EFFECTS OF FOOD ADDITIVES AND PRESERVATIVES ON MAN- A REVIEW
*Inetianbor, J. E.,
Yakubu, J. M. and
Ezeonu, S. C.
Department of Microbiology, Federal University Wukari, P.M.B 1020, Taraba State-Nigeria
Department of Biochemistry, Federal University Wukari, P.M.B. 1020, Taraba State-Nigeria
ARTICLE INFO ABSTRACT
Food additives are organic substances that are intentionally added to food in small quantities during
production or processing to improve the organoleptic quality (colour, flavour, appearance, taste and
texture) of the food. Food preservative is a class of food additive that help to prevent food spoilage by
preventing the growth and proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms like Clostridium spp , Bacillus
cereus and Staphylococcus aureus. This can be achieved by bringing down the pH of the food so as to
make the environment unfavourable for these microbes. This report aims to review the available
literature on the various effects of food additives and preservatives on man as a result of the
indiscriminate uses by food producers and food consumers. Many effects like food allergies, food
intolerance, cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), brain
damage, nausea, cardiac disease among others have been reported.
Copyright © 2015 Inetianbor et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Food additives are substances that food manufacturers
intentionally add to food in small quantity during production
or processing to improve the organoleptics of the food
(Winter, 1994). They help to increase the shelf life of the food
by maintaining product consistency, wholesomeness and
freshness. They make possible an array of convenient food
without the stress of daily shopping or cooking. The food
additives must be added in regulated quantities, concentration
and should be within the acceptable daily intakes (ADIs)
above which they can have some devastating effects on
the consumer. This definition includes any substance
used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging,
transportation or storage of food (Kunkel and Barbara, 2004).
Food additives are also substances added to food to preserve
flavour or enhance its taste and appearance. Some additives
have been used for centuries, for example, preserving food
by pickling (preserving with vinegar), salting, as with bacon
and preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some
wines. With the advent of processed foods in the second
half of the 20
century, many more additives have been
introduced, of both natural and artificial origin (Boca Raton
and Smoley, 1993).
*Corresponding author: Inetianbor, J. E.
Department of Microbiology, Federal University Wukari, P.M.B
1020, Taraba State-Nigeria
Food Additives are defined by the United States Food and
Drug Administration (FDA, 1993) as “any substance, the
intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to
result, directly or indirectly, in its becoming a component or
otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food”. In other
words, an additive is any substance that is added to food.
Food additives are also defined as chemical substances
deliberately added to foods, directly or indirectly in known
quantities for purposes of assisting in the processing of foods;
preservation of foods; or in improving the flavour, texture, or
appearance of foods (Daniel, 2007).
Food additives can be used directly or indirectly. Direct
additives are those that are intentionally added to foods for a
specific purpose while indirect additives are those to which
the food is exposed during processing, packaging, or storing
(Boca Raton and Smoley, 1993). If a substance is added to a
food for a specific purpose, it is referred to as a direct
additive. For example, the low-calorie sweetener aspartame,
which is used in beverages, puddings, yoghurt, chewing
gum and other foods, is considered a direct additive. Many
direct additives are identified on the ingredient label of
foods. Indirect food additives are those that become part of
the food in trace amounts during packaging, storage or
handling. For examples some colourants like erythrosine (red),
cantaxanthin (orange) and annatto bixine (yellow orange)
gives an appealing look to foods that attracts consumers to
them even though they don’t add nutrient to the food. For
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Published online 28
instance, minute amounts of packaging substances may find
their way into foods during storage (Abdulmumeen et al.,
2012). Food preservative is a class of food additive that help to
prevent food spoilage by disrupting the food of any pathogenic
microorganisms like Clostridia spp, Bacillus cereus,
Staphylococcus aureus and other microorganisms. Food
preservatives preserve food by bringing down the pH and also
stabilizing the redox potential of the food so as to make the
environment unfavourable for microbes to strive. Food
additives are grouped into two according to their source; the
natural and the synthetic. The natural ones are derived from
natural sources like plants, animals and minerals.
Some examples of natural food additives are; soybeans and
corn which are used to maintain food consistency; beets which
provide beet powder is used sometimes as a colouring agents
and caramel that is derived from caramelized sugar is used as a
colouring agents. The synthetic food additives are those that
are manufactured from one or several chemical substances
through synthetic methods. Some of the synthetics food
additives are; aspartame which is derived from aspartic acid
) is used in food preservation, Erythrosine which
is the disodium salt of 2, 4, 5, 7-tetraiodofluorescein is used as
a colouring agent and Tartarzine which is Trisodium (4E)-5-
3-Pyrazolecarboxylate is used as a colouring agent. Various
research work has revealed that majority of the food additives
used by manufacturers have adverse effects on the consumer
(FDA, 1993 and (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012).
Nowadays, most people tend to eat the ready-made foods
available in the market, rather than preparing them at home.
Such foods contain some kind of additives and preservatives,
so that their quality and flavour is maintained and they are
not spoiled by bacteria and yeasts. More than 3000 additives
and preservatives are available in the market, which are used
as antioxidants and antimicrobial agents. Some of the
commonly used food additives and preservatives are
aluminum silicate, amino acid compounds, ammonium
carbonates, sodium nitrate, propyl gallate, butylated hydrozyl
toluene (BHT), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA),
monosodium glutamate, white sugar, salt, potassium bromate,
potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Some artificial
colours are also added to the foods to give them an appealing
look. Some of these colouring substances are erythrosine
(red), cantaxanthin (orange), amaranth (Azoic red), tartrazine
(Azoic yellow) and annatto bixine (yellow orange) (Miller
and Millstone, 1987).
When the food is to be stored for a prolonged period,
use of additives and preservatives is essential in order to
maintain its quality, wholesomeness, taste, appearance and
flavour. The excess water in the foods can cause the growth
and proliferation of bacteria, fungi and yeasts and hence food
spoilage. Use of additives and preservatives prevents
spoiling of the foods due to the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Additives and preservatives maintain the quality and
consistency of the foods. They also maintain palatability and
wholesomeness of the food, improve or maintain its nutritional
value, control appropriate pH, provide leavening and colour,
and enhance its flavour.
Classifications of Food Additives
Food additives can be divided into several groups, although
there is some overlap between them.
Antimicrobial agents: These prevent spoilage of food by
microorganisms. These include not only vinegar and salt, but
also compounds such as calcium propionate and sorbic acid,
which are used in products such as baked foods, salad
dressings, cheeses, margarines, and pickled foods
(Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Antioxidants: An anti-oxidant is a substance added to fats and
fat-containing substances to retard oxidation and thereby
prolong their wholesomeness, palatability, and, sometimes,
keeping time. An anti-oxidant should not contribute an
objectionable odour, flavour, or colour, to the fat or to the food
in which it is present. It should be effective in low
concentrations, and be fat soluble. Also, it should not have a
harmful physiological effect. Some anti-oxidants used in foods
are butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated
hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate (PG), and teriarybutyl
hydroquinone (TBHQ), which are all phenolic substances
(Dalton, 2002). Thiodipropionic acid and dilauryl
thiodipropionate are also used as food anti-oxidants. The Joint
FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has recently
considered the Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADls) of BHA and
BHT and set them at 0-0.5 mg/kg body weight for BHA and 0-
0.3 mg/kg body weight for BHT. Naturally occurring
substances that act as anti-oxidants are tocopherols. The
tocopherols act as biological anti-oxidants in plant and animal
tissues, but they are rarely used as additives because they are
more expensive than synthetic anti-oxidants (Sunitha and
Colouring Agents: These include colour stabilizers, colour
fixatives, colour retention agents, etc. They consist of
synthetic colours and those from natural sources. Even though
most colours do not add any nutritive value to foods, without
certain colours most consumers will not buy or eat some
foods. Thus, colours are frequently added to restore the natural
ones lost in food processing or to give the preparations the
natural colour we expect. A number of natural food colours
extracted from seeds, flowers, insects, and foods, are also used
as food additives. One of the best known and most widespread
red pigments is bixin, derived from the seed coat of Bixa
orellana, the lipstick pod plant of South American origin.
Bixin is not considered to be carcinogenic. The major use of
this plant on a world-wide basis, however, is for the annatto
dye, a yellow to red colouring material extracted from the
orange-red pulp of the seeds. Annatto has been used as
colouring matter in butter, cheese, margarine, and other foods.
