Food additives are often suspected as a possible culprit for allergic reactions. A recent study done at LSU proves otherwise; that is, they are rarely a cause.
Most food additives fall into one of seven categories: antioxidants, coloring, emulsifiers, flavorings, taste enhancers, preservatives or stabilizers. The three most common allergy troublemakers are two preservatives (sulfites and nitrites), and one taste enhancer (MSG – monosodium glutamate).
Next most common are the dyes: carmine (red) and tartrazine (yellow). Other culprits include the emulsifiers guar gum, the preservative Benzoates and the artificial sweetener aspartame.
Allergic manifestations of food additives can vary from asthmatic rhinitis, skin rash, gastro upset and headache. As there are no standardized skin or blood tests to diagnose food additive allergy, a more “seat-of-the-pants” approach is required, such as keeping a diet/adverse event diary, or doing an oral food challenge with the suspected culprit.