celled organisms used to make wines ferment and bread rise Bakery products, macaroni and noodle products, enriched corn meal Dietary supplement, rising agent None
Items marked with * indicate that individually, the substance can be toxic in large doses. However, it would be difficult to consume harmful doses of these products in foods in which they are used as additives.

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