Another yellow colour, a carotene derived from carrot, is used
in margarine. Saffron has both flavouring and colouring
properties and has been used for colouring foods. Turmeric is
a spice that gives the characteristic colour of curries and some
meat products and salad dressings. A natural red colour,
cochineal (or carnum) obtained by extraction from the female
insect (Coccus cacti), grape skin extract, and caramel, the
brown colour obtained from burnt sugar, are some natural
colours that are used as food additives. These are intended to
make food more appealing and to provide certain foods with
a colour that humans associate with a particular flavour (e.g.
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red for cherry, green for lime). Some examples of food
colourants are; erythrosine, carmosine (McCann et al., 2007).
Colour additives are recognized as an important part of many
foods we eat (Barrows et al., 2003).
Bleaching agents: These are peroxides, which are used to
whiten foods such as wheat flour and cheese (Boca and
Chelating agents: Chelating agents are not anti-oxidants.
They serve as scavengers of metals which catalyze oxidation.
Recommended usage levels for citric acid typically vary
between 0.1 and 0.3 per cent with the appropriate anti-oxidant
at levels ranging between 100 and 200 ppm). EDTA is a
chelating agent permitted for use in the food industry as a
chemical preservative. Calcium disodium EDTA and disodium
EDTA have been approved for use as food additives by the
United States Food and Drug Administration. The chelating
agents are used to prevent discolouration, flavour changes, and
rancidity that might occur during the processing of foods,
examples include citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid
(Sunitha and Preethi, 2000).
Nutrient Supplements: Nutrient supplements restore values
lost in processing or storage, or ensure higher nutritional value
than what nature may have provided. When foods are
processed, there may be loss of some nutrients and additives
may be added to restore the original value. For example, to
produce white flour, wheat is milled in such a way as to
remove the brown coloured part of the grain, which is rich in
vitamins and minerals. To restore the nutritive value, thiamine,
nicotinic acid, iron and calcium, are added to the flour.
Similarly, vitamin C is added to canned citrus fruits to make
up the loss of the vitamin during processing (Sunitha and
Acids: Food acids are added to make flavors “sharper”, and
also act as preservatives and antioxidants. Common food
acids include vinegar, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid,
fumaric acid, and lactic acid.
Preservatives: A preservative is defined as any substance
which is capable of inhibiting, retarding, or arresting, the
growth of micro-organisms, of any deterioration of food due to
micro-organisms, or of masking the evidence of any such
deterioration. It is estimated that nearly one fifth of the world’s
food is lost by microbial spoilage. Chemical preservatives
interfere with the cell membrane of micro-organisms, their
enzymes, or their genetic mechanisms. The compounds used
as preservatives include natural preservatives, such as sugar,
salt, acids, etc, as well as synthetic preservatives. The safe-use
period of many foods is greatly extended through the addition
of preservatives, which retard spoilage, preserve flavour and
colour and keep oils from turning rancid. Preservatives protect
foods, such as cured meats, from developing dangerous toxins,
such as botulism, a food poisoning illness (Sunitha and
pH Control Agents: These include acids, alkalis and buffers.
They not only control the pH of foods but also affect a number
of food properties such as flavor, texture, and cooking
qualities. They are also used to change or otherwise control the
acidity and alkalinity of foods (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012).
Anti-caking Agents: Anti-caking agents help prevent particles
from adhering to each other and turning into a solid chunk
during damp weather. They help free flowing of salt and other
powders. They also help to keep powders such as milk
powder from caking or sticking.
Leavening Agents: Leavening agents produce light fluffy
baked goods. Originally, yeast was used almost exclusively to
leaven baked products. It is still an important leavening agent
in bread making. When yeast is used, ammonium salts are
added to dough to provide a ready source of nitrogen for yeast
growth. Phosphate salts (sodium phosphate, calcium
phosphate) are added to aid in control of pH (Abdulmumeen et
Antifoaming agents: Antifoaming agents reduce or prevent
foaming in foods (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Bulking agents: Bulking agents such as starch are additives
that increase the bulk of a food without affecting its
nutritional value (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Colour retention agents: In contrast to colouring agents,
colour retention agents are used to preserve a food’s existing
colour (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Emulsifiers: Emulsifiers are a group of substances used to
obtain a stable mixture of liquids that otherwise would not or
would separate quickly. They also stabilize gas-in-liquid and
gas –in-solid mixtures. They are widely used in dairy and
confectionery products to disperse tiny globules of an oil or
fatty liquid in water. Emulsifying agents are also added to
margarine, salad dressings, and shortenings. Peanut butter
contains up to 10 per cent emulsifiers. Emulsifiers also allow
water and oil to remain mixed together in an emulsion, as in
mayonnaise, ice cream, and homogenized milk (Sunitha and
Flavours and Flavour enhancers: Flavouring additives are
the ingredients, both naturally occurring that when added,
gives the characteristic flavour to almost all the foods in our
diet. Flavour enhancers are not flavours themselve but they
amplify the flavours of other substance through a synergistic
effect. Flavour and flavour enhancers constitute the largest
class of food additives. Natural flavours are substances, such
as spices, herbs, roots, and essential oils, have been used in the
past as flavour additives. The flavours are in short supply and
the amount of flavour substances in them is very tiny. It would
take about tonne of many spices to produce 1 g of the flavour
substances, and in some cases only 0.1g can be extracted.
Natural food flavours are thus being replaced by synthetic
flavour materials. The agents responsible for flavour are esters,
aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, and ethers. These substances are
easily synthesized and can be easily substituted for natural
ones. Typical of the synthetic flavour additives are amyl
acetate for banana, methyl anthranilate for grapes, ethyl
butyrate for pineapple, etc. Generally, most synthetic flavours
are mixtures of a number of different substances. For example,
one imitation cherry flavour contains fifteen different esters,
alcohols, and aldehydes. One of the best known, most widely
used and somewhat controversial flavour enhancer is
monosodium glutamate (MSG), the sodium salt of the
naturally occurring amino acid glutamic acid which can be
1120 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium glutanicum.
Professor Kikunae Ikeda from the imperial university isolated
glutamic acid as a new taste substance in 1908 from the
seaweed Laminaria japonica, Kombu by aqueous extraction
and crystallization and named it “umani” (Lindernann, 2002).
He named this product monosodium glutamate and submitted
a patent to produce MSG (Ikeda, 1908). Suzuki brothers
started the first commercial production of MSG in 1909 as Aji-
No-Moto meaning “essence to taste” in English (Chiaki, 2009;
Yamaguchi, 1998 and Kurihara, 2009). MSG is now
manufactured on a large scale all over the world, and
especially in Japan with several trade names as Ac’cent, Aji-
No-Moto and Vetsin. As a flovour and in the right amount,
MSG can enhance other taste-active compounds, improving
the overall taste of certain foods.
MSG mixes well with meat, fish, poultry, many vegetable,
sauces, soups and marinades. Since MSG mixes well with
many foods, it can also increase the overall preference of
certain foods like beef consommé (Yamaguchi, 1991). MSG is
generally recognized as safe. However, it was reported some
time back that MSG injected to young mice resulted in brain
damage. Also, some individuals experience symptoms often
comparable to those of heart attack, when served with food
containing large amounts of MSG. The matter has now been
thoroughly investigated, and it has been concluded that there is
no risk in its use. However, MSG which was being added to
baby foods is now discontinued, as its benefits to babies are
dubious. Flavour enhancers enhance a food’s existing
flavours. They may be extracted from natural sources (through
distillation, solvent extraction, maceration, among other
methods) or created artificially (Sunitha and Preethi, 2000).
Flour Improvers: These are bleaching and maturing agents;
usually, they both bleach and “mature” the flour. These are
important in the flour milling and bread-baking industries.
Freshly milled flour has a yellowish tint and yields weak
dough that produces poor bread. Both the colour and baking
properties improve by storing the flour for several months
before making bread. Chemical agents used as flour improvers
are oxidizing agents, which may participate in bleaching only,
in both bleaching and dough improvement, or in dough
improvement only. The agent that is used only for flour
bleaching is benzoyl peroxide ((C
).This does not
influence the quality of dough. Materials used both for
bleaching and improving are chlorine gas, (Cl
); nitrosyl chloride, (NOCI); and nitrogen di and
tetra oxides, (NO
). Oxidizing agents used only for
dough improvement are potassium bromate, (KBrO
potassium iodate, (KIO
); Calcium iodate, [Ca(IO
calcium peroxide, (CaO
) (Sunitha and Preethi, 2000).
Glazing agents: Glazing agents provide a shiny appearance
or protective coating to foods (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Humectants: Humectants are moisture retention agents. Their
functions in foods include control of viscosity and texture,
bulking, retention of moisture, reduction of water activity,
control of crystallization, and improvement or retention of
softness. They also help improve the rehydration of
dehydrated food and solubilization of flavour compounds.
