10 Food Additives You Should Try To Avoid

Most people are familiar with the basics of good nutrition but many aren’t aware of the thousands of food additives found in popular foods which if consumed in excess could create health risks. MSN Health has put together a list of 10 additives you should try to avoid. Let’s be clear, we don’t expect you to avoid all of these additives altogether, although, it certainly is possible. The key is being aware of them so you can effectively limit their intake. The list of additives, inside…

10. Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrite
Found in: bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef.
Used to stabilize food color and add flavor. When grilled it transforms into a reactive compound that has been linked to cancer.

9. BHA and BHT
Found in: many foods such as cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils.
It prevents fats and oils from going rancid. For some people it can increase their cancer risk.

8. Propyl Gallate

Found in: meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum.
Also prevents fats and oils from spoiling. While not proven to cause cancer in humans, it is linked to cancer in animals.

7. Monosodium Glutamate
Found in: soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. The infamous MSG, associated with Asian food can cause headaches and nausea for some people. Try using a moderate amount of salt as a healthier alternative.

6. Trans Fats

Found in: numerous foods, fast food.
Too much trans fat has been proven to cause heart disease and other serious health conditions. Experts recommend consuming no more than 2 grams per day.

5. Aspartame
Found in: low-calorie desserts, gelatins, drink mixes, and soft drinks.
Studies have shown that lifelong consumption may increase risk of cancer or other neurological problems.

4. Acesulfame-K

Found in: baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts.
Not proven to be unhealthy, but studies on this additive have been scant. If that concerns you, then you may want to avoid this sweetener.

3. Food Colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6

Found in: products too numerous to mention.
These colorings have been linked to cancer in animals, while Yellow 6 has been linked to bladder cancer in humans.

2. Olestra
Found in: reduced fat snack chips.
Olestra blocks fat absorption but blocks vitamin absorption as well. It can also cause severe diarrhea, cramps and gas.

1. Potassium Bromate
Found in: white flour, breads, and rolls.
Most bromate breaks down into a harmless form, however, small amounts can create a risk for people. California requires a cancer warning on products with this ingredient.

12 Food Additives to Avoid [MSN Health]
(Photo: ableman)


Edit Your Comment

  1. chiieddy says:

    My favorite side-effect of olestra is “may cause anal leakage”. Yummy!

  2. Bladefist says:

    what doesn’t cause cancer?

  3. DeepFriar says:

    I’d like to formally thank MSN Health for promulgating the Culture of Fear.
    “Be afraid of everything! Food gives you cancer!”

  4. @chiieddy: Would it be too gross if I said, anal leakage is my favorite food additive?

  5. DeepFriar says:

    @Bladefist: Apples. That’s it. But you have to be sure they grow naturally 100 miles from anywhere that uses pesticides. And it can never have been tainted with an iota of air polution. I think there is still one left somewhere in Colorado.

  6. @Bladefist: Absolutely nothing.

  7. Rando says:

    No wonder everyone has cancer

  8. Saboth says:

    Point taken…avoid all food. Got it.

  9. Bellatrixie says:

    I also sell Frogurt. [That’s good]
    The Frogurt is also cursed. [That’s bad]
    But it comes with a free topping. [That’s good]
    But it contains Potassium Benzoate. [That’s bad]

  10. so by the transitive theory…food causes cancer?

    Olestra is pretty messed up stuff. Ate 1/2 a tin of fat free pringles and felt like the good year blimp about 45 minutes later

  11. fever says:

    You lost me at # 10. #4 is reaching, even for nutritionists. Isn’t there another reason to avoid Yellow #6?

  12. Dobernala says:

    This is why I do my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. They refuse to sell any products containing anything on this list: [www.wholefoodsmarket.com]

    I do eat a lot of Subway and I’m guessing their meats probably contain nitrates, but at least I try to do what I can to minimize how much of the nasty stuff I ingest.

  13. chiieddy says:

    @heavylee-again: Hrm….


  14. also, where’s yellow 5 on that list???

  15. B says:

    @Bellatrixie: Can I go now?

  16. Dobernala says:

    Avoid artificially colored food in general.

  17. johnva says:

    There probably isn’t anything wrong with MSG. My understanding is that although it is widely perceived to cause problems by the general public, the idea has not really been scientifically validated. And anyway, free glutamate occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods.

  18. fever says:

    You lost me at #10. #4 is reaching, even for nutritionists. Isn’t there a better reason to avoid Yellow #6?

  19. stacy75 says:

    Do you know if that’s just Whole Foods brand products, or is that in the entire store?

  20. savvy9999 says:

    I love MSG. I keep a little shaker of it next to the salt and pepper. Makes my taste buds happy.

    It stays on the list.

  21. Dobernala says:

    @stacy75: Pretty sure its everything in the store. I’m always very meticulous about checking the ingredients panel of stuff before I throw it into the cart, too.

    I appreciate not having to have a background in chemistry to understand the food I’m eating.

  22. AstroPig7 says:

    @discounteggroll: I thought it was Lake Yellow 5. Also, green M&M’s are aphrodisiacs.

