Food additive controversy

Some people claim that food additives, such as artificial sweeteners, colorants, preserving agents, and flavorings may cause health problems even though they were extensively tested before being allowed into the market. For example, artificial colorants are claimed to cause hyperactivity in susceptible children.

As another example, people on calorie-restricted diets often choose to buy products advertised as "reduced calorie" or "no sugar added". These products contain artificial sweeteners. These are safe to consume in small quantities, and are of low toxicity. Safety studies may well show some advantage in substitutions, product by product. When dieters buy reduced-calorie soft drinks, biscuits, cakes, flavored water, yogurt, and so on, all may contain combinations of the leading artificial sweeteners -- cumulative doses are at higher levels than those on which the safety studies were based.

The issue of sweetening is just one example. Other taste-enhancing additives (e.g. salt substitutes) or flavorings are also hidden in processed foods and drink, as are colorants. Mandatory food labeling is one attempt to overcome the problem. This invites the consumer to check the ingredients of their foods before consumption. However, the average person has no training in organic chemistry and its nutritional effects. Neither is it practical for individuals to manage scorecards recording all the nutrients they consume.

Some would assert that research into the toxicity of many varied artificial ingredients has been inconclusive. The USA's Food and Drug Administration has very stringent requirements for the introduction of new food ingredients, and this includes rigorous testing on animals, where the animals are given exorbitant amounts of these chemicals - far more than humans ever would be likely to consume.