Polyhydroxy alcohols are water soluble, hygroscopic materials
which exhibit moderate viscosities at high concentrations in
water and are used as humectants in foods. Some of them are
propylene glycol (CH
OH), glycerol, and sorbitol
and mannitol [CH
OH]. Polyhydric alcohols
are sugar derivatives and most of them, except propylene
glycol, occur naturally (Sunitha and Preethi, 2000).
Tracer gas: Tracer gas allows for package integrity testing
preventing foods from being exposed to atmosphere, thus
guaranteeing shelf life (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Stabilizers and Thickeners: These compounds function to
improve and stabilize the texture of foods, inhibit
crystallization (sugar, ice), stabilize emulsions and foams,
reduce the stickiness of icings on baked products, and
encapsulate flavours. Substances used as stabilizers and
thickeners are polysaccharides, such as gum Arabic,
carrageenan, agar-agar, alginic acids, starch and its derivatives,
carboxy methylcellulose and pectin. Gelatin is one non-
carbohydrate material used extensively for this purpose.
Stabilizers and thickeners are hydrophilic and are dispersed in
solution as colloids. These swell in hot or even cold water and
help thicken food. Gravies, pie fillings, cake toppings,
chocolate milk drinks, jellies, puddings and salad dressings,
are some among the many foods that contain stabilizers and
thickeners. Thickeners are added to the mixture; increase its
viscosity without substantially modifying its other properties
Sweeteners: Sweeteners are added to foods for flavouring.
Sweeteners other than sugar are added to keep the food
energy (calories) low and they are usually recommended for
diabetes mellitus, tooth decay and diarrhea patients so that the
sugar levels in them will not be elevated (Abdulmumeen et
Artificial flavours and flavour enhancers: These are the
largest class of additives; its function is to make food taste
better, or to give them a specific taste. Examples are salt,
sugar, and vanilla, which are used to complement the flavour
of certain foods. Synthetic flavouring agents, such as
benzaldehyde for cherry or almond flavour, may be used to
simulate natural flavours. Flavour enhancers, such as
monosodium glutamate (MSG) help to intensify the flavour of
other compounds in a food (Sunitha and Preethi, 2000).
Curing Agents: These are additives used to preserve (cure)
meats. They give them desirable colours and flavours,
discourage the growth of microorganisms, and prevent toxin
formation. Sodium nitrite has been used for centuries as a
preservative and colour stabilizer in meat and fish products.
The nitrite, when added to meat, gets converted to nitric oxide,
which combines with myoglobin to form nitric oxide
myoglobin (nitrosyl myoglobin), which is a heat-stable
pigment. The curing also contributes flavour to the meat. In
addition, nitrite curing inhibits the growth of Clostridium and
Streptococcus, and also lowers the temperature required to kill
Clostridium botulinum (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
Other Additives: There are a number of food additives that
provide functions other than those indicated above. Clarifying
agents like bentonite, gelatins, synthetic resins (polyamides
and poly vinyl pyrrolidone) are used to remove haziness or
sediments and oxidative deterioration products in fruit juices,
1121 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
beers and wines. Enzymes are added to bring about desirable
changes; rennin for producing curd and cheese, papain for
tenderizing meat, and pectinase for clarifying beverages.
Firming agents like aluminium sulphates and calcium slats are
used to keep the tissues of fruits and vegetables crisp. Freezing
agents like liquid nitrogen and dichloro fluoro methane, which
are extremely volatile and rapidly evaporate at ordinary
temperatures, are used to chill foods. Solvents like alcohol,
propylene glycol and glycerine are used to dissolve suspended
flavours, colours, and many other ingredients. Packing gases,
such as inert gases like Helium, Neon are added to packets of
instant foods to prevent oxidative and many other changes
(Sunitha and Preethi, 2000).
To regulate these food additives, and inform consumers about
the nature of the additives, each additive is assigned a unique
number termed as “E numbers” which is used in Europe for all
approved additives. E-numbers are all prefixed by “E” but
countries outside Europe use only the number whether the
additives is approved in Europe or not. For example, acetic
acid is written as E260 on products sold in Europe, but is
simply known as additives 260 in some other countries.
Additives 103, alkanet, is not approved for use in Europe so
does not have an E number, although it is approved for use in
Australia and New Zealand since 1987. Australia has had an
approved system of labeling for additives in packaged foods.
Each food additive has to be named or numbered. The
numbers are the same as in Europe, but without the prefix ‘E’.
Some E number for some food additives are; Tartrazine
(E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Carmosine (E122) and
A Preservative is a natural occurring or synthetically produced
substance that is added to products such as foods,
pharmaceuticals, paints, biological samples, woods, etc. to
prevent decomposition by microbial growth or by undesirable
chemical changes. Preservatives can be divided into two types,
depending on their. Class I preservatives refer to those
preservative which are naturally occurring, everyday
substances, examples include salt, honey and wood smokes
(ANON, 2013) Class II preservatives refer to preservative
which are synthetically manufactured. Food Preservative can
be used alone or in conjunction with other methods of
preservation. Food preservatives are often added to food to
prevent their spoilage, or to retain their nutritional value and
/or favour for a longer period (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012
basic approach is to eliminate microorganisms from the food
and prevent their growth. This achieved by methods such as
high concentration of salt or reducing the water content, this
inhibits spoilage of the food item by microbial growth.
Preservatives may be antimicrobial preservatives, which
inhibit the growth of bacteria or fungi, including mold, or
antioxidants such as oxygen absorbers, which inhibit the
oxidation of food constituents. Common antimicrobial
preservatives include calcium propionate, sodium nitrite (and
sodium nitrate which converts to sodium in situ), sulfites
(sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium hydrogen sulfite,
etc.) and disodium EDTA (Dalton, 2002 and Dalton, 2002). The
benefits and safety of many artificial food additives (including
preservatives) is the subject of debate among a c a d e m i c s
and regulators specializing in food science, toxicology, and
food microbiology. Natural substances such as salt, sugar,
vinegar, alcohol, and diatomaceous earth are also used as
traditional preservatives. Smoking salting and drying have
been used since prehistoric time to preserve food. Processes
such as freezing and pickling are also used to preserve food.
Another group of preservatives targets enzymes in fruits and
vegetables that continue to metabolize after they are cut. For
instance, citric and ascorbic acids from lemon or other citrus
juice can inhibit the action of the enzyme phenolase which
turns surfaces of cut apples and potatoes brown. Most foods
contain enzymes or natural chemicals, such as acids or
alcohols that cause them to begin to lose desirable
characteristics almost immediately after harvest or
preparation. A host of environmental factors, such as heat and
the presence of microorganisms are known to act and change
foodstuffs in ways that may harm the food product and make
them unacceptable for consumption. Food preservation
traditionally has three goals namely the preservation of
nutritional characteristics, the preservation of appearance,
and a prolongation of the time that the food can be stored.
Traditional methods of preservation usually aim to exclude
air, moisture, and microorganisms, or to provide
environments in which organisms that might cause spoilage
cannot survive (Daniel, 2007). Among the earliest
preservatives were sugar and salt (NaCl), which produced
food environments of high osmotic pressure that denied
bacteria the aqueous surroundings they needed to live and
reproduce. Jams and jellies are preserved as solutions of
high sugar content, and many meats (e.g., hams) and fish are
still preserved by salting. Unlike other microorganisms, molds
can often withstand the effects of high salt or sugar
concentrations in foods. Fortunately, they seldom cause
illness. Early methods of air removal included the sealing of
foods inside containers (such as jars), or the covering of
food surfaces with hot paraffin. The invention of canning by
Nicolas Appert enabled commercial preparations of foodstuffs
). In response to a prize offered
by Napoleon in 1795, Appert developed a method of canning
and preserving fruits and vegetables in glass containers for sea
voyages. His process was used commercially in 1910 by Peter
Durand in England, using metal cans.
During the earliest days of canning, some persons (including
some Arctic explorers) probably died as a result of exposure
to the lead that was once used to solder cans. Modern
techniques of air removal include vacuum sealing and the use
of plastic wrappings. Chemical preservatives include free
radical scavengers (also known as antioxidants), such as
vitamin C and compounds such as BHA (butylated
hydroxyanisole), and bacterial growth inhibitors, such as
benzoic acid, sulfur dioxide, and sodium nitrite (NaNO
OH) has long been used as a preservative,
both of itself (as in wine), and of other foods (e.g. fruits
stored in brandy). Some chemical preservatives may be
harmful: Sulfur dioxide (often used to preserve wines) is
irritating to the bronchial tubes of persons who have asthma,
and nitrites have been implicated as carcinogens (Sanchez-
Echaniz, 2001 and Dusdieker, 1994). The irradiation of foods
has the advantage of enabling food packaging and preparation
in which there is less person-to-food contact, thus decreasing
1122 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
the possibility of contamination and decreasing the need for
chemical preservatives, some of which may be harmful. The
ionizing radiation that is used to irradiate foods, wherein the
foods are exposed to bursts of high-intensity x-rays or streams
of electrons, disrupts bacterial DNA. Some persons have
objected to the irradiation of foods because of an (unfounded)
fear of radioactivity. As pathogens such as virulent strains of
coliform bacteria have caused food poisoning, the irradiation
of animal carcasses and, in particular, of hamburger during its
preparation has become more desirable. Irradiation currently
extends the shelf life of foods such as strawberries. Irradiation
does not make foods radioactive, but may cause changes in
food color or texture (John, 2003).
Advantages of Food Additives and Preservatives
Food additives play a vital role in today’s food supply.
They allow our growing urban population to have a variety of
foods year-round and, they make possible an array of foods
without the inconvenience of daily shopping. Food additives
perform a variety of useful functions in foods that are often
taken for granted. Since most people no longer live on
farms, additives help keep food wholesome and appealing
while en-route to markets sometimes thousands of miles away
from where it is grown or manufactured. Additives also
improve the nutritional value of certain foods and can make
them more appealing by improving their taste, texture,
consistency or colour (Houghton, 2002). The importance of
preserving food is that, it lengthens the shelf life of a food and
it slows down the spoilage of food which is caused by
microorganisms present in the container or the hands that held
it before putting it inside a container. The importance of food
preservation is so that the food cannot be spoilt or can cause
illness. Although preservatives are essential to maintain food
safety, too much of a good thing is not healthy. Besides
allergies, these foods may cause stomach pains, vomiting,
breathing problems, hives and skin rashes. Some of the worst
additives include benzoates, which can cause skin rashes,
asthma and perhaps brain damage. Bromates can cause
nausea and diarrhea. Saccharin may lead to toxic reactions
that impact the gastrointestinal tract and heart, as well as
cause tumors and bladder cancer. Red Dye 40 may result in
certain birth defects. Sodium chloride can lead to high blood
pressure, kidney failure, stroke and heart attack (Hoover and
Additives are used in foods for five main reasons:
To maintain product consistency: Emulsifiers give products
a consistent texture and prevent them from separating.
Stabilizers and thickeners give smooth uniform texture. Anti-
caking agents help substances such as salt to flow freely.
To improve or maintain nutritional value: Vitamins and
minerals are added to many common foods such as milk,
flour, cereal and margarine to make up for those likely to be
lacking in a person’s diet or lost in processing. Such
fortification and enrichment has helped reduce malnutrition
among the U.S. population. All products containing added
nutrients must be appropriately labeled.
To maintain palatability and
retard product spoilage caused by mold, air, bacteria, fungi or
yeast. Bacterial contamination can cause food borne illness,
including life-threatening botulism. Antioxidants are
preservatives that prevent fats and oils in baked goods and
other foods from becoming rancid or developing an off-
flavour. They also prevent cut fresh fruits such as apples
from turning brown when exposed to air.
To provide leavening or control
Leavening agents that release acids when heated can react
with baking soda to help cakes, biscuits and other baked
goods to rise during baking. Other additives help to modify
the acidity and alkalinity of foods for proper flavour, taste and
To enhance flavour or impact desired colour: Many spices,
natural and synthetic flavours enhances the taste of foods.
Colours, for instance help to enhance the appearance of certain
foods to meet consumer expectations.
To maintain product consistency and quality: They help to
improve or maintain nutritional value, maintain palatability
and wholesomeness, provide leavening, control pH, enhance
flavor, or provide colour.
Food Additives and Malnutrition
One important risk posed by additives is the loss of the
nutritional value of foods, which can result in inappropriate
diets and subclinical malnutrition. The wide use of food
additives can contribute to malnutrition in the following ways;
the common factor in most foods containing additives is high
salt, sucrose and fat content. Pure sucrose, by definition,
contains literally no nutrients, only calories; fat, on the other
hand, contains few nutrients and is very high in calories. In
addition, foods containing additives are mainly processed
foods, which have lost a substantial proportion of their
nutritional value through the processing procedure (
). Even though some vitamins and/or minerals are
sometimes added to some foods after processing, the ratio of
essential nutrients to calories is usually still quite inadequate,
resulting in a high calorie, but a low nutritional, intake. This
type of diet, because of the high calorie and low nutritional
content, can result in less than optimum nutrition and therefore
subclinical and/or marginal malnutrition (
Effect of Food Additives and Preservatives
The effects of food additives may be immediate or may be
harmful in the long run if one have constant exposure or
accumulations. Immediate effects may include headaches,
change in energy level, and alterations in mental
concentration, behaviour, or immune response (Pandey, and
Upadhyay, 2012). Long-term effects may increase one’s risk
of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other degenerative
conditions. Some modern synthetic preservatives have
become controversial because they have been shown to cause
respiratory or other health problems (Pandey, and Upadhyay,
2012). Some studies point to synthetic preservatives and
artificial colouring agents aggravating ADD & ADHD
symptoms in those affected (Gustafsson et al., 2003).
Parental reports were more accurate indicators of the presence
of additives than clinical tests (ANON, 2004).
preservatives in food or medicine can cause an anaphylactic
1123 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
shock in susceptible individuals, a condition which is often
fatal within minutes without emergency treatment. It is almost
a certainty that few really know what it is, that is part of their
foodstuffs, and yet may present threats and danger. Essentially,
there are two main sources of dangerous or threatening
additives. The first is those that are put in as part of the
processing operation. These include the colourings,
preservatives, flavours and flavour enhancers, sweeteners,
texture agents and processing agents. Details of these must be
included on the labeling and can be identified with a little
knowledge and some attention to the information
provided by the manufacturer. The second source of additives
to our food is from packaging, storing and handling of food
and these informations are not normally included on the label
of the food. Food that has no additives at all is to be preferred,
most especially if it is to be used to feed children. Many
foods available in the market contain different types of
preservatives. These chemicals can give rise to certain health
problems (Abdulmumeen et al., 2012).
Additives consistently maintain the high quality of foods.
Food preservatives are the additives that are used to inhibit
the growth of bacteria, molds and yeasts in the food. Some of
the additives are manufactured from the natural sources such
as corn, beet and soybean, while some are artificial, man-
made additives. Many people are allergic to certain food
additives or colours. When someone has a reaction after
eating certain foods, an allergy is suspected. Unfortunately,
some people do not have a reaction until a day or two later,
so it is difficult to know what is causing the problem. When a
certain food additive is believed to cause an allergic reaction,
the blood is mixed with materials known to trigger allergies.
The test measures the level of allergy antibodies in the blood
that are present with an allergic reaction. Such test for
synthetic additives is not reliable. Thus, people have to go
on an elimination diet. They stop eating all foods that might
be problematic and introduce one at a time to see if a reaction
occurs. It is best to eat a preservative-free diet if at all
possible. The reaction from these additives can be very mild to
life-threatening. They can be immediate or build up in the
body over time. Only in recent years have researchers
seriously considered the physical impact of these additives
over the long term (Pressinger, 1997).
Some Food Additives and Preservatives and their Side-
Some food additives and preservatives have been shown to
have side effects in human and animal model.
Tartrazine: Tartrazine (trisodium 5-hydroxy-1-(4-
carboxylate) is also known as FD&C Yellow no. 5 and E 102.
It is an artificially synthesized azo pigment and its use is
permitted as a colorant in food products, cosmetics and
pharmaceuticals, with a recommended acceptable daily intake
(ADI) of 7.5 mg/kgbw. However long-term and excessive
ingestion of tartrazine may cause a variety of adverse effects
(Amin et al., 2010; Demirkol et al., 2012; Henschler and Wild,
1985; Kashanian and Zeidali, 2011; Soheila, 2011; Soheila and
Sahar, 2011; Tanaka, 2006; Tanaka et al., 2008 and Ward,
1997). Mpountoukas et al. indicated that tartrazine had
genotoxic potential towards human lymphocytes and could
bind directly to DNA (Mpountoukas et al., 2010). Kashanian
et al. also reported similar results and pointed out that
tartrazine was potentially toxic to calf thymus DNA in vitro
(Kashanian and Zeidali, 2011). A study by Tanaka et al.
reported that tartrazine could exert adverse effects on
neurobehavioral parameters (Tanaka et al., 2008), while Gao
et al., indicated that tartrazine could cause neurotoxicity and
deficits in learning and memory in mice and rats (Gao et al.,
2011). Li and co-workers investigated the toxic interaction
between tartrazine and bovine hemoglobin (BHb), and found
that tartrazine had an obvious toxic effect (Li et al., 2013).
