scanning a label for food additives with a magnifying glass

Food Additives – for better or for worse

There are so many food additives these days. Most of them are numbers or big words that we cannot pronounce. So what are all of these things, why are they in our food and are they safe?

What are food additives?

Food additives are chemicals (natural or manufactured) that are added to our foods and generally fit into one of the following categories:

  • colours
  • preservatives/antioxidants
  • flavours/flavour enhancers
  • artificial sweeteners
  • thickeners/stabilisers/emulsifiers
  • others

Are food additives safe?

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is the organisation that governs the use of food additives. Extensive testing is done to ensure that food additives are safe for human consumption. But what about the cumulative effect?

“Most food additives are tested in isolation, rather than in combination with other additives. The long-term effects of consuming a combination of different additives are currently unknown.”

FSANZ recognises that some individuals may be sensitive to food additives and could experience any of the following food intolerance symptoms:

  • rashes and swelling of the skin, asthma, and stuffy or runny nose
  • irritable bowel symptoms, colic, bloating, and diarrhoea
  • migraines, headaches, lethargy, and irritability.

Can additives cause ADHD symptoms?

I am sure you have been to a children’s birthday party and witnessed the hyperactivity after a celebration of lollies, cake and cordial. We all know that party food has this effect on the kids, but is it just the sugar-rush? Or could it be the artificial colours, flavours and preservatives that are abundant in these foods too? If so, additives are in most foods, so could the regular consumption of these chemicals be contributing to your child’s ADHD symptoms?

Many people will argue that there is no solid evidence that food additives cause ADHD behaviours. However, many families have reported an improvement in ADHD symptoms as a result of avoiding particular food additives, especially artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

Avoiding food additives is not going to do your child any harm, so if you suspect that they may be contributing to your child’s symptoms, it may be worth an additive-free trial.

How can I find out more?

  • Check out this list of food additives to avoid
  • Check out “The Chemical Maze” website, book and phone app
  • Start reading the labels of the foods that you buy and make simple swaps


I’m planning to do a blog post on each of the food additive categories (colours is available now), to provide you with even more information about food additives and what the research has to say.

Have you explored this option? Did it help? I would love to hear your stories.

Until next time,


*Photo: Adapted from Getty Images. Sourced:,,20439038,00.html

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *