We eat food because we need it to live. But many foods contain additives that not only don’t provide nutrients, but also can be bad for you – and that’s perfectly legal. Food additives are used by manufacturers to do things like lengthen shelf life or provide more color or shine. Scientific studies have shown that synthetic food additives can cause harm to the immune and nervous systems, trigger changes in the body’s hormonal balance, and even increase the risk of cancer.
Even more concerning? Many of these chemicals can be found in foods marketed to children. Candies, sugary breakfast cereals and processed snacks like pizza rolls and mini bagels contain food colorants and preservatives that provide no added nutritional or functional benefits and can harm children’s health.
One of the reasons why potentially harmful food additives are legal in the U.S. is that the Food and Drug Administration does not review most food additives for safety, even when there are new studies showing the health risks of those additives. Under the FDA regulations, packaged food manufacturers are even allowed to certify their own ingredients as “safe” without notifying the government or the public.
That means many food additives that could be risky for humans to consume have basically never been meaningfully reviewed by the FDA. Some additives were reviewed in a cursory way many years ago when manufacturers began using them, but haven’t been re-evaluated since then with the newest science in mind.
To protect yourself, check out EWG’s Guide to Food Additives, read ingredient labels, and buy products that don’t contain the worst additives. And choose fresh, whole foods when possible.