Due to this potential toxicity, it is crucial to control the amount
of tartrazine used in food products and it is therefore necessary
to develop analytical methods capable of evaluating the
exposure of the general population to tartrazine. To date,
various methods have been reported for the detection of
tartrazine, such as chromatography (Feng et al., 2011; Khanavi
et al., 2012 and Minioti et al., 2007), spectrophotometry
(Huang et al., 2012; Nevado et al., 1994 and Sahraei et al.,
2013), electroanalytical methods (Ghoreishi et al., 2012;
Medeiros et al., 2012 and Yang et al., 2011 ), and novel
nanosensor detection methods (Gan et al., 2012 and Ghoreishi
et al., 2011). However, most of these methods are expensive,
time consuming or complicated, and therefore not suitable for
routine extensive monitoring of tartrazine. In contrast, an
enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) could be an
ideal alternative technology, due to its high sensitivity, time-
efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Boric Acid: Boric acid (H
) is a boron compound which is
soluble and circulates in plasma (Di Renzo et al., 2007). It is
colourless and water soluble white powder which has been
used as pesticide to kill mites, insects, fungi and algae and also
the fleas, cockroaches, termites and wood decay fungi (Cox,
2004). Boric acid is widely used as food preservative (4gm/L)
in food products like caviar (The ministry of Agriculture of
Turkey, 1997). It is also used for preserving meats, caviar and
dairy products (Arslan et al., 2008) Food colours are water
soluble and are extensively used in almost every type of edible
preparations like soft drinks, foodstuffs, jams and jellies,
sweets, candies, ice creams, sauces and pickles (Hallagan et al,
1995). The possible harmful effect of colouring matters and all
other food additives to foodstuffs are a subject of public
concern. Accordingly there is an increase in application of
legislative control so as to restrict the use of harmful colouring
matters in food and to check certain permitted items which
have not any harmful effect when subjected to rigorous
examination (Tripathi et al., 2007). Boric acid and borates are
toxic to cell (Yiu et al., 2008). Boric acid is harmful to human
health if consumed in higher amounts (See et al., 2010).
However, due to unawareness of the risk of boric acid, it is
continued to be used in many foodstuffs. The similar cytotoxic
behavior of these food additives was also reported by Donbak
et al (2002). It was reported by several workers that boric acid
suppressed the sperm release from the testes and when the
animals were treated with high amount of boric acid; it inhibits
DNA synthesis in sperm cells and hence reduces fertility and it
impairs fertility in male rodents (Cox, 2004).
Curcumin: Clinical trials in human have been used to study
the effects of curcumin on various, including multiple
myeloma, pancreatic cancer, myelodysplastic syndromes,
colon cancer, psoriasis and alzheimer’s disease (Hatcher et al.,
1124 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
2008). In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that curcumin can
have carcinogenic effect (Burgos-Moron et al., 2010; Dance-
Barnes et al., 2009 and Lopez-Lazaro et al., 2008). Clinical
studies in humans with high doses (2-12grams) of curcumin
have shown few side effects, with some subjects reporting
mild nausea or diarrhea (Hsu and Cheng, 2007). Curcumin
have been found to alter iron metabolism by chelating iron and
suppressing the protein hepcidin, potentially causing iron
deficiency in susceptible patients (Jiao et al., 2009). Curcumin
also has embryotoxic and teratogenic effects on zebrafishes
(Daniorerio) embryos (Wu et al., 2007). In vitro and in vivo
studies carried out by Mohamed et al (2011) suggested that
curcumin may cause carcinogenic effects.
Nitrites and Nitrates: The nitrate binds to hemoglobin (the
compound which carries oxygen in blood to tissues in the
body), and results in chemically-altered hemoglobin
(methemoglobin) that impairs oxygen delivery to tissues,
resulting in the blue color of the skin (Knobeloch, 2000).
Exposure to higher levels of nitrates or nitrites has been
associated with increased incidence of cancer in adults, and
possible increased incidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and
nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) tumors in children in some
studies (Sanchez-Echaniz, 2001; Dusdieker, 1994; U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. 1991; Preston-Martin,
1996; Ward, 2000; Pogoda and Preston-Martin, 2001; Sarasua
and Savitz, 1994; McCredie et al., 1994 and Volkmer
et al., 2005). Reduced oxygenation of hemoglobin
(methemoglobinemia) has been reported after exposure to
nitrate and nitrite contaminated drinking water; also called the
“blue baby syndrome” because of the cyanotic (oxygen-
deficient) symptoms that result from the reduced oxygenation
of the blood.
Other health effects following fetal exposure to elevated levels
of nitrates in drinking water included intrauterine growth
retardation (Bukowski et al., 2001), increased incidence of
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (George, et al., 2001),
cardiac defects (Cedergren et al., 2002), and increased risk of
nervous system defects (Croen et al., 2001). Studies have
reported other health effects that are possibly associated with
nitrate exposure in children, including increased incidence of
childhood diabetes (Virtanen et al., 1994), recurrent diarrhea
(Gupta et al., 2001), and recurrent respiratory tract infections
(Gupta et al., 2000). Brain tumors, leukemia, and
nasopharyngeal cancers in children have also been reported
(Preston-Martin et al., 1996; Ward et al., 2000; Pogoda and
Preston-Martin, 2001; Sarasua and Savitz, 1994; McCredie et
al., 1994; Bunin et al., 1994; Bunin et al., 1993; Mueller et al.,
2001; Lubin, et al., 2000 and Law et al., 1999). Maternal
(during pregnancy) or child consumption of nitrite-containing
meats may be associated with increased incidence of brain
tumors in children (Preston-Martin, et al., 1996; Pogoda
and Preston-Martin, 2001; Sarasua and Savitz, 1994;
McCredie et al., 1994).
Annatto: Annatto is safe for most people when used in small
amounts; however, it can cause rare allergic reaction for those
who are sensitive to it (ANON, 2011, Magee, 2011). Annatto
has been linked to cases of food-related allergies (Myles and
Beakes, 2009). In one 1978 study among 61 consecutive
patients suffering from chronic hives and/or angioedemas, 56
patients where orally provoked by annatto extract during the
elimination diet (Mikkelsen et al., 1978). Annatto has
accounted for 40 years of irritable bowel syndrome due to
unrecognized sensitivity to annatto (Floch, 2009). Annatto dye
is a potential rare cause of anaphylaxis (Stein, 2009).
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated
Hydroxyanisole (BHA): Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
and butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) are synthetic
monocyclic phenolic compounds. They are commonly used in
many food formulations as food preservatives for their
antioxidant properties (Aml, 2013). BHA and BHT have been
suspected of inducing health risks such as child hyperactivity,
damage to the lungs, liver, and kidneys, and most importantly,
cancer (Tran, 2013). Research studies have shown that BHA
and BHT can be carcinogenic at high doses and a
concentration greater than 3000 ppm, has been known to
induce forestomach squamous cell carcinomas in rodents
while BHT at 250 mg/kg/day increases spontaneous
neoplasms and tumor-promoting activity (Williams et al.,
1999). BHA can chemically induce tumors in rats’
forestomach (Whysner et al., 1994). BHA and BHT can act as
chemopreventive agents at low doses, but can be carcinogenic
at high doses (Branen, 1975; Williams et al., 1999. Another
study showed that BHA caused forestomach hyperplasia and
cytotoxicity (Ito et al., 1986).
Vinegar: Esophageal injury by applying cider vinegar table
has been reported, and, because vinegar products sold for
medical purposes are neither regulated nor standardized, they
varied widely in content, pH, and other respect (Hill et al.,
2005). Long term heavy vinegar ingestion has one recorded
case of possibly causing hypokalemia, hyperreninemia and
osteoporosis (Lhotta et al., 1998).
Artificial Sweeteners: These contribute to one of the several
side effects of food additives because of their sweet nature
which make them to be used indiscriminately by food
producers and individual as well. Artificial sweeteners
considered in this review include Saccharin, Aspartame,
Sucralose and Neotame.
Saccharin: The safety concerns of consuming products with
saccharin remain even with the removal of the warning.
