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10 Preservatives to Avoid

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Watch out for these additives in family dinners.

Another thing to make us second guess our eating habits: An article posted on MSN
that reminded us of the dangers of food additives. Here's our list of which ones to watch out for...

Sodium Nitrate

This is reportedly the worst one. It's used to preserve color in foods and to flavor some of our favorite meat products--bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef. Turns out grilling these meats can make them even worse for you. It transforms into a reactive compound that is shown to cause cancer.


These preserve common foods that we eat every day--cereals, chewing gum, potato chips and vegetable oils. They keep fats and oils from going bad.

Propyl Gallate

The oils that have been sitting in your cupboard for up to a year have propyl gallate in them. It's used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling.

Monosodium Glutamate aka MSG

This is a common one that most people already try to avoid. It's an amino acid that's generally found in Asian foods, soups, salad dressings, chips, and frozen entrees. MSG can cause headaches and nausea, which is why so many people avoid it.

Trans Fats

Another common preservative that most people know about. Manufacturers are required to list the amount of trans fats in any given food.

Aspartame, aka NutraSweet/Equal

Check your diet foods for these. You may think you're being healthy, but you could be doing yourself more harm than good. If you can't do without, try using real sugar in your coffee--in moderation, of course.


A new artificial sweetener used in soft drinks, baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts. It's not a big concern if used in moderation.

Food Coloring

Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; Yellow 6: Blue 1 and 2 are a low risk, but Red 3, Green 3, and Yellow 6 are dangerous. Found in fruit cocktail, candy, beverages, and baked goods, they are known to cause thyroid tumors in rats and have been linked to bladder cancer.


A synthetic fat that stops fat from absorbing into the digestive system. The outcome leads to a very upset stomach. Olestra can be found in potato chips.

Potassium Bromate

This is the rarest of preservatives, but still legal in the states. It's used to increase the volume in breads. The smallest amount of bread could put you at risk--the best thing to do is read labels. California requires that a cancer warning label be put on any product that has this ingredient.

How much do you think about the chemicals that are in the foods you feed your family?

next: The Marital Itch
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Brooke Martin June 23, 2008, 6:38 PM

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anamcara1004 June 24, 2008, 6:42 PM

High fructose corn syrup (really any kind of corn syrup) is something we avoid in our house (and it’s not easy, let me tell you). It’s not natural at all, despite it’s name - HFCS is 100% man made. The concept behind it is it makes your brain think it is hungry, despite how your belly feels.

Start reading labels and you will be surprised where you find it (soups, most salad dressings, salsas).

Anonymous July 10, 2008, 10:22 AM

I am constantly on the look out for these nasty preservatives in foods. They are pretty much unavoidable in processed foods here in the States. The US needs to do more with it’s food labelling laws to ensure that all artificial preservatives and colors are listed.
It is so scary what we feed our children today (mostly without knowing it). Read people, read labels, do you know what you are eating and how every little preservative adds up? Next time your child is climbing walls, or can’t concentrate for more than a minute, or you have headaches, or you can’t shift those pounds - ask yourself what have we eaten recently? I am convinced these artificial additives have lots to answer for in the way of poor physical and mental health and weight gain.
Don’t even get me started on HFCS!

Kelly-Ann Fox September 21, 2009, 12:24 AM

My son, he is 3 years old. He had a reaction to the red dye color 124? Can you send more info about this dye because it not listed on your web site. And any other preservatives and colors that involve red. Need help. Thank you.

Anonymous September 28, 2009, 8:14 PM

@Kelly-Ann Fox

Do you mean the red dye “E124”?
It goes by the names: {Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet 4R}
It is currently banned by the USDA, so I wouldn’t worry too much, but check foreign foods.

However, if your kid is allergic to E124, he may be allergic to FD&C Red #40, which is similar. (Not to be confused with FD&C Red #3, which has little similarity, and your kid probably isn’t allergic to.)

Regardless, I hope you aren’t just taking medical advice from the interwebs, and actually went to an Allergy Specialist, where the doctor could give you more information and properly diagnose him.

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