Bad Ingredients in Food

Food companies use lots of ingredients to extend shelf life, make foods more colorful, even to better the tastes, but some of these ingredients should be avoided. Check out the list WholeFoods has put together of what they call unacceptable food ingredients for more.

Artificial Colors

Adding colors to food make them look more appealing for example kids rather eat rainbow-colored cereals then one that is brown. Almost all colorants approved for use in food are derived from coal tar and may contain up to 10ppm of lead and arsenic. Also, and not surprisingly, most coal tar colors could potentially cause cancer.

Almost every food and drink you can think of contains some food coloring, and even some other non-edible things like hand washes, shampoos, toothpastes and much more. Many candies, drinks, popsicles, puddings, yogurts, gums, baking mixes, pickles, meats, fruits, sauces, chips, vitamins and cough syrups contain dyes such as Yellow #5, Blue #2, and Red #40. Myth: Tartrazine (Yellow #5) lowers sperm count and/or shrink testicles.

Artificial Sweeteners

Just like dyes, FDA required all artificial sweeteners to put labels on all foods after studies linked them to cancer. Artificial sweeteners give food that sugary taste for example Aspartame which is a zero-calorie artificial sweetener made by combing two amino acids with methanol. Most commonly used in diet soda, aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar. Saccharin, another aritificial sweetener, ends up in our bladder in the same form which could cause bladder cancer.

Artificial sweeteners are usually chemically derived and have been linked to migraines, nausea, vomiting, sleep problems, change in heart rate, depression, memory loss, seizures and even cancer. They can be found in carbonated softdrinks, chewable vitamins, sugar-free cough drops, tabletop sweeteners, yogurts and much more.


This chemical is a yellow-orange, oderless powder which is used for production of foamed plastics. Azodicabonamide as a blowing agent in plastics that are intended to come in contact with foods has been banned in Europe. Although the FDA has approved its use for food in the States, the United Kingdom has labeled it a potential cause of asthma. In a review of 47 studies on azodicarbonamide, the World Health Organization concluded that it triggers asthmatic symptoms and promote allergies. The WHO concluded, “exposure levels should be reduced as much as possible.” This chemical can be found in bagels and burger buns.

Bleached White Flour

Bleached white flour refers to wheat flour milled from the endosperm of wheat berries. The germ and the bran of the wheat berries have been removed leaving only the endosperm which is almost entirely carbohydrate. Bleached flour has less protein and the carbohydrate in it not only lacks nutrients but it is so simple that it metabolizes in the same way as sugar. Bleached white flour has the same affect on the body as sugar, rapid rise in blood sugar level. It also causes the blood to become acidic and over time that can lead to many serious health problems like arthrosclerosis, hardening of the arteries which leads to different types of heart problems. Acidic blood also makes it easy for cancer to grow because cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment. This type of flour is used in breads, cakes and many other baking goods.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

This common additive is used to prevent oxidation in a wide variety of foods and cosmetics is also used in jet fuels, rubber petroleum products, transformer oil and embalming fluid. As if this were not enough, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) warns that BHT should not be allowed to enter the environment, can cause liver damage, and is harmful to aquatic organisms. It can cause damage to DNA in somatic cells that can come in contact with it. The Department of Health and Human Services says BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," yet the FDA allows it to be used anyway. BHT is considered less dangerous, but in animal research, it too has resulted in cancer. Oddly, the chemicals aren’t even always necessary; in most cases they can be replaced with vitamin E. This additive can be found mainly in Cereals, but also other non-edibles like body oil, facial cleanser, and moisturizing lotions amongst others.


It is a thickener and emulsifier extracted from seaweed. Seaweed is actually good for you, but carrageenan is a mere seaweed byproduct. Through animal studies, it has been linked to cancer, colon trouble, and ulcers.

Carrageenan is used in desserts, beer, soy milk, ice cream, cream, milkshakes, salad dressings, diet sodas, and sauces. It is also used in Toothpaste, shampoo and cosmetics, and pet foods.

Enriched Flour

Like most highly processed foods, enriched flour is devoid of nutrients and more often than not it is also bleached. Since the wheat germ and bran are removed from this type of flour, the body treats it as a refined starch. But it doesn’t end here. The “enrichment” itself is made using toxic ingredients. For example, iron is added back into enriched flour. Unfortunately, food makers use a metallic form of iron that your body can barely absorb and should not be ingested.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Compared to traditional sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup costs less to make, is sweeter to the taste, and mixes more easily with other ingredients. Today, we consume nearly 63 pounds of it per person per year in drinks and sweets, as well as in other products. Loaded with “unbound” fructose and glucose molecules, studies have shown that the reactive carbonyl molecules can cause tissue damage that may lead to obesity, diabetes, and also heart disease. HFCS is made from genetically modified corn and processed with genetically modified enzymes. To make matters worse, studies have recently revealed that nearly half of tested samples of HFCS contained mercury. High-fructose corn syrup is in many frozen foods. It gives bread a brown color and soft texture, so it’s also in whole-wheat bread, hamburger buns, and English muffins. It is in beer, bacon, spaghetti sauce, soft drinks, and even ketchup. To spot fructose on a food label, look for the words “corn sweetener,” “corn syrup,” or “corn syrup solids” as well as “high-fructose corn syrup.”

