Ingredients To Avoid

With growing attention on food additives and chemicals, many parents are becoming more conscience about what they feed their children and what they eat as well.


Chemicals are found in most foods that we eat. The most common ones prevent food from spoiling as well as added fortifiers according to Dr. Raquel Hernandez, MD, MPH, director of medical education at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But with all of the chemicals in our food, how do we know what is good and what is bad, especially when the label says “all natural”?


Most Common Additives

The most common food additives include salt, vitamins C and E, compound sugars, BHA and BHT. BHA and BHT are added to prolong the shelf life of foods. Vitamin fortifiers are safe and are added because it has been determined that children are not getting enough of some nutrients in their regular diet. BHA and BHT are used to prevent oils in food from oxidizing, which can affect flavor and color of foods and makes them able to withstand room temperature without spoiling.

Despite being labeled an anticipated carcinogen, the data from current studies regarding BHA and BHT are inadequate to 100% link BHA to cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.


When it comes to additives consumers should take note of, many are easily recognizable. Enhanced salts and sugars are the worst,” Dr. Hernandez says. “On labels, sugars are reported as carbohydrates. … There are hidden sugars and salts in almost everything. Parents are so busy looking for organic foods, but sugar and salt are hitting us right in the face.”


Which Additives Do We Need To Look Out For?


Artificial Colors (in sweets, drinks, takeaways, cereals and many processed foods)

102 tartrazine,

104 quinoline yellow,

107 yellow 2G,

110 sunset yellow,

122 azorubine,

123 amaranth,

124 ponceau red,

127 erythrosine,

128 red 2G,

129 allura red,

132 indigotine,

133 brilliant blue,

142 green S,

151 brilliant black,

155 chocolate brown Natural color,

160b annatto (in yogurts, ice creams, popcorn, etc.  160a is a safe alternative)



Preservatives200-203 sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)

210-213 benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, cordials, syrups, medications)

220-228 sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and many others)

280-283 propionates (in bread, crumpets, bakery products)

249-252 nitrates, nitrites (in processed meats like ham)

Synthetic antioxidants – in margarines, vegetable oils, fried foods, snacks, biscuits, etc

310-312 Gallates 319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT (306-309 are safe alternatives)

Flavor enhancers – in flavored crackers, snacks, takeaways, instant noodles, soups 621 MSG 627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides

Table compiled by Sue Dengate, author of the bestselling book and film ‘Fed Up: Understanding how food affects your child and what you can do about it.’

10 AddiDon’ts

Avoid products with these ingredients.

  1. Artificial sweeteners (aspartame)
  2. BHA and BHT
  3. Food dyes (blue, yellow, red)
  4. High fructose corn syrup
  5. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  6. Potassium bromate
  7. Sodium nitrate and nitrite
  8. Sodium sulfite
  9. Sulfur dioxide
  10. Trans fat




Irritability, temper outbursts, oppositional defiance, restlessness and difficulty falling asleep are the main behavioral effects of additives. But parents rarely realize that food chemicals can be associated with many other effects including arguing with siblings, making silly noises, speech delay, anxiety, depression or difficulty concentrating. Additive-free children are generally calmer, happier and more cooperative.


For more information on what to look for when you are shopping for your family’s food, visit and Food Matters.


By Angela Ardolino of Parenting with Angela,