  23. Angryrider says:

    I actually haven’t seen MSG in Chinese restaurants for years, despite that urban legend that claims they do. Then again I haven’t seen American restaurants use lard instead of butter or oil. I see it more often in the instant ramen, Campbell’s soups, those shrimp chips I used to like before I developed an allergy.
    Damn you KBrO3, I can’t seem to avoid you! If only that was deemed illegal in this state!

  24. jeffjohnvol says:

    Health nuts kill me. Used to be they would eat a lot of tuna steaks just to find out there’s too much mercury. Now all that bottled water they are drinking has been dosing themseleves with that compound in the plastic. Too funny.

  25. Gopher bond says:

    @savvy9999: I love MSG too. I can taste it in salty snack products. I’ll grab some out of a bag and say, “Yumm, these have a lot of MSG, tasty.” And then my friend will look at the bag and be in amazement that MSG is in the snack. Love love love MSG, so tasty.

  26. Cool story bro says:

    So chewing gum is evil. Got it. And bread is the number one health risk in everyday foods – what a dark horse! Maybe we should get cigarette-style labels on our bread?


  27. fever says:

    Damn lag.

  28. Truvill says:


    As someone who moved to the states, I’m bothered by some of the extra ingredients present in the bread they sell here. The ‘regular’ bread I bought in Canada is considered one of those alternative breads here, and is considerably pricier.

  29. johnva says:

    @Angryrider: People added MSG to food because it tastes great.

    As far as I can tell, there is almost no evidence to suggest that MSG is the cause of so-called “Chinese restaurant syndrome”, if CRS even exists. I’m thinking that people maybe feel weird after eating cheap Chinese food because it may be really salty, and it raises their blood pressure or something. I highly doubt it’s MSG, considering that MSG is in many other things besides Chinese food that don’t generally have this reputation.

  30. Cool story bro says:

    @Truvill: Fair enough. But when they’re talking about an ingredient found in white flour being a health risk, you have to wonder if it’s worth taking seriously.

  31. Grive says:

    Acesulfame-K… so basically, we should fear it because it hasn’t proven to be either dangerous or interesting?

    Got it.

  32. evslin says:

    @Dabby: When will the bread industry admit they’re killing Americans?! Money-grubbing scum!

    Wait, what?

  33. termitehead says:

    MSG = Makes stuff good

  34. cronomorph says:

    Geez, you can’t eat ANYTHING. Chewing gum? NO! It might cause cancer! Bread? NO! It might cause cancer.

    Ugh, DeepFriar is right. Culture of fear.

  35. theblackdog says:

    @Bladefist: Death.

    Maybe the new warning should just be “Life will give you cancer”

  36. Ayo says:

    yeah, out of all these… i think I’ll take my chances with Olestra…

  37. freejazz38 says:

    The other one is Sodium Benzoate. Benzene. A known Carcinigen that Soda makers insist on putting in their drinks

  38. xphilter says:

    why is MSG even on there? only because some people are allergic? might as well put peanuts on their, i heard they’re killers!

  39. Amelie says:

    Wonders how they forgot “high fructose corn sirup.”

  40. Coelacanth says:


    food causes cancer?

    In short, yes. Your normal metabolic processes involved in breaking down food (of any kind) produce a surplus of free radicals that can cause cancer.

    Oxygen… causes cancer.

    Don’t eat. Don’t breath. Oh wait…

    Seriously, if people want to go back to a presticide-free, preservative-free existence, that’s fine by me. But, that probably means restricting our diet to locally-grown foods by experts, and eliminating many flavourful delicacies (like apples!) from our diet.

    A professor teaching History of American Culture painted a very different story about what life was like before pesticides, and it didn’t sound very appetising. Malnutrition was common, and the average person (or farmer) wasn’t eating anything close to resembling a balanced diet.

    Yes, health nuts… chip away all you want.

  41. failurate says:

    Back in Biblical times, before there was all these additives, people lived to be like 500 years old.

  42. Coelacanth says:

    I should qualify the statement about apples:

    Fruit used to be considered extremely dangerous to eat, unless they were cooked at very high temperatures thoroughly. One wouldn’t eat a “fresh” apple because of dangerous mold that loved to grow on the fruit.

    Such fruit was suitable for baking pies and going through the cannery, but that was about it… and we all know how healthy fruit pie and canned goods are!

  43. kadath217 says:

    I don’t think any of these products count as “food”. The only reason for these products to be in your food is so you don’t notice that you’re eating something that’s stale. As trite as it sounds, if it’s not food, don’t eat it.

    The idea that switching to more local foods will cause malnutrition – especially given our current technology, transportation infrastructure, and lifestyles – is ludicrous.

  44. hi says:

    I only eat Soylant Green and I’m pretty sure it contains Food Coloring: Green 3 and I’m fine.

  45. battra92 says:

    @Bladefist: what doesn’t cause cancer?

    Subscribing to Big Brother telling you what to eat? Though I think Big Brother causes cancer. ;)

    @failurate: Back in Biblical times, before there was all these additives, people lived to be like 500 years old.

    If Methuselah hadn’t switched to Diet sodas in an attempt to lose weight he may have lived a few years longer.

  46. Dervish says:

    @Amelie: Let’s not even open that can of unfounded worms.

  47. Mr_D says:

    #10: It’s been a while since chemistry, but aren’t nitrate and nitrite two different things?

