Both the University of Washington and the American Academy of Pediatrics are speaking out against food additives in a bid to encourage the FDA to reevaluate the effects of such additives on children. Many of these additives are included in processed foods to ensure the longevity of the product and alter the appearance of meals to make them seem more appetizing. Food additives have been a factor in processed food since the 1950s, but as these new developments are made, exposing their detrimental effects, Congress needs to stress the regulation of these chemicals through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and begin taking steps towards eliminating any potentially harmful chemicals in children’s products.

Background Information

Though there is a list of food additives that is said by the FDA to be safe for production, “there are few clinical studies” to “assess [its] degree of risks.” The FDA has yet to test some of the additives that are prevalent in processed food, posing the concerning question: is our food safe to eat? The testing of such additives have been made on animals, but not specifically humans; it is known that some additives are harmful, but to what extent is uncertain. The reason is primarily due to the rapid manufacturing of products in our world of evolving technology, which calls for a faster output and results in a less thorough examination by the FDA.

Certain substances have been approved for consumption due to “long-standing use,” and others are “designated as GRAS (generally accepted as safe).” GRAS foods are thus not examined, and though they generally are safe for consumption, their effects are still unknown. According to an article written by Dr. Vilma Ruddock, GRAS substances are —for the most part— decided upon by the food industry, whose main goal is to produce as much product as they can in exchange for more money. This results in them informing the FDA of what additives they believe are safe, but have no proof of them being so. This subjectivity towards the food industry allows for an oversight of food additives, enabling the mass production of potentially unsafe products to be consumed by the public.

What Additives Are Harmful?

An example of a substance that has been produced despite being determined as unfit for consumption through animal testing is Eugenol. This chemical is “used in chewing gum, soda, and other processed foods,” yet had been seen to cause “liver cancer in rats.” Even though this reveals an upsetting finding, the FDA simply continued its use after claiming that a smaller dosage would suffice. As seen here, the apparent oversight of such food additives in products that the public purchase daily may pose risks to a consumer’s health. Many substances that have been proven to have potential risks when consumed in large doses are still being approved by the FDA, as long as they are produced in smaller doses. However, we may still develop health problems from these chemicals due to the sheer amount of processed meals we now consume.

To address the potential effects of additives on children, the University of Washington (UW) conducted a study to alert people about the detrimental effects that may result with certain processed foods. For example, nitrates/nitrites, which are “used to preserve food and enhance color,” have been known to obstruct “blood from moving oxygen” within “the body,” as well as “interfere with thyroid hormone production.” Not only do these additives produce such effects, but they have also been related to “gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers.” Another common food additive is artificial food coloring, which, according to the UW study, has been found to aggravate symptoms of ADHD in children.


The FDA needs to take into consideration the effects of some food additives they are approving without a second thought. Because of such an intense production industry where foods are massed produced, the FDA has been failing to thoroughly and accurately evaluate certain food additives. To combat this, the FDA needs to stress the importance of properly examining food additives before they are incorporated into consumer products. Companies need to begin taking responsibility for their products; once consumers realize that food additives are being revealed as unhealthy, problems may arise and the food companies and the FDA will ultimately be at fault. Only when the food industry realizes the effects of such high amounts of food additives in their mass produced goods will the problem truly be addressed. Consumers, in an effort to avoid such food additives, may educate themselves about those that may pose the most harm, and stray away from products that contain them.


The food industry’s reliance on food additives to enhance the flavor or production of processed meals has created a problem for such goods. As it is beginning to be revealed that not all food additives are safe for consumption, consumers need to become aware of the effects of these additives, and food companies should consider the effects of their processed foods on the public.


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