Diana Mirkin

What are food additives?
Anything that doesn't occur naturally in a particular food is 
considered an additive. Many of these substances occur naturally in 
one food but become additives when used in the manufacture of 
another food. You might find sodium propionate in the list of 
ingredients in a loaf of bread, but if you buy Swiss cheese, you'll 
be eating 10 times as much sodium propionate but it won't be on the 
label -- because it is a "natural" component of the cheese.

Why are additives put in food?
They have a variety of functions. Additives are used to replace 
nutrients lost in processing (for example, all white flour must have 
thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate put in to replace what is 
lost when the wheat germ is removed), or to add nutrients (i.e., 
vitamins in breakfast cereals). Some additives retard spoilage, such 
as BHA and BHT, antioxidants that keep fat from turning rancid. 
Others are used to improve texture or consistency by making the 
product thicker, smoother, or more free-flowing, or to keep 
ingredients from separating. Flavorings and colorings are considered 
additives, whether they are the relatively benign spices, salt and 
pepper, or the ominous-sounding "artificial flavors", dyes and 

Should I try to avoid additives?
Not unless you have identified a specific allergy or sensitivity. 
Many people believe they are sensitive to MSG, and you can avoid it 
if you wish. Most additives are used in such small amounts that they 
have no significance in your diet unless you consume huge quantities 
of a single food. You should be more concerned about what's taken 
out of your food than what's added in. "Enriched" means vitamins, 
minerals, other nutrients and fiber have been removed, and what's 
added back may be only a small part of what was taken away. When 
fiber is removed, you are the loser. Extracted oils give you lots of 
calories and little of the nutrients that were in the original 
plants. When you eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and 
beans, you don't give food processors the chance to remove the good 
stuff nature provides. 

Checked 5/3/07