    #7: Isn’t soy sauce a huge source of MSG? And isn’t the worst thing the sodium, not the glutamate? Glutamates taste good.

    @freejazz38: Sodium benzoate is not a carcinogen. Benzene is, and while benzoates can become benzene, they don’t just change for no reason. Why, sodium chloride has sodium, an unstable metal, and chlorine, a toxic gas! Ban it!

  48. yourbffjill says:

    @Saboth: not all food, but preserved and processed food. looks like pretty much everything in that list contributes to one category or the other.

    I don’t really see much wrong with instilling a little fear over the crap that we eat. we’d all be better off adjusting our diets toward more fresh, natural foods.

  49. yourbffjill says:

    @Amelie: Don’t “trans fats” cover that one?

  50. Dervish says:

    @Mr_D: Thanks for pointing out that sodium benzoate != benzene. While some of the benzoate is converted to benzene over time (which definitely isn’t good), it needs to be taken in perspective – like all of these food recommendations! From [www.accidentalhedonist.com]

    “Benzene is indeed a human carcinogen at high levels; people who are exposed to it at high concentrations in workplace air have an increased risk of cancer. But the director of the British Food Safety Agency has noted that people would need to drink more than twenty quarts of a beverage with ten ppb of benzene to equal the amount one would breathe from city air in one day.”

    I’ll stick to my 1-2 cans/day, thanks.

  51. satoru says:

    I don’t think high fructose corn syrup should be something you ‘try to avoid’ since it is pretty much almost universally impossible to do so.

    @yourbffjill: High fructose corn syrup has nothing to do with trans-fats. Heck even recently a study was done that natural trans-fats were actually associated with lower risks of a certain type of cancer. Though admittedly ‘natural’ trans-fats are hard to come by in general.

  52. Eilonwynn says:

    This is actually *shockingly* helpful to me – I know I’m allergic to MSG, but oddly, also to some products that advertised as being MSG-free. Particularly meats, some soups, and gum – I’m going to try to avoid Propyl Gallate and Sodium Nitrate from now on, and see if that helps

  53. sn1per420 says:

    @AstroPig7: Green M&Ms aren’t aphrodisiacs. That’s a myth.

    The reason pretty much every additive is found to be a carcinogen is because a lot of these studies are done using bacteria infused with human genes. If the human genes show a high rate of mutation in the presence of these additives, it’s said to be a carcinogen. The problem with this method is that bacteria multiply at a fairly high rate, and therefore are already susceptible to high rates of mutation.

    That being said, the carcinogenic effects of these additives hasn’t been *disproven*, and natural > artificial, at least in my book.

  54. duckfat says:

    Jeez… I might as well just take up smoking.

    I’ll avoid trans fat and carbonated drinks but you’ll pry the bacon from my cold dead hands before I give it up.

  55. BearTack says:

    The incidence of stomach cancer is way down as as result of food additives. Primarily because of the reduction of molds which produce a wide variety of mycotoxins. The mycotoxins cause both acute and chronic illnesses such as cancer. Aflotoxin, a mycotoxin, is one of the most potent carcinogens known, and is strongly implicated in liver cancer and other diseases.

    Preservatives also help to reduce the incidence of bacterial diseases that had a high morbidity and mortality before appropriate preservation measures came into being.

    Additives that only provide coloring, preserve texture and enhance taste are more of a problem than the preservatives because there is little on the positive side for them.

  56. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Eilonwynn: MSG is present naturally in fair to large amounts in mushrooms, tomatoes, soy products, hard cheeses, corn, peas, seaweed, and human breast milk. If you are not allergic to the foods listed, particularly tomatoes and mushrooms, you are not allergic to MSG. You may have a reaction to it, but that is not the same as being allergic.

    If you truly do have an allergy then you probably already know, but I’ll mention for the sake of completeness, that MSG is also often present in ingredient lists under the following names:

    – Natural Flavoring (not all natural flavors are MSG, though)
    – Hydrolyzed [Soy, Wheat, etc.] Protein
    – Autolyzed Yeast Extract
    – Flavour Enhancer 621
    – E621
    – Aji-no-moto
    – Glutamic acid

    That said, I have absolutely no reaction to MSG, and neither does anyone in my household, so I cook with broth mixes containing MSG regularly and suffer no ill effects. I am normally careful about additives, but this particular one is overhyped.

    NutraSweet, now… but don’t get me started…

  57. pgh9fan says:

    One’s personal medical history could change the list. I’m diabetic and if it wasn’t for Aspartame I’d be very sad indeed.

  58. vladthepaler says:

    Wow. Yay Whole Foods. I didn’t know they had a whole list of ingredients they won’t carry. Yet another reason to shop there.

  59. bleh says:

    If I eat enough of this I may die of cancer but I can save on funeral costs. I’ll be preserved!

  60. gavers says:

    I read this thing yesterday and I’m sure the count was 12 not 10. #11 was sugar and #12 was salt. I’d really like to know how you avoid eating salt or sugar? High fructose corn syrup and uhh…?

  61. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Don’t forget HFCS.

