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Newsletter - Why Some Food Additives can have Toxic effects

sugary doughnuts

Date: 2021

Food Additives and their Toxic Effects

Food additives are everywhere. They are usually included in a product to lengthen its shelf life (preservatives and some unhealthy fats), or to make it look, taste, or feel more appealing (colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers, or texture modifying agents).   

All food additives that are permitted by UK law have been tested for safety (although no such testing is perfect – and each is only tested in isolation, which is not how they are normally consumed).  However, the UK still allows some additives that have already been banned in other countries. 

Recent research has highlighted a food colouring - titanium dioxide (E171) - that has been linked to inflammation, DNA damage and tumour promotion:

  • E171is currently used as a whitening and brightening agent in many kinds of sweets, chewing gum, ice cream, cake icing, white sauces, and other products – including many toothpastes and medications.
  • France suspended its use in food last year, in advance of EFSA’s recent judgement.  The UK has not banned it yet.

For more information on titanium dioxide, see

Cell Metabolism recently published a study showing that two other common artificial food colourings can cause disease when the immune system has become dysregulated. This study, conducted in mice, revealed that:

  • Mice developed colitis when they consumed food with the artificial food colorants FD&C Red 40 and Yellow 6 when a specific component of their immune system, known as cytokine IL-23, was dysregulated.

Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and cytokine IL-23 dysregulation is known to be a factor in the development of IBD in humans. Medicines that block its function are now successfully used in patients.

Food colorants such as Red 40 and Yellow 6 are widely used in food, drink, and medicines, along with other so-called ‘azo dyes’ derived from petroleum. These two artificial food colourings are the most commonly used in the world, and products containing them include:

  • Red 40: (Also known as Allura Red, E129) Flavoured milks, ice cream, pastries, sweets, chewing gum, breakfast bars and cereals, soft drinks and medications. 
  • Yellow 6 (also known as sunset yellow, E110): Breakfast cereals, sausages, baked goods, crisps, orange soda, other beverages, hot chocolate mix, ready to use frostings, dessert powders, preserved fruits, gelatine, sweets and desserts.

Both of these were among the ‘Southampton Six’ – a combination of common artificial food additives shown to have adverse effects on children’s behaviour when tested in controlled trials funded by the UK Food Standards Agency.

For further news and research on the risks associated with food additives please see:

See also:

Ultra-Processed Foods are the Primary source of Artificial Food Additives

The safest and easiest way to limit your intake of artificial food additives is to avoid, or at least significantly cut down on, Ultra-Processed Foods (UPFs).

A recent BBC article highlighted the effects Ultra Processed Foods has on your body, and just how quickly they can affect your health and wellbeing. TV presenter Dr Chris van Tulleken challenged himself to eat a diet made up of mostly UPFs for a month

  • In just 4 weeks, he said it made him feel 10 years older, and caused anxiety, poor sleep, piles (haemmorhoids) from constipation - and he put on 7Kg in weight!!!

For more information on why it makes sense to avoid Ultra-Processed Foods - or at least reduce the intake of these ‘fake foods’ as far as possible - please see:

FAB Research also recommends the following newly-published book by Dr Robert Lustig, as he not only spells out here the many different reasons why Ultra-Processed Food is such a serious problem – but also offers practical solutions and alternatives:


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The FAB Research team