According to a report written in 1997 by the Center for the
Science in Public Interest (CSPI) in response to the National
Toxicology Program (NTP) removing saccharin from the list
of potential carcinogens, "It would be highly imprudent for the
NTP to delist saccharin. Doing so would give the public a
false sense of security, remove any incentive for further
testing, and result in greater exposure to this probable
carcinogen in tens of millions of people, including children
(indeed, fetuses). If saccharin is even a weak carcinogen, this
unnecessary additive would pose an intolerable risk to the
public. Thus, we urge the NTP on the basis of currently
available data to conclude that saccharin is 'reasonably
anticipated to be a human carcinogen' because there is
'sufficient' evidence of carcinogenicity in animals (multiple
sites in rats and mice) and 'limited' or 'sufficient' evidence of
carcinogenicity in humans (bladder cancer) (Kroger, 2006)
and not to delist saccharin, at least until a great deal of further
research is conducted. Another possible danger of saccharin is
the possibility of allergic reactions. The reaction would be in
response to it belonging to a class of compounds known as
1125 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
sulfonamides, which can cause allergic reactions in individuals
who cannot tolerate sulfa drugs. Reactions can include
headaches, breathing difficulties, skin eruptions, and diarrhea
(Kovacs, 2011). It's also believed that the saccharin found in
some infant formulas and can cause irritability and muscle
dysfunction. For these reasons, many people still believe that
the use of saccharin should be limited in infants, children, and
pregnant women (Hallorsson, 2010). Without research to
support these claims, the FDA has not imposed any
limitations. Bladder cancer associated with saccharin ingestion
was also found to be specific to rodent physiology (Kroger,
Aspartame: Aspartame is one of the most controversial
artificial sweeteners. Aspartame is likely one of many dietary
triggers of migraines in a list that includes cheese, chocolate,
citrus fruits, hot dogs, monosodium glutamate, fatty foods, ice
creams, red wines and beer (Millichap and Yee, 2003).There
are numerous web sites, books, and articles stating various
reasons why aspartame should not be consumed. Some site
studies to support their theories while others base their claims
on industry-related conspiracies. One fact is that aspartame
does get metabolized, meaning that it doesn't get excreted in
the same form that it is when ingested. Aspartame is not
strictly non-caloric (4kcal/g) and is forbidden for people with
phenylketonuria (PKU) (Kroger, 2006). This is the reason why
it can't be consumed by people with the metabolism disorder
PKU. The following is a summary of some of the controversial
dangers of consuming aspartame.
Industry conspiracies: Conflicts of interest in the studies
performed on aspartame and the way in which its approval was
obtained is an ongoing controversy. Dr. Robert Walton
surveyed the studies of aspartame in the peer-reviewed
medical literature 2011 and observed that of the 166 studies
felt to have relevance for questions of human safety, 74 had
Nutrasweet industry (those who make aspartame) related
funding and 92 were independently funded (Kovacs, 2011).
One hundred percent of the research performed by the
company who makes aspartame confirmed aspartame's safety,
whereas 92% of the independently funded research found
problems with consuming aspartame. Other reports of Federal
employees working for the companies responsible for the
testing and distribution of aspartame are cited on all of the
sites and books opposing the use of aspartame (Roberts, 2001).
Aspartame disease: Roberts, H.J. MD, coined the term
"aspartame disease" in a book filled with over 1,000 pages of
information about the negative health consequences of
ingesting aspartame. Dr. Roberts reports that by 1998,
aspartame products were the cause of 80% of complaints to the
FDA about food additives (Roberts, 2001). Some of these
symptoms include headache, dizziness, change in mood,
vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in
vision, diarrhea, seizures/convulsions, memory loss, and
fatigue. Along with these symptoms, links to aspartame are
made for fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains,
numbness in your legs, cramps, tinnitus, joint pain,
unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech,
blurred vision, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, and various
cancers (Raben, 2002). While the FDA has assured us that the
research does not show any adverse health complications from
aspartame, there has been some evidence to suggest that some
of the following symptoms can be related to aspartame.
Headaches: Headaches are the common symptom that is being
reported by consumers (Magnuson et al., 2007). One study
confirmed that individuals with self-reported headaches after
the ingestion of aspartame were indeed susceptible to
headaches due to aspartame. Three randomized double blind,
placebo-controlled studies with more than 200 adult migraine
sufferers showed that headaches were more frequent and more
severe in the aspartame-treated group.
Depression: In a study of the effect of aspartame on 40
patients with depression, the study was cut short due to the
severity of reactions within the first 13 patients tested. The
outcome showed that individuals with mood disorders were
particularly sensitive to aspartame and recommended that it be
avoided by them (Kovacs, 2011).
Sucralose: The presence of chlorine in sucralose is thought to
be the most dangerous component of sucralose. Chlorine is
considered a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gas,
disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics (Kovacs, 2011). The
digestion and absorption of sucralose is not clear due to a lack
of long-term studies on humans. The majority of studies were
done on animals for short lengths of time. The alleged
symptoms associated with sucralose are gastrointestinal
problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), skin irritations
(rash, hives, redness, itching, swelling), wheezing, cough,
runny nose, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods
swings, depression, and itchy eyes (Abou-Donia, 2008). The
only way to be sure of the safety of sucralose is to have long-
term studies on humans done. Splenda is a product that
contains the artificial sweetener sucralose, but that is not all
that it contains. Sucralose does have calories, but because it is
600 times sweeter than sugar, very small amounts are needed
to achieve the desired sweetness so you most likely won't
consume enough to get any calories.
Acesulfame K: The problems surrounding acesulfame K are
based on the improper testing and lack of long-term studies.
Acesulfame K contains the carcinogen methylene chloride.
Long exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches,
depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney
effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans (Kovacs,
2011). There has been a great deal of opposition to the use of
acesulfame K without further testing, but at this time, the FDA
has not required that these tests be done (Yang, 2010).
Neotame: Neotame entered the market much more discreetly
than the other artificial sweeteners. While the web site for
neotame claims that there are over 100 scientific studies to
support its safety, they are not readily available to the public.
Opponents of neotame claim that the studies that have been
done do not address the long-term health implications of using
this sweetener. The chemical similarity that it has to aspartame
may mean that it can cause the same problems that are
associated with that. Without scientifically sound studies done
by independent labs, there is no way to know if this is safe and
for whom it is safe (Betty, 2011).
Safety of a Food Additive
The limit should be established with due importance to
1126 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
Table 1. Some food additives and perservatives that should be avoided
Colour Worldwide Status Where Found Possible Negative Effects References
Banned for use in cosmetics and
external drug, but not food and
ingested drugs in the U.S.
The WashingtonPost, February7,
1990CBS News, June 3,2008
Banned in Norway and
Hyperactivity, asthma, skin
rashes, and migraine
dguide.net/e102.htm. Retrieved 2007FDA,
* Banned in Australia,
Japan, Norway and the U.S.
Restricted to max.
permitted levels in U.K.
Soft drinks Ice
Asthma, rashes and
carcinogen in animals:
implicated in bladder and
liver cancer. Altered
reproduction in animals.
efsa.europa.eu -EFSA updates
safety advice on sixfood colours 091112
Banned in Norway, Sweden and
Finland. Restricted to maximum
permitted levels in U.K.
Sweets Snack foods
AVOID in allergies &
Cancer – DNA damage,
increases tumors in
retardation and severe
weight loss in animals.
Banned in Canada, Japan,
Norway, Austria, Sweden and the
U.S. Restricted to maximum
DNA damage and tumours
Food additives CBC
News. 29 September
Banned in Denmark,
Belgium, France, Germany,
Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and
May worsen or induce
asthma, rhinitis (including
hayfever), or urticaria
UK Food Guide, a
British food additives website.
Last retrieved 20 May 2007
Banned in US, Canada,
Norway, Sweden & Japan.
Restricted to maximum permitted
levels in the UK
Cancer - DNA damage and
tumours in animals. Can
produce bad reactions in
Food And Drug Administration
Compliance Program Guidance
Banned in the U.S. Alcoholic drinks
May worsen or induce
asthma, allergies or hives.
FDA/CFSAN Food Compliance
Program: Domestic Food Safety
Banned in the US, Japan,
Australia and Norway. UK, use
restricted to maximum
May cause nausea,
vomiting, skin rashes, and
brain tumors. DNA
damage and tumors in
United States Food
and Drug Administration
Banned in Austria, Belgium,
France, Norway, Sweden,
Switzerland and Germany.
Restricted to maximum permitted
levels in U.K.
Hyperactivity and skin
rashes. Listed as human
carcinogen by the US EPA.