  62. johnva says:

    @satoru: It’s really easy to avoid high fructose corn syrup if you a) mostly eat fresh things, and b) shop at Whole Foods or similar places for any processed foods. Now, I don’t think there is anything especially harmful about HFCS. But I don’t like the extra calories being added to everything for essentially no reason, and I don’t quite understand why people seemingly want everything sweetened.

  63. turi319 says:

    @Bladefist: what doesn’t cause cancer?

    cancer itself?

  64. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @pgh9fan: Look into something called erythritol if you want an extremely low glycemic index natural sweetener that does not have a bitter or sour aftertaste and the problems of the artificial sweeteners. Erythritol occurs naturally in food. It is a sugar alcohol like mannitol and sorbitol but it does not cause gastrointestinal upset like the other sugar alcohols. You can actually use it one for one to substitute for sugar in most baked goods and other cooked recipes (it is DANGEROUS to bake or otherwise heat aspartame!!!), make candy out of it (mints are particularly good), and use it in coffee and tea.

    Its drawbacks are minor… it is not quite as sweet as sugar (but most sugar sweetened things will seem too sweet for you now anyway), and it does not dissolve well in cold water (so you can’t use it in a glass of iced tea, make Kool-Aid with it, or put it on your cereal). If you use it by itself in a cold dish, it can have a “cool” flavor, as if it is a little tiny bit minty. It’s sort of expensive compared to sugar, but it’s available in bulk online so shop around.

    I use this stuff and like it and it has helped us reduce our calories.

  65. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    arrgh, close the italic tab after “natural.” Sorry.

  66. mattman0726 says:

    Bet this will be picked up by some local news outlet on a slow news day, they LOVE fear-mongering!

  67. ionerox says:

    @sn1per420: Maybe the green M&Ms aren’t aphrodesiacs, but I know *for sure* that wearing green on a Thursday means you’re horny.

  68. MyPetFly says:


    You’re kidding, right?

    Any update on the health issues with saccharin? I use it in my coffee and tea since I’m trying to reform from my fat boy ways.

  69. johnva says:

    @sn1per420: I think “natural” vs. “artificial” is something of an arbitrary distinction. What counts as “natural”? What level of processing is acceptable? Everything is natural, in a sense, and everything is artificial in a sense. The only thing that matters to me is what the scientific evidence says.

  70. MyPetFly says:


    I think the key is to minimize, not eliminate, the use of sugar and salt. Personally, I don’t add salt to anything I eat. I just don’t need it. I eat breakfast cereals with more healthy sweeteners already in them, so I don’t add sugar, and I use saccharin in my coffee and tea (possibly poisoning myself, I don’t know). The only “sugar” I get is in the occasional piece of candy or dessert I have, and whatever salt I get is already in the food.


    Good tip! I added your post to my Google Notebook so I can shop around for that stuff later.

  71. bonzombiekitty says:

    Does this remind anyone else of the Animaniacs song about the ingredients of in food:

    Yakko: Ingredients Zinc Trisodium Aspartate,
    Sorbatale, and Bisulfate
    Oxide, Beta Caratine
    Lactic Acid, Carab Bean
    (music begins)

    Yakko: Grade A milk emulsified
    Malto-dextrin alkalide
    Silicon deoxylite
    Lots of sugar,
    W+D : Hey, all right!
    Yakko: Calcified synthetic salt
    Artificial barley malt
    Glycerine and aspartate
    Folic acid,
    Wakko: That tastes great!

    YW+D : Monosodium glutamate
    Dehydrated calceinate
    Soybean oil, butter fat
    Caramel center,
    Wakko: I’ll eat that!

    YW+D : Hooray for sugar, ’cause we love it
    Chocolate chips; we want more of it
    Cakes and ice cream; watch us shove it
    Down our throats real fast.

    Yakko: Here’s a candy bar, you tried it?
    Wakko: Hey, let’s all see what’s inside it.

    Yakko: Gelatinized triglycerin
    Phosphate, soybean, lecithin
    Deoxylite tri-silicon
    Dipped in chocolate,
    W+D : Bring it on!
    Yakko: Citrus enzymes, BHT
    Powdered milk,
    Dot : Sounds good to me!
    Yakko: Baking soda, carob gum
    W+D : Yummy yum!

    YW+D : Monosodium glutamate
    Zinc disodium algenate,
    Whole grain flour, yeast and fat
    Wakko: Time to eat it; I’ll do that

    YW+D : We like sweets a lot
    But they make your insides rot
    So remember it’s your body
    And the only one you’ve got.

  72. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @johnva: Good question. In the case of erythritol, for example, it’s made by a natural fermentation process. Essentially all they have to do is filter the yeast out to get a practically pure product.

  73. mikelotus says:

    Everything gives you cancer
    Everything gives you cancer
    Theres no cure, theres no answer
    Everything gives you cancer

    Dont touch that dial
    Dont try to smile
    Just take this pill
    Its in your file

    Dont work hard
    Dont play hard
    Dont plan for the graveyard
    Remember –

    Everything gives you cancer
    Everything gives you cancer
    Theres no cure, theres no answer
    Everything gives you cancer

    Dont work by night
    Dont play by day
    Youll feel all right
    But you will pay

    No caffeine
    No protein
    No booze or
    Remember -” Joe Jackson, “Cancer”

  74. Scubastevie00 says:

    Thanks Mr_B… I was about to chime in but you already got to it… If you don’t understand a chemical… Talk to your local chemist haha… I’ll tell you alllllll about how these things break down and “kill” you… HAHAHAHA

  75. Sherryness says:

    I don’t see how this list says “all food causes cancer” or “avoid all food.” To me it’s saying nearly all PROCESSED food contains things you’d like to avoid in excess. If every single thing a person eats was made commercially, chances are that person has more of these additives (not to mention high-fructose corn syrup) in his system than someone who cooks and bakes for her/himself.