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

It is very important for your bone health and your overall health that you avoid these acidifying chemicals that can cause a variety of undesirable side effects, besides accelerate your bone loss. MSG and its related products have been linked to skin rashes, nausea, migraine headaches, heart irregularities, and even seizures.

The salt of the amino acid glutamic acid, used to enhance the savory quality of foods. MSG alone has little flavor, and exactly how it enhances other foods is unknown. After forty years of scrutiny, research has yet to reach a definitive verdict on MSG. Studies have shown that injecting the amino acid into mice causes brain-cell damage, but the FDA believes these results are not typical for humans. Still, the administration fields complaints every year for nausea, headaches, chest pains, and weakness. MSG can be found in packaged foods, sauces and seasonings, restaurant foods and fast foods and snacks. Even a restaurant salad would have MSG in the croutons, dressings, meats or cheese. Most dairy products are likely to contain MSG and it is also used as a treatment method for crop growers to spray on fruits and vegetables as they grow. It is a sad truth but almost all baby formulas and foods also contain MSG. Textured soy protein concentrate, carrageenan, maltodextrin, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, modified cornstarch are all basically different names to hide ingredients that either contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) or form MSG during processing.

Nitrates and Nitrites

Sodium nitrates and nitrites are chemical compounds commonly found in meat products like bacon and hot dogs, according to Nitrates and nitrites can affect the way your body uses sugar and may increase the risk of diabetes and colorectal cancer. They’re commonly used to cure processed meats.

In addition to concerns about cancer, increased nitrate and nitrite intake has been linked to deaths in Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s patients. Despite the risks, the valuable use of nitrates and nitrites as inhibitors of botulism warrant their acceptance as food additives in the eyes of the FDA.


A fat substitute synthesized by Procter & Gamble. Because human digestive enzymes can’t break down the big molecules, Olestra contributes 0 calories to your diet. There is no warning-label mandated. Olestra also appears to interfere with the body’s ability to absorb some crucial nutrients like beta-carotene and lycopene. To counteract the effect, processers add some nutrients back, but it’s unlikely that all the blocked nutrients are adequetly replaced.


Parabens are used to prevent mold and yeast formation in food, and they’re also used in cosmetics, toothpaste, and personal lubricant. Although they exist in nature, the parabens used in commercial products are created synthetically. It’s been documented that parabens act as mild estrogens, and according to the Environmental Working Group, they can disrupt the natural balance of hormones in your body. In a Japanese study, male rats fed propyl paraben daily for four weeks suffered lower sperm and testosterone production, and other studies have found parabens present in breast cancer tissues.

Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Partially hydrogenated oils (which are often found in cake mixes, peanut butter and baked goods) can decrease good cholesterol levels, are linked to heart disease and are hard for the body to dissolve.

Partially hydrogenated fats are the principle sources of trans fat in the American diet, and a Harvard study estimated that trans fat causes 70,000 heart attacks every year. The good news: Partially hydrogenated oils are beginning to slowly retreat from our food. Progressive jurisdictions like New York City are starting to restrict the allowable amounts in restaurants, and many chains are switching to healthier frying oil. At Long John Silver’s, for example, there are still 17 menu items with more than 2 grams of the stuff. According to the American Heart Association, that’s about the maximum you should consume in a single day.

Potassium Bromate

It is a compound that conditions flour and helps bread puff up during baking. Potassium bromate causes thyroid and kidney tumors in rats, and it’s banned from food use in many countries.

In California, products containing potassium bromate are required to carry a cancer warning. Fortunately, negative publicity has made the additive relatively rare, but until the FDA banishes it, you should remain on the lookout.

Propylene Glycol Alginate (E405)

This food thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier is derived from alginic acid esterified and combined with propylene glycol. Bear in mind that even though propylene glycol is used as a food additive, it has many industrial uses including automotive antifreezes and airport runway de-icers.

It can produce stomach upset and nausea, whether it’s ingested or used on the skin as a cosmetic. When it is only used cosmetically, it can cause allergic reactions that include hair loss, rashes, and eye irritations. Cosmetic use is the most common cause of side effects. Other skin-related allergies can occur when household cleaners that contains this ingredient are used. It is unclear if this chemical additive should be used by expectant mothers because it is thought to be a teratogen, which means that it might cause birth defects. Because it is easily absorbed into the skin, it is thought that exposure can cause damage to the kidneys as well as the liver. High doses can cause seizures in children. Despite these potential problems, propylene glycol alginate is one of the most commonly used chemical additives. Most types of gel-like foods, including yogurt, jellies and jams, ice cream, and salad dressing, contain this additive. Certain condiments and chewing gum also contain it, as do some kinds of cosmetics.