Causes DNA damage and
tumors in animals
(even some “natural
Aggravates asthma and
suspected to be a neurotoxin
and carcinogen, may cause
fetal abnormalities. worsens
Food Standards Agency
issues revised advice on
certain artificial colours,
Dried fruit Juices
May induce gastric irritation,
nausea, diarrhea, asthma
attacks, skin rashes. Destroys
vitamin B1. Causes fetal
abnormalities and DNA
damage in animals.
Safety Card 0074
May provoke life threatening
Cured meats and
May lower oxygen carrying
capacity of blood; may
combine with other
substances to form
nitrosamines that are
carcinogens; may negatively
affect the adrenal gland.
Safety Card 1069
1127 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
a. The estimated level of consumption of the food product by
the consume world for which the additive is proposed.
b. Finding out minimum levels which would produce
significant deviation from physiological behavior.
c. An adequate margin of safety to reduce any hazard to a
d. Legal control over the use of food additives. This can be
accomplished only when a list of permitted additives exists
with specified safe levels and toxic levels.
e. Stringent labeling on foods i.e., declaring the usage of
additives in food and their quantities.
f. Employing trained food inspectors, food control
laboratories and reliable analytical methods are of utmost
important for regulation / control over usage of food
Safety Evaluation of Food Additives
Under Food additives Amendment two groups of ingredients
are exempted from regulation.
Drinks, low-sugar products,
May temporarily inhibit digestive enzyme
function and may deplete levels of the amino acid
glycine. AVOID with allergies, hives, & asthma.
In the U.S.,
In a vast array of foods
from burgers to biscuits,
from frozen mushrooms to
horseradish. Used to make
old produce look fresh.
May cause bronchial problems, flushing, low
blood pressure, tingling,
and anaphylactic shock. Avoid them if you suffer
from bronchial asthma,
cardiovascular or respiratory problems and
Particularly in fat
BHA/BHT is may be carcinogenic to humans.
BHA also interacts with nitrites to form
chemicals known to cause changes in the DNA of
Drinks, low sugar products,
May temporarily inhibit digestive enzyme
function. May deplete glycine levels. AVOID
inasthma, or allergies.
Safety Card 0103
MSG (E621)* **
Destroys nerve cells in brain and linked with
aggravating or accelerating Huntington's,
Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Causes
cancer, DNA damage and fetal abnormalities in
animals, Increases hyperactivity.
US Air Force
May cause neurological damage, especially in
younger children where brain is still developing.
Breaks down in the body to phenylalanine
(neurotoxin -may cause seizures), aspartic acid
(damage developing brain) and methanol (converts
to formaldehyde). Crosses the lacental barrier from
mother to baby, even in small doses. Implicated in
diseases such as MS and Non- Hodgkin's
Lymphoma. May contribute to obesity.
Causes cancer in animals. Linked to hypoglycemia,
lung tumours, increased cholesterol and leukemia.
May contribute to obesity
May interfere with blood coagulation, blood sugar
levels and digestive function. Causes cancer of the
bladder, uterus, ovaries, skin and blood vessels in
animals. Linked to DNA damage and congenital
abnormalities in animals. May contribute to
candies canned fruits
jams & jellies
Obesity Accelerated aging Insulin resistance
Diabetes mellitus Complications of diabetes Fatty
liver Increased triglycerides Increased uric acid
Chronic diarrhea Irritable bowel syndrome Hives.
*All of these additives are considered the “Dirty Dozen Food Additives” and are prohibited in the UK for foods marketed for children less than 36 months.
**MSG-intolerant people can develop MSG symptom complex, which is characterized by one of more of the following:
• A burning sensation in the back of the neck, forearms and chest.
• Numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back.
• A tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms.
• Facial pressure or tightness, swelling of lips/face
• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
• Headache, nausea, drowsiness
• Bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in MSG-intolerant people with asthma.
SOURCE: Pandey and Upadhyay, (2012)
1128 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
Group I: Prior sanctioned substances that FDA or USDA has
determined safe for use in food prior to 1958 amendment. E.g.,
Sodium nitrate and Potassium nitrate
Group II: It includes GRAS, all the substances approved by
experts as safe based on their extensive history of use in food
before 1958 or based on published scientific evidence. Eg:
Salt, sugar, MSG.
In 1969, President Nixon directed the FDA to update safety
aspects of all GRAS substances on the basis of current
scientific investigations. In 1972 a committee from Federation
of American societies for experimental biology reviewed the
safety of all GRAS substances on the basis of published and
other available information. The committee placed all
reviewed substances in five categories.
Category I: Includes all those additives whose GRAS status
was reaffirmed. This means that the available information
presented no evidence of toxic hazards of the substance in
question. These substances are generally used according to
Category II: It includes those substances whose GRAS status
was reaffirmed at current level of use. This means that the
available information presented no evidence of toxic hazard at
the level of current use and practice.
Category III: Substances whose safety is reaffirmed at the
level of current use and practice. However certain uncertainties
exist so that additional studies are required.
Category IV: Include those substances for which information
is incomplete to “reaffirm safety”. This means evidence of
toxicity has been reported, however the level and manner of
current use the information is insufficient to determine the
effect on public health.
Category V: Those substances for which no biological studies
are available to judge their safety.
Regulations of Food and Perservatives
There are several regulating agencies that determine what must
be added to food and food supplements and the quantities that
they must be added so they will not have deleterious effects on
the consumers. These substances are termed as generally
recognized as safe (GRAS). Each country of the world has its
own regulations though there might be similarities among
them. In Nigeria, for instance, before anything can be added to
food, it must be approved by the National Agency for Food
and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in
conjunction with the Standard Organization on Nigeria (SON).
In Nigeria, the drug and related products (registration, etc.) act
1996 (as amended) and food additives regulation of 2005 of
the NAFDAC gave several regulations that every food and
drugs companies must adhere to or face penalty or sanctions.
These regulations are; Label declaration for substances used as
food additives, Labeling of synthetic colour and mixture of
colours in food, Food additives not to be described falsely,
Food additives to bear certain information, Processing aids and
carry-over of food additives, Prohibition against sale of food
containing non-permitted food additive, Conditions for a
request to add to or change food additive, Restriction on sale,
of baby foods containing food additive, Conditions for
allowing more than one preservative, Ionizing radiation. Some
of the penalties.
In the U.S., food ingredients may either be FDA-approved
food additives or generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Food
packaging manufacturers must prove to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA, 1993) that all materials coming in
contact with food are safe, before they are permitted for use in
such a manner. Food additives were first subjected to
regulation in the United States under the Food and Drug Act of
1906 (Haley, and Lyn, 2010). The act states that a food shall
be deemed adulterated: “If it bears or contains any poisonous
or deleterious substance, which may render it injurious to
health; but in case the substance is not an added substance,
such food shall not be considered adulterated under this
clause if the quantity of such substance in such food does not
Table 2. Some of the permitted gras food additives and tolerances level
Additive Food used
Function Tolerance Level
Al, ca silicate
Table salt Anticaking agent 2.0%
BHA Various foods Antioxidants ≤0.02%
Various foods Antioxidants ≤0.02%
Caffeine Cola type beverages
Ethylformate Baking powder
Flavouring agent 0.05%
Puddings fillings 0.03%
General preservative Antimicrobial GMP
Various food Antimicrobial GMP
Sodium sulphite Various food Antimicrobial GMP
Wines, fruit juices,
Source: Sunitha and Preethi, (2000).