  76. mikelotus says:

    @The Great Aussie Evil: forget what about it? that its no different than cane sugar once in the body?

  77. warf0x0r says:

    I try to avoid HFCS as much as possible too.

  78. johnva says:

    @mikelotus: The problem I have with HFCS isn’t so much that I think it’s a poison or something. It’s that they use it to add extra sugar to almost every food product you can think of. This just adds calories needlessly without adding any good nutrition.

  79. TexasScout says:

    So just what CAN we eat now…

  80. mikelotus says:

    @warf0x0r: @johnva: calories are calories

  81. BlackFlag55 says:

    This … is why we grow as much as we can. I’m retired to a gentleman’s ranch, and most of you aren’t at that point yet, but … really … our own vegetables, our own beeves, our own chickens, and a guy up the road raises dairy cows and dairy goats, and we trade .. nothing fancy, just a little back and forth. I’m lucky. I get to do this. But … additives are for the benefit of the producers and marketers, not you. It’s all bad madness.

    OTOH – your body can sustain the damage caused by additives for a while. But not indefinitely. Be mindful of what goes in your body. GIGO ain’t just for programmers. But don’t stress over it like the Global-Warming Fanatics do about dying in ten years. Stress and worry are deadlier than additives. Eat real food that isn’t packaged or canned or boxed and in the main, you’ll be okay.

    Except for that extra pair of teats on your back from growth hormone dairy and beef.

  82. And don’t forget about that sinister Dihydrogen Monoxide: dhmo.org :-)

  83. johnva says:

    @mikelotus: I know – you don’t need to tell me. I’m not saying that HFCS calories are worse than other calories. I’m saying that HFCS makes foods higher calorie than they would have been otherwise. I’m not saying that they should just replace it with cane sugar or something. The reason that it adds needless calories is that they add it to foods for reasons other than flavor, like consistency and shelf-life.

  84. Gopher bond says:

    @BlackFlag55: “our own beeves”

    Awesome! Can you teach me how to grow my own beeves? That would make life so much easier.

  85. Rider says:

    MSG has such a bad rep for almost no reason at all.


    Including MSG in this list because it causes headaches makes me question the entire list.

  86. MyPetFly says:


    True, calories are calories, but you can get vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, etc. with some caloric sources, or you can get just calories from other sources.

    Actually, now that I think about it, some sources of calories are better than others, strictly in the caloric sense. That’s why complex carbs are better than simple carbs — the complex carbs make your body work to extract the fuel, and that keeps your body’s sugar level more constant.

  87. MyPetFly says:


    “Ward, don’t you think you were a little hard on the Beeve last night?”

  88. dragonfire81 says:

    I see this is another “Everything you eat will kill you” stories.

    Guess I better stick to water and fruit.

  89. Gopher bond says:

    @dragonfire81: “Guess I better stick to water and fruit. “

    OMG NO! Chlorine and arsenic and lead in water and pesticides on fruit!

  90. ppiddyp says:

    Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite is one of the most important preservatives known to man…it’s awfully hard to safely cure meat without it. Sodium Nitrate also happens to be found naturally in leafy greens.

    FWIW, the jury is still out on it. It’s been linked in some studies to cancer and COPD, but other studies have found no link. Plus, people who eat a lot of cured meat and hot dogs are probably also doing other unhealthy things that might be the real cause of cancer.

    Anyhow, moderation in all things. Eat a widely varied diet and you won’t have to worry about any one ingredient poisoning you after years of consumption. There are very few things that the body can’t tolerate in low, infrequent doses (ie, stay away from lead and mercury and dioxine and whatnot)

  91. tsdguy says:
  92. Trai_Dep says:

    No HFCS? I’d say this is much worse than some of the more esoteric ones on the list. Or maybe they didn’t want to terrorize everyone since it’s in near everything.

  93. Truvill says:

    @scarletvirtue (ΣΣΣ):

    During grad skip day (don’t ask…), I printed several pages from that website and posted them all over the school. It took one of the Chemistry teachers to go over the PA and clarify WHAT it is (about 30 minutes before school ended) before people stopped buzzing so much about it.

  94. stacy75 says:

    Don’t Smoke
    Don’t Drink
    Don’t Take Drugs



  95. Trai_Dep says:

    And, MSG?! Sigh. MSN hates Yellow people.

  96. rrapynot says:

    what doesn’t cause cancer?


  97. So now we shouldn’t eat? Thanks Cosumerist!

  98. crackers says:

    @Bellatrixie: Best. Simpson’s reference. Ever. My husband and I do a “That’s good. That’s bad.” list almost everyday. Or sometimes, we’ll just say, “The [blank] is also cursed.”

  99. TheFlamingoKing says:

    Hmmm, aspartame is bad for you?

