Reasons for and against the use of food additives


  1. Food additives keep food safe by lengthening the shelf life.
    • Many foods are kept safe to eat for longer through the use of preservatives (e.g., meat). These additives protect consumers from food-borne illnesses through limiting the growth of harmful bacteria. This allows foods to be kept on a shelf for longer and helps reduce waste.
  2. Food additives can make foods more appealing by enhancing the flavour, colour or texture.
    • Manufacturers may add flavour enhancers, sweeteners, colours or thickeners to a food to make it more enjoyable for consumers by improving the final look and feel of the product.
  3. Food additives can enrich foods and improve or maintain nutritional value
    • Some foods have additives added which improve the nutritional composition of the product. For example, by adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to a food.


  1. Food additives have been linked with adverse health effects such as cancer and allergic reactions.
    • There are some additives that have controversial research linking them with carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties. For example, sodium nitrite, used to preserve meat has been linked to increased levels of bowel cancer.
  2. Food additives have been linked with affecting some children's behaviour and health.
    • Some food colourings and preservatives have been linked to hyperactivity in children when consumed in extremely high quantities.
    • Some food additives have been related to headaches and migraines in children, as they are more sensitive to certain substances than adults.
  3. Food additives can make food products appear 'better' than they are.
    • Additives such as bulking agents or flavour enhancers may be added to lower quality food products to make them appear more attractive to consumers.
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