Refined Grains

Choosing refined grains such as white bread, rolls, sugary low-fiber cereal, white rice, or white pasta over whole grains can boost your heart attack risk by up to 30 percent. Don’t be fooled by deceptive label claims such as “made with wheat flour” or “seven grain.” Or by white-flour breads topped with a sprinkling of oats, or colored brown with molasses. Often, they’re just the same old refined stuff that raises risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks, insulin resistance, diabetes, and belly fat.

At least seven major studies show that women and men who eat more whole grains (including dark bread, whole-grain breakfast cereals, popcorn, cooked oatmeal, brown rice, bran, and other grains) have 20 to 30 percent less heart disease. In contrast, those who opt for refined grains have more heart attacks, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Read the ingredient list on packaged grain products. If the product is one of those that are best for you, the first ingredients should be whole wheat or another whole grain, such as oats. The fiber content should be at least 3 grams per serving.


Three-quarters of the sodium in our diets isn’t from the saltshaker. It’s hidden in processed foods, such as canned vegetables and soups, condiments like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, fast-food burgers, fries, and cured or preserved meats like bacon, ham, and deli turkey. Some sodium occurs naturally in unprocessed edibles, including milk, beets, celery, even some drinking water. And that’s a good thing: Sodium is necessary for life. It helps regulate blood pressure, maintains the body’s fluid balance, transmits nerve impulses, makes muscles — including your heart — contract, and keeps your senses of taste, smell, and touch working properly. You need a little every day to replace what’s lost to sweat, tears, and other excretions.

What happens when you eat more salt than your body needs? Your body retains fluid simply to dilute the extra sodium in your bloodstream. This raises blood volume, forcing your heart to work harder; at the same time, it makes veins and arteries constrict. The combination raises blood pressure. Your limit should be 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, about the amount in three-fourths of a teaspoon of salt. (Table salt is 40 percent sodium, 60 percent chloride.) Older people should eat even less, to counteract the natural rise in blood pressure that comes with age. People over 50 should strive for 1,300 mg; those over 70 should aim for 1,200 mg. Only the “Nutrition Facts” panel on a food package will give you the real sodium count. Don’t believe claims on the package front such as “sodium-free” (foods can still have 5 mg per serving); “reduced sodium” (it only means 25 percent less than usual); or “light in sodium” (half the amount you’d normally find).

Sodium Benzoate/Caffeine

Sodium benzoate is a chemical preservative that is used to prevent the growth of bacteria in foods like jams, fruit pies and soft drinks. “It can also deprives our cells of oxygen and weakens the immune system”.

Some symptoms of overdose include fainting, fever, hallucinations, thirst, trouble sleeping, wrinkled skin, dry mouth, dizziness, confusion, chest pain and discomfort.

Soybean Oil

More than half of all soybeans crops grown in the US are genetically-modified (GMO) representing a meteoric rise since 1996, when only 7% were GMO soybeans. Genetically modified crops not only pose environmental dangers. There is a growing concern (and mounting scientific evidence) that genetic engineering of food plant seeds may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health.

They can cause unpredictable allergies, toxins, antibiotic resistant diseases, and natritional problems. To read some other problems that are caused by GMO click here.


Sulphites are food additives used to preserve food color and prolong shelf life in many food products including canned fruits, frozen fries and soy products. Sulphites can cause allergic reactions and flushed faces and swelling of the eyes, face, tongue among others. Humans have used sulfites to keep food fresh for thousands of years, but some people—especially asthma sufferers—experience breathing difficulties when exposed. In the 1980s, unregulated use resulted in at least a dozen deaths, prompting the FDA to slap warning labels on wine bottles and develop new guidelines for proper use. Now restaurants can no longer soak fresh ingredients in sulfites. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, there have been no known deaths since the new legislation took hold.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are in moist bakery muffins and crispy crackers, microwave popcorn and fast-food French fries, even the stick margarine you may rely on as a “heart-healthy” alternative to saturated-fat-laden butter.

Once hailed as a cheap, heart-friendly replacement for butter, lard and coconut oil, trans fats have been denounced by one Harvard nutrition expert as “the biggest food-processing disaster in U.S. history.” Research now reveals trans fats are twice as dangerous for your heart as saturated fat, and cause an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 premature heart disease deaths each year. Trans fats are worse for your heart than saturated fats because they boost your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol. That’s double trouble for your arteries. And unlike saturated fats, trans fats also raise your levels of artery-clogging lipoprotein and triglycerides. Check the ingredient list for any of these words: “partially hydrogenated,” “fractionated,” or “hydrogenated” (fully hydrogenated fats are not a heart threat, but some trans fats are mislabeled as “hydrogenated”). The higher up the phrase “partially hydrogenated oil” is on the list of ingredients, the more trans fat the product contains. Replacing trans fats with good fats could cut your heart attack risk by a whopping 53 percent.