    “To date, FDA has not determined any consistent pattern of symptoms that can be attributed to the use of aspartame, nor is the agency aware of any recent studies that clearly show safety problems.” – [vm.cfsan.fda.gov]

    “Analysis of the National Cancer Institute’s public data base on cancer incidence in the United States — the SEER Program — does not support an association between the use of aspartame and increased incidence of brain tumors.” – [www.fda.gov]

    “Even daily large doses of the high-intensity sweetener aspartame, also known as NutraSweet, had no adverse effect on study subjects’ health and well-being, a visiting scientist at MIT reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last week. ‘We conclude that aspartame is safe for the general population,’ said Paul A. Spiers, visiting scientist in the Clinical Research Center (CRC).” – [web.mit.edu]

    “In fact, aspartame, known as “NutraSweet” and “Equal,” is safe. Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested substances in the U.S. food supply. Numerous authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the FAO/WHO, the European Community, and the American Medical Association have concluded that aspartame is a safe product, except in the rare cases of phenylketonuria. For more information on aspartame, please refer to ACSH’s peer-reviewed booklet Low Calorie Sweeteners. And beware of Internet health hoaxes.” – [www.acsh.org]

    Does anyone have to fact check in journalism anymore?

  100. Aesteval says:

    @DeepFriar: When you find that apple, watch out for the seeds. The seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide.

    @Mr_D: Nitrate and nitrite are different but
    very similar. Nitrite naturally turns into nitrate on its own in an
    oxygen rich environment. In some ways, nitrite is a more potent
    substance and requires less of for its purpose or for adverse health
    issues. However, both are supposedly strictly regulated in how much can
    be used at a time so that the risk in eating products which contain
    them should be very minor unless you do something like eat nothing but
    products which contain them. As far as the original article and
    nitrites/ates goes, there is some debate about carcinogens and them.

  101. Trai_Dep says:

    @johnva: I think why HFCS is much worse is that the body processes it differently than sugar. Our sating mechanism isn’t tripped by HFCS, so much more is tolerable than the case with sugar. Combined with the fact that it’s far too cheap (because of agri-business corporate welfare), there’s far too much of it dumped in everything. A double-whammy.

  102. Bladefist says:

    @battra92: You lost me.

  103. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @TheFlamingoKing: Aspartame is safe for those who use it? Sure, depending on what you consider “safe.” It might not be quite so safe for other people, as my nurse sister-in-law and her co-workers discovered back in the early 90s.

    She and the rest of the nurses on her floor were having a personnel problem. The error rate on charts (and God alone knows what else) became a huge problem, and management tried all sorts of ways to try to find out what was happening. They had meetings, fired people, gave extra training, and even shadowed the nurses, and nothing helped. Then one of the head nurses happened to read something about aspartame and short-term memory loss, and put a stop to the constant (several cans a day per nurse) drinking of diet soda on the floor. Within a few weeks, the error rate returned to normal.

  104. Brunette Bookworm says:

    @DeepFriar: That stuff isn’t really “food”. It’s in things you eat, but if you aren’t eating processed foods, you don’t really have to worry about eating these items.

  105. wwwhitney says:

    I don’t typically shop at expensive organic grocery stores (I love visiting Whole Foods, but I just can’t afford it except for the occasional treat) and it’s pretty easy for me to avoid all of the ingredients on this list plus HFCS (MSG excluded, it doesn’t affect me). The key, as several of you have noted, is to avoid processed foods (which you should be doing anyways) and to eat fresh vegetables, fruit and (this is important) whole wheat instead of white bread (which typically has Potassium Bromate and HFCS in it). My weekly grocery trips are to an Asian grocery and Kroger’s, so it’s not exactly a Herculean feet to avoid all the chemical crap agribusiness tries to make us eat.

  106. khiltd says:

    People who think that Whole Foods gives a rat’s about their health or the environment should visit some of the farms they buy from. Then they should visit smaller local markets that sell the exact same products from the exact same places for pennies on the dollar. The only problem with this approach is that you have to look at brown people who don’t own quite as many strollers as you do.

  107. CyGuy says:

    With the soon to be installed Obama administration showing that it is not in the pockets of big corporations, it’s time for a start-up soda company (perhaps as a sideline of an independent Microbrewer) to start selling soda sweetened with stevia. Stevia is used many countries as an alternative to artificial sweeteners since it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but is a 100% natural plant extract and has been on the FDA’s GRAS list for over 80 years.

    Unfortunately, the FDA at the request of NutraSweet banned the marketing of stevia as a sweetener as they rightfully concerned that a sweetener that can easily be grown by farmers and that can’t be patented would hurt their bottom line.

    You can get stevia (TJ’s carries it), but it is sold as an ‘herbal supplement.’ The only widely available beverages with it are Celestial Seasonings teas, but they don’t come bottled like say Snapple or Arizona teas do.

  108. Raziya says:

    /jumps on the cancer train

    All aboard for fear-mongering ville!

    Yes, these things might not be super good for you, but FFS, they say everything is going to give you cancer eventually. I guess I better not eat, use my cellohone, and lock myself in my bedroom under the sheets for the rest of my life…but I am sure by then someone will find out that cotton will give you cancer as well.

