Additives are substances that are added to food with the aim of keeping it in good condition or improving its smell, taste or color. The big question parents ask ourselves is: are they toxic? Should they be avoided? Be careful because some of them, in high doses, can be related to the appearance of cancer or cases of hyperactivity in children. Take out a pencil and paper because below we will tell you the most dangerous food additives in children's products.
According to the laws established in the European Union, manufacturers of products intended for food, whether children or not, are obliged to issue information regarding all the additives that their products contain. In general, this information is found in the list of ingredients in two ways, first, explaining what is the function of the additive in question (antioxidants, colorants, preservatives, stabilizers ...) and, second, with its name and / or its corresponding numbering .
The E at the beginning of the numbering of each additive ensures that the European Union has thoroughly studied the compound (in vitro and in vivo studies, tolerance studies, safety, tolerated daily amounts and / or recommended for consumption ...) for its potential use in food.
Subsequently, and after these analyzes, if the additive has passed the safety controls that the European Union requires for its use in the food industry, it is determined in which areas of it (dairy products, meat, canned goods, bread and pastries ...) such additive can be used. In these cases the additive becomes approved by the EU for use in these foods. However, assigning an E number to an additive does not ensure that it has been approved - or will be approved - for use in the EU.
Additives can be of natural or artificial origin, and within the natural ones, they can come from animals or plants. That an additive is of natural origin does not make it safer than that of artificial origin or vice versa, each case deserves its individual study and, as science advances, it will probably need to be revised to be updated.
There are some additives, which despite being considered safe according to the EU, have been more or less significantly related to health problems. Let's see which are the ones that can be potentially dangerous:
There are 6 dyes that have been directly related to the appearance or increase of hyperactivity episodes in children. These colorants are yellow twilight E110, quinoline yellow E104, carmoisine E122, allura red E129, tartrazine E102, ponceau 4R E124.
All these colorants are widely distributed and in a great variety of very attractive foods for the little ones, from dairy desserts (custards, yogurts, smoothies ...) to juices and soft drinks, without forgetting candies, sweets or salty snacks (worms, potatoes and even some nuts).
Although the relationship has been scientifically proven, not all cases of consumption of these dyes lead to hyperactivity, nor can it be assumed that the onset of hyperactivity is due, exclusively, to the consumption of these dyes, so the restriction of these dyes does not ensure the disappearance of hyperactivity symptoms.
However, and although most of these colorants are still considered safe in small doses, it is recommended avoid these additives as much as possible during childhood. In fact, today, the number of products that contain these colorants has decreased drastically compared to those that were marketed in the past and, in general, the products that contain them usually carry a warning in this regard.
There are some preservatives that have been revealed in some studies to be potentially carcinogenic or carcinogenic. For example, E320 or Butylhydroxyanisole It is a potentially carcinogenic preservative that is prohibited in infant feeding in Australia, although it is permitted in the EU. It can be found in many products, mainly in pre-fried frozen foods (potatoes, croquettes, fish sticks ...), biscuits and breakfast cereals, nuts, dairy drinks and in jelly beans and other sweets.
The nitrites and nitrates (E249-E252) They are another of the preservatives that should be avoided, since they are transformed in the stomach into nitrosamines, potentially carcinogenic. They are used in meat products such as sausages and salted meats, and their consumption in childhood, especially before 12 months, can also lead to methemoglobinemia, a type of anemia in which hemoglobin is affected, preventing oxygen transport and its distribution to the body's organs, with the seriousness that this may lead to.
Other preservatives have adverse effects related to possible hypersensitivity to the product. The hexamethylenetetramine (E239), For example, which is used as a preservative in fish and shellfish, it can lead to allergic reactions and hives in sensitive people and, although there is insufficient evidence because the observation has been made only in animals and with extremely high concentrations, it could be potentially carcinogenic if the daily amounts authorized by the EU are exceeded.
Similarly, the benzoic acid (E210) and all benzoates (E211-219), which are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms in pastries, pastries and precooked items (potato omelettes, gazpachos ...), have side effects along the same lines. However, when combined in large amounts with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C, E300), they can generate a carcinogenic compound, so it would be advisable to avoid the combination of both.
Some preservatives are even more controversial, since their dangerousness is warned by renowned organizations. For example, boric acid and its derivatives (E284, 285), which can be found in canned fish, are allowed in some EU countries despite being considered unacceptable as food additives by the World Health Organization. They are related to the appearance of liver cancer in experimental animals.
The carrageenans, E407, are a compound of natural origin considered harmless for years. However, relatively recent studies in animals have revealed that they can seriously affect the gastrointestinal tract (ulcers, weakness of the intestinal wall or mineral malabsorption) as well as favor the growth of tumors when consumed in amounts higher than those recommended by the EU.
In addition, it can slow down the growth of both the child and the fetus if it is a pregnant woman who consumes it in high quantities. This additive is used as a stabilizer in many dairy products such as custards, custards, smoothies, ice creams, cheeses, as well as in jams and jellies and also in meat products such as cold cuts (mortadella, chopped, turkey breast, sausages ...). Currently there are many companies that have decided to start avoiding its use, especially in foods intended for use in children.
In this section we find the E385 or EDTA (ethylenediaminetetracetic acid), a compound with a chelating effect, that is, capable of retaining minerals and preventing their absorption - it facilitates their expulsion via faeces, so the body cannot use them - but which in large doses can cause gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea and vomiting and, even clotting problems. This additive is found in sauces like mayonnaise, as well as legumes and other blunt vegetables.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame (E951) or acesulfame-k (E950) are used as sugar substitutes because they sweeten without adding extra calories. However, in animal studies, both neurological and potentially carcinogenic side effects have been observed. In small doses, they can cause headaches that can be quite serious if consumption is prolonged and continuous. They are used in low calorie, light or 0% products, both in drinks and in cookies or pastries.
It should be added that some lists that circulate with potentially dangerous additives They contain some that are not approved by the EU for use in food products, either because they have recently been banned as food use or because their use was never suitable for the food industry.
In addition, it is necessary to add that, although these additives are allowed in certain products, not all the brands that sell these products contain them, so, if you want to avoid them, it will be necessary to carefully examine the list of ingredients to find out which brand or brands of the product we are looking for is exempt from the potentially dangerous additive.
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