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5 Popular Food and Beverage Additives That May Be Hazardous

Team TFS
Team TFS

additives1) High Fructose Corn Syrup

Mono- and disaccharide sugar determinations are often used in the food and beverage industry to ensure the quality of a formulated product, to maintain or select for desired sweetness, and to characterize and confirm the source of carbohydrates. Sugars are added to achieve a desired sweetness using sucrose refined from sugar beets, sugar cane or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). High Fructose Corn Syrup is a cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar, and it blends easily with beverages to maintain a product’s sweetness. The low cost of HFCS has made it a preferred alternative used by the food industry in numerous products. Public concerns about associations between sugar consumption and obesity and diabetes have resulted in the scrutiny of HFCS because of its prevalence in food products. Consumers are demanding more detailed product labeling and, therefore, an increased demand for carbohydrate analysis.

For any Carbohydrate Testing needs please visit our carbohydrate resource page.


2) Monosodium Glutamate

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that is added to food such as noodle soups, spice packets, Chinese food, salad dressing, chips, and many other food products. MSG can stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea and edema in people who may be allergic to MSG.

In 1995, an FDA Commission report acknowledged that an unknown percentage (now estimated at 15%) of the population could respond to the consumption of MSG with symptoms ranging from headache, nausea, drowsiness, or sweating to more severe symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, bronchospasm, or chest pain. MSG has recently become known as a contributing factor to obesity, migraines, and ADHD.

A new system reagent kit that measures L-glutamic acid has recently been introduced for use with the discrete photometric analyzer (link to product page). Since the analyzer prefers to measure homogeneous liquid samples, the kit offers full instructions for sample preparation of foods including meat, vegetables, and fruit. Dilutions required by the method are automated by the instrument, and the easy-to-use test kit contains all the required reagents, including a test standard.

To learn more about MSG please read my colleagues’ blog post A Good Amino Acid Goes Bad: Monosodium Glutamate.


3) Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are food additives that duplicate the sweetness of sugar in taste, but with fewer calories. Some sugar substitutes are natural, while others are synthetic. Those that are not natural are, in general, called artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are very intense in their sweetness, as they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.  Marketed as sugar free or diet, they are found in products like chewing gum, soft drinks, baked goods, candy, and many more food and beverage products. Some of these sweeteners have been linked to cancer, headaches and dizziness. In recent years they have also been linked to obesity. A rise in obesity coincides with an increase in use of non-caloric artificial sweeteners. Learn more about this issue by reading this fabulous paper titled Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings.

In terms of the analysis of artificial sweeteners, liquid chromatography plays a critical role. Download our latest application notebook for the analysis of sugar substitutes.


4)     Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite

Sodium nitrate and nitrite are used as preservatives and curing agents in foods. Nitrate and nitrite are usually added to processed meat products to protect against microorganisms that can cause food poisoning, such as clostridium botulinum. However, nitrite can react with secondary amines to form nitrosamines, a class of carcinogenic compounds, in food products or in the digestive system. Nitrate, although more stable than nitrite, can act as a reservoir for nitrite. Also, nitrate can readily be converted into nitrite by microbial reduction. Thus, both nitrate and nitrite must be monitored to ensure the quality and safety of meat products.

For more information, take a look at our application note Determination of Nitrate and Nitrite in Meat Using High-Performance Anion-Exchange Chromatography.


5) Artificial Flavors and Colors

Artificial flavors and colors are added to food products to preserve flavor or enhance a food’s taste, texture, or appearance. With the advent of processed foods, many more additives are being used, both natural and artificial. Additives can maintain product quality and freshness (to stop deterioration, rancidity, and spoilage), improve or maintain nutritional quality (to prevent diseases such as goiter, pellagra and rickets), make foods more appealing (make them look and taste good), and aid in the processing and preparation of foods.

Food colorings (also called color additives), are any dyes, pigments, or substances that are used to impart color when they are added to food or drink. Colorants are used to enhance colors that occur naturally, to correct natural variation in color, and to make food more attractive and appetizing. Colorants are also used to offset the loss of color due to processing and storage.

A flavorant is defined as an additive, either artificial or natural, that is used to give foods and beverages flavor. Flavorants include chemicals that can impart or enhance a particular taste, such as sweet, sour, savory, or bitter.

Artificial colors are chemical compounds made from the derivatives of coal-tar to enhance the color of a product. They have been linked to headaches, allergic reactions, skin issues, asthma and hyperactivity in children.

Artificial flavors are cheap mixtures of chemicals that mimic natural flavors in food and beverage products. These have also been linked to headaches, allergic reactions, skin issues, asthma and hyperactivity, in addition to thyroid problems.

For more information, view this application notebook focused on the analysis of Artificial Colors and Flavors.


Have you had any issues with these additives or the analysis of them?  Share your stories with us.