  109. Raziya says:

    @khiltd: Woah, way to make a sweeping generalization, there.

  110. lincolnparadox says:

    MSG is bad for you because it means more sodium in your diet. Otherwise, it’s just something that can bind to your umami taste receptors.

    HFCS isn’t bad because it’s a harmful additive. It’s bad because food manufacturers use it to bulk up product. Technically, it’s no worse than honey (all though, I’d take honey over HFCS any day). But when you’re consuming 30 grams of it in a bottle of Pepsi, that’s when it becomes “unhealthy.”

    Sodium benzoate doesn’t break down into benzene, unless it’s combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Typically, it dissociates into sodium and benzoate ions. It’s a salt of an organic acid, like potassium sorbate. Plants use these organic acids to prevent bacterial and fungal growth on their seeds/fruits. They make great preservatives because they screw up the metabolism of microbes. In yeast studies they can lead to damage of the mitochrondia, which found a yeast can lead to death. On a small scale, they don’t do much to humans; maybe kill off a few cells in our stomach or intestines. However, when people consume higher doses of these organic acids, they have the potential to do widespread cellular damage. This can mean tissue damage or tumor formation.

    What’s a higher dose? They don’t know. But, look at the label for every liquid/wet product in your kitchen. You’d be surprised how much of this stuff you consume every day.

    The Brits are scared.

  111. veronykah says:

    @COELACANTH: Wait…you have to be an EXPERT to grow food?
    My parents were apparently pretty damn smart then, always growing food in the backyard.
    Contrary to popular belief, plants are pretty easy to grow, plant them, water them…ta da!
    @BlackFlag55: a gentleman’s ranch?! Really?! Tell me more…seriously.

  112. Techno Viking says:


    Aspartame is not found in European products. So are the many additives that we have here in US. FDA are a bunch of money grabbing morons who should disappear. They take bribes and as long as something can pass with a low death toll they will approve. Take a look at dogs, and cats for example. Why do they get similar forms of cancer as we humans get. It must be those additives. When I was in Ukraine that’s where I was born I had a dog and my dog ate anything we ate. Fruits, potatoes, meats, vegetables, and he loved chocolate. My dog was never obese, very healthy and died of old age at 21. Over here, there are so many additives even in the dog food that of course they too will get cancer.

    Good advice.

  113. Gopher bond says:

    @veronykah: “a gentleman’s ranch?! Really?! Tell me more…seriously.”

    where he grows his own “beeves” !!! I want to know more too.

  114. karmaghost says:

    I have some bad news: everything causes cancer.

  115. h0mi says:

    “what doesn’t cause cancer?


    Yeah, it can cause bone cancers or leukemias.

  116. mikelotus says:

    @Trai_Dep: do you have any scientific evidence for this nonsense?

  117. Mr. Gunn says:

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for not including the alternative-lifestyle boogyman of the year, high fructose corn syrup.

    Dobernala: Don’t be so sure.

  118. Mr. Gunn says:

    mikelotus: No, he doesn’t. Fructose and glucose are processed differently in the body, but given that there’s only a 5% difference in the fructose levels in regular corn syrup and “high” fructose corn syrup, that can’t be the issue. I think the hype is somehow related to the whole corn-ethanol subsidy nonsense.

  119. zyodei says:

    @DeepFriar: You can laugh all you want. But the fact is, Medical costs are BANKRUPTING America. Worse than war, even! The expected health care costs for the baby boomers is $50 TRILLION. General Motors spends more on Health Care than on STEEL. Ballooning health insurance costs are a major contributing factor to outsourcing overseas – businesses just can’t afford health insurance for employees even if they want to. America spends ONE OUT OF EVERY FIVE DOLLARS OF ***GDP*** ON HEALTH CARE!!!

    And, what do we get for this? Are we healthy? Do most Americans have high energy levels and mental alertness?

    Look around you. Go into a Wal-Mart in middle America, see everyone’s carts full of pringles and coca-cola. For all their expensive medical care and prescription drugs, do you see a robust, healthy group of people? I’ve been to a lot of Wal-Marts in a lot of out of the way places, and what I saw scared me.

    Younger and younger people are suffering from diabetes, weird cancers, obesity. It’s a national tragedy, a national scandal.

    The American Diet, hell, the western diet, is fundamentally broken-along with it’s blood cousin, the medical system. Don’t fear anything – just don’t eat any food that is made in a factory.

    I’ve been living in South Korea for awhile..when you go hiking, everybody on the trail is 50, 60, 70, 80 years old. The generation raised on traditional food – before westernization. You see little old ladies hiking rigorous 15 miles hikes. You see very few young people. All the young people are sitting around, eating potato chips, eating candy bars, playing computer games, with a very high obesity rate. It makes me cry.


    This professor might have not been looking back far enough. If you look at the nutrition of, say, Boston in 1870, yes, it was certainly atrocious.