1129 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
ordinarily render it injurious to health” (Food and Drug Act,
1906). Congress passed the Food Additives Amendment,
Section 409 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, in 1958, as
well. This amendment exempts two important groups of
substances from the food additive definition. Those are:
(a) Substances generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among
experts qualified by scientific training and experience to
(b) Substances that either FDA or the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) had sanctioned for use in food prior
to 1958 (so-called “prior sanction” substances). The
amendment does not pertain to pesticides in or on raw
According to current U.S Federal law and regulations, any
substance that is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for a
particular use may be used in food for that purpose without
pre-market approval from FDA. General recognition of safety
(i.e., a GRAS determination) must reflect the views of experts
qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate the
safety of substances directly or indirectly added to food. Those
expert views must be based on “scientific procedures,”
supplemented in the case of substances used in food prior to
1958 by experience based on common use in food. According
to the Code of Federal Regulations, the term “safe” means that
there is reasonable certainty in the minds of competent
scientists that a substance is not harmful under intended
conditions of use (CFR, 2007). The 1958 Food Additives
Amendment forbids the use of any food additive not approved
by FDA, and the agency may only approve additives shown to
be “safe.” The act outlines the requirements for requesting
approval for a food additive (i.e., “Petition to establish safety”)
and details the action to be taken by FDA in dealing with such
a petition. According to Coppens et al., (2006), food
supplements were nationally regulated in the EU until 2002,
when the Food Supplements Directive 2002/46/EC came into
effect. This directive provides a list of the vitamins and
minerals that can be used in the manufacture of food
According to (
the use of food additives has
increased enormously in the last few decades. As the result, it
has been estimated that today about 75% of the Western diet is
made up of various processed foods, each person consuming
an average 8-10lbs of food additives per year, with some
possibly eating even more. The following adverse effects have
been attributed to the consumption of various food additives;
eczema, urticaria, angioedema, exfoliative dermatitis, irritable
bowel syndrome, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, rhinitis,
bronchospasm, migraine, anaphylaxis, hyperactivity and other
behavioural disorders (Smith, 1991). There is also now clear
evidence that the health of the nation in the U.K. has
deteriorated considerably during the last few decades (
. This was found by Dr Michael Wadsworth, when he
compared the health records of over 5000 people born in 1946
to their first-born children a generation later. The survey found
among the new generation a substantial increase in hospital
admissions of children up to the age of four, a tripling of
instances of asthma, a six-fold increase in both eczema and
juvenile diabetes, as well a double increase in obesity
(Wadsworth, 1985). The number of children admitted to
psychiatric hospitals had also raised sharply. The latest official
figures have shown between 1985 and 1990 a 42% rise in
the number of under 10 year olds seen by the psychiatric
services and a 65% increase in children aged between 10
to 14, whilst the admissions of 15 to 19 year old
juveniles to psychiatric hospitals had increased 21%. Even
some children as young as 5 years of age are ending up in
psychiatric wards (Thompson and Pudney, 1990) and
( Gorman, 1993). Crime is also presently on top of the
political agenda. In fact the present rising trend of the criminal
statistics and violence resembles today more of an epidemic
disease, with symptoms including mental disarrangement
combined with a complete lack of any behavioural or
emotional control (Bryce-Smith, 1994). This review paper has
shown that inappropriate nutrition can modify brain function
resulting, in susceptible individuals, in a severe mental
dysfunction, including manifestations of criminal and violent
behaviour. When this happens, several nutritional factors
might be working together; however the following
fundamental dietary factors must be taken into
consideration when confronting anyone displaying an
inappropriate behaviour pattern: is the person concerned
living on a high sucrose, high food additive diet which lacks
an appropriate amount of good protein?
Is the diet completely lacking in foods high in vitamin and
mineral content such as fresh fruits and/or salads? Could the
person have an allergic intolerance to any foods he or she is
consuming regularly? Could the person suffers from a
toxicological burden of heavy metal contamination, such
as lead, cadmium and/or aluminum, and a deficiency of an
essential trace element. It must be stressed that this paper is
most definitely not trying to insinuate that all negative
behaviour manifestations are nutritional in origin, as socio-
political influences certainly do play a part. However, it must
be always remembered that a healthy and non-toxic brain can
usually receive information and process it in an intelligent and
positive manner, as opposed to a malnourished and toxic
brain which simply does not possess the same capability. As
seen from the above, inadequate nutrition and subclinical
malnutrition seem to be two of the basic reasons for a myriad
of physical and mental health problems of today.
This could be easily rectified by reducing the wide use of
non-essential food additives, which in turn would simply
restrict the amount of non-nutritious foods presently on sale,
resulting in a wider uptake of more nutritionally dense foods.
The main excuse of the food manufacturers and the
government officials for the importance of the use of
preservatives is that without them foods would soon spoil.
This argument is indeed quite realistic. However, it is
interesting to note that of the nearly 4000 different additives
currently in use, over 3640 are used purely for cosmetic
reasons and as colouring agents, the preservatives
accounting for less than 2% of all additives when counted by
number or by weight (The London Food Commission,
1988).The other continued reason for the approval of the use
of additives is based on the argument that they are present in
foods on such a minute scale that they must be therefore
completely harmless. This argument may be almost acceptable
regarding additives with a reversible toxicological action.
However, with additives which have been found to be both
1130 Asian Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 6, Issue 02, pp.1118-1135, February, 2015
mutagenic and carcinogenic, neither the human nor animal
body is able to detoxify. Therefore even very minute doses of
these additives, when consumed continuously, will eventually
result in an irreversible toxic burden, resulting finally in
cancer formation and/or in chromosomal and fetal damage.
This is quite unacceptable, particularly as the majority of
these dangerous agents belong to the food colouring group
In order to improve the present situation, the following
recommendations are therefore suggested;
All non-essential food additives should be banned,
particularly all cosmetic agents such as food colourants.
The various regulating agencies should ensure that it is
only those food additives which are generally recognized
as safe (GRAS) that is added to foods.
All foods which include additives with carcinogenic,
mutagenic and teratogenic properties should be clearly
labeled with the appropriate warning.
All food additives should be banned from foods which
may be consumed by infants and young children.
All food additives that are not generally recognized as safe
(Non GRAS) must not exceed the acceptable Daily Intakes
The amount of TV advertising which encourages
children to buy and eat unhealthy junk food should be
vigorously cut down by various regulating agencies as
children are presently surrounded by images promoting
extremely unhealthy eating habits.
All foods that have little or no nutritional value should be
discouraged from all promotions.
Regulating agencies should ensure that Good
Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are adhere to by various
food producing and processing industries
Government should re-introduce free nutritious school
meals, preferably using organic foods, which will be
available to all school-children to discourage them from
patronizing these colourant food additives.
Local Education Authorities should include in their health
education curricula specific lectures stressing the prime
importance of good nutrition in both physical and mental
health of children.
All foods, drinks or medications currently exempt from
declaring additives must in future be required to do so.
This is particularly important and timely in connection
with medicines, as presently there is no legal
requirement by current labeling regulations to oblige the
drug manufacturers to disclose the presence of any of their
pharmacological adjuvants. Adverse reactions to drugs
themselves have been recognized, but the ever-expanding
range of synthetic exipients currently in use can no longer
be considered either inert or non-toxic. In fact it has been
already suggested that adverse reactions to undisclosed
exipients should be always suspected whenever patients
present with recurrent, unexplained symptoms, particularly
allergies (Smith, 1991).
Finally, all young children diagnosed as hyperactive,
including children currently seen by psychiatric services,
should always be screened first for evidence of a possible
food/chemical intolerance as even the simplest dietary
changes i.e. by avoiding foods containing food additives
such as coloured sweets, fizzy and sugary drinks etc., can
bring about a remarkable improvement in their health
and behavior (Bunday and Colquhoun, 1990). It would be
appropriate to suggest that we must now finally insist that
the Government pass a law refusing permission for the
food industries to add continuously into our everyday
foods and beverages demonstrably toxic agents for
cosmetic purposes only. If not for any other reason, at least
in order to protect the health of our significant population
of young children, youths, adolescents and adults, as well
as the health of our future generation because a healthy
nation is a wealthy nation.
This review work has examined the various effects of food
additives and preservatives on man. Additives have been used
for many years to preserve, flavour, blend, thicken and colour
foods, and have played an important and essential role in
reducing serious nutritional deficiencies (Nutrition
Supplement Additives). Additives help to assure the
availability of wholesome, appetizing and affordable foods
that meet consumer’s demands from season to season while
also helping to preserve food from spoilage from
microorganism. Food additives play a vital role in the food
industries, but the various adverse effects associated with them
remain a problem that need to be fought by us. Synthetic food
additives react with the cellular component of the body leading
to the various food disturbances (effects). If we must use food
additives, because of their advantages, they should be the
natural ones which have minimal effects and those that are
generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and in the case of those
not generally recognized as safe (Non GRAS), the acceptable
daily intakes (ADIs) should not be exceeded. To minimize the
risk of developing health problems due to food additives and
preservatives, one should avoid the foods containing these
additives and preservatives. Before purchasing the canned
food, its ingredients should be checked. Purchase only organic
foods, which are free from artificial additives. Although it
may seem difficult to change habits and find substitutes for
foods that one enjoy, remind yourself that you will be adding
to your diet some new wholesome foods that you will come to
enjoy even more. Look for foods that are not packaged and
processed, but enjoy nature’s own bounty of fresh fruits,
vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Find foods that
resemble what they looked like when they were originally
The authors are very grateful to Ositadinma Chinyere Ugbogu
Ph.D, Head of Microbiology Department, Federal University
Wukari, Taraba State, Nigeria for reading through and making
necessary correction to this review work.
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