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Chemical Cuisine: An Eater's Guide to Common Food Additives

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In the last five decades, the prevalence of chemicals added to food to enhance its color, texture, flavor, and freshness has increased. These chemicals, known as food additives, are synthetically

In the last five decades, the prevalence of chemicals added to food to enhance its color, texture, flavor, and freshness has increased. These chemicals, known as food additives, are synthetically derived or chemically altered substances that are added to food during processing to achieve a specialized effect. Additives are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and while many are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), some emerging research suggests that their safety rulings need to be reexamined.

Considering food additives in one’s diet is of the utmost importance for health, though it can be problematic for those with limited knowledge of additives or nutrition. Common opinion is that good nutrition involves only what is or is not being consumed—calories, fat, etc. But the realm of nutrition depends on quality of food—whole, minimally processed food that subsequently lacks additives—as much as it does the composition of food.
This paper reviews eight of the most common and often problematic food additives in America: high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium nitrate/ sodium nitrite, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat), monosodium glutamate (MSG), benzoate preservatives (BHA and BHT), potassium bromate, and caramel coloring. It is important to note that this list is far from comprehensive; these additives receive much attention in America making them some of the most talked about and most easily recognized additives.

This paper aims to present sound depictions of existing research that most often refutes the validity of the “generally recognized as safe” claim currently standing for these food additives, providing consumers with reliable information with which they can make educated decisions when purchasing food and eating healthfully.

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  • 2014-05