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Food Additives

Food additives are substances added to food to preserve and enhance flavour, taste and appearance of the food we consume.

Some additives like salt, sugar, spice, vinegar, smoke etc, being used by people for centuries to improve the taste and appearance of food and to make food last longer.

Over time however, the use of food additives has skyrocketed to the point where we have any real idea exactly what`s in the food we eat. Every year, Australians consume more than 5 kg of food additives, vitamins, supplements, food colourings, food dyes and preservatives, some of which are safe and some are known to be harmful. Some are known to be carcinogenic or toxic. Hyperactivity in children, allergies, asthma, and migraines are often associated with adverse reactions to food additives.

Thankfully, not all food additives are harmful. Today in Australia there are over 300 substances which are well tested and pose no problem for most people and approved for use as food additives. However, there are at least 60 food additives used in our foods which are at best questionable in terms of safety, or at worse, known to be harmful.

According to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Allergy Unit here is a list of some of the food additives most likely to cause adverse reactions.



  • Sorbates: 200-203
  • Benzoates: 210-218
  • Sulphites: 220-228
  • Nitrates, nitrites: 249-252
  • Propionates: 280-283
  • Antioxidants: 310-312, 319-321


  • Artificial: 102, 107, 110, 122-129, 132, 133, 142, 151
  • Natural: 160B (annatto) 

Flavour enhancers

  • Glutamates (e.g. MSG): 620-625
  • Other flavour enhancers and modifiers: 627-637, 640-641
  • Hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP) – can contain MSG Textured vegetable protein (TVP) – can contain MSG.

A small amount of food additives won’t impact the behaviour of most children. On the other hand some kids will have an allergic or behavioural reaction. So, the rule of thumb is to look for foods that have all-natural colours and flavours and minimal or no preservatives. It’s also important to choose foods that have a minimal amount of fats (saturated and trans), sugars and salt.

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