    A highly recommended book is “Nutrition an dPhysical Degeneration”, by Weston Price, written in the 1920s. From Amazon:

    For nearly 10 years, Weston Price and his wife traveled around the world in search of the secret to health. Instead of looking at people afflicted with disease symptoms, this highly-respected dentist and dental researcher chose to focus on healthy individuals, and challenged himself to understand how they achieved such amazing health. Dr. Price traveled to hundreds of cities in a total of 14 different countries in his search to find healthy people. He investigated some of the most remote areas in the world. He observed perfect dental arches, minimal tooth decay, high immunity to tuberculosis and overall excellent health in those groups of people who ate their indigenous foods. He found when these people were introduced to modernized foods, such as white flour, white sugar, refined vegetable oils and canned goods, signs of degeneration quickly became quite evident. Dental caries, deformed jaw structures, crooked teeth, arthritis and a low immunity to tuberculosis became rampant amongst them. Dr. Price documented this ancestral wisdom including hundreds of photos in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

    It’s worth the read.

  120. czarandy says:

    From wikipedia:
    A 2007 study, published in Annals of Oncology of the European Society for Medical Oncology, reviewed Italian studies of instances of cancer from 1991 and 2004 and concluded a “lack of association between saccharin, aspartame and other sweeteners and the risk of several common neoplasms”.

    There’s not really any solid evidence for all of those things. It’s misleading to say they are “linked with cancer” or anything like that. Considering the vast amount of factors associated with cancer, these additives are completely insignificant. You might as well avoid sunlight while you are at it (skin cancer)

  121. Rider says:

    This article really really bothers me. I just sent a nasty e-mail to the author. It’s really just health nut propaganda. I honestly wonder what the authors agenda is.

  122. navstar says:

    Well, you know… oxygen is the #1 cause of free radicals. Please stop breathing!

  123. theBIG says:

    @Truvill: @Truvill: @Truvill:

    I bake my own bread. Its way cheaper and honestly only takes 20 minutes of real work to make 2 loaves – the rest is waiting. I do it after dinner once the kids are in bed.

  124. startertan says:

    My parents used to own a chinese carry out several years ago (we had it for 20 years) and let me say that MSG was our bread and butter, that ish is tasty!!!

    Some people are actually allergic and we had no problems taking it out (the wok was washed between every order). However one time we were super busy, telling people an hour wait (which is rare for chinese carry out) and we had a load of people in the waiting room. One woman comes in and orders and says “No MSG”…no problem. Then one woman who had been waiting for her food comes up to me and says “yeah I don’t want and M-G-S either”…friggin’ MGS…b!tch didn’t even know what it was and didn’t want it…moron.

  125. czadd says:

    Acesulfame-K: “Not proven to be unhealthy, but studies on this additive have been scant.” Really? Broccoli hasn’t been proven to be unhealthy either, but I bet no one has done any studies to prove it is bad for me. Maybe I should avoid that, too. Ugh

  126. lkatic says:

    Aspartame is an ingredient in foods that is broken down by the body to amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. These amino acids are found in many other foods like meats, milk, fuits and vegetables. These amino acids are digested the same way in the body whether they come from aspartame or common foods. Aspartame’s safety has been well documented in over 200 studies which have been reviewed and confirmed by regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries. It is unfortunate that urban myths about aspartame and its safety continue to be repeated which continues to confuse the public. I am a member of the American Dietetic Association which supports the safety of aspartame as does the American Medical Association and the American Diabetes Association.

  127. S-the-K says:

    With some exceptions where even casual consumption can cause issues in some people; e.g., Olestra, MSG, maybe Trans Fats, Aspartame for phenylketonurics; when something says “may cause cancer”, my B.S. alarm goes off.

    I still remember the whole Alar scare back in the day. The panic was so widespread and so pervasive that schools were taking apples off menus, treating them like nuclear waste or (like nowadays) peanuts. Even famous toxicologist Meryl Streep (yes, THAT Meryl Streep) testified before Congress about the horrible dangers of Alar.

    But then the rest of the story came out. One would have to eat bushels of apples every day for months or years — or drink gallons of apple juice a day for months or years — to consume enough Alar to have an effect.

    When something says “may cause cancer”, what they mean is they pumped enough of this stuff into rats and mice until it became toxic. Of course, when you ramp up the cancer-causing dosage from mouse-sized to human-sized, it turns out to be an obscenely huge amount that nobody could consume in that amount of time.

    When somebody says that something is dangerous or cancerous, the first question we need to ask is how much does one have to consume for it to be toxic? After all, even pure clean distilled water is toxic in sufficient amounts.

  128. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @lkatic: The ADA and the AMA have failed to take into account the dangerous chemicals that form when aspartame is heated in the presence of the other ingredients in diet sodas. The heat necessary to make this reaction come about is no more than pallets of cans and bottles undergo when they sit in an un-airconditioned warehouse dock or in the back of a non-cooled delivery truck.


  129. imwm says:

    @CyGuy: There already is a stevia-sweetened soda called Zevia. It’s not widely available though.


  130. imwm says:

    @speedwell: I think aspartame can be bad for you, when you are drinking it in high concentrations. But I have been drinking a can or bottle, occasionally more, every day for months and so far have had no short term memory loss. I also am not going blind, or getting MS symptoms, or cancer, or anything else bad that people blame on aspartame.

    I think the problem is that the chemicals formed when aspartame breaks down can build up and cause problems. Which is why the FDA has a maximum recommended daily limit.

    Just like real soda, drinking 6 cans a day can’t be healthy.