How Food Additives Can Affect You
Food additives such as preservatives, food colouring, flavour enhancers may trigger adverse reactions in some people. Dietitian Jasly Koo from the
Nutrition and Dietetics Department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, explains. (iStock photo)   

"Although food additives pose no problem to most people, a small number of people with food intolerances may be sensitive to certain food additives," shares Ms Koo.

Common food additives include:

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

This was originally isolated from seaweed in 1908 by a Japanese chemist. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisines to enhance flavour but also occurs naturally in foods such as:

  • Camembert cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Soy sauce
  • Mushrooms

Intolerance towards MSG is also known as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' and symptoms that can occur after ingesting foods containing MSG include:

  • Headache
  • Chest tightness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Burning neck
  • Facial pressure

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These are chemicals added to some foods and drinks to prevent spoilage and to help preserve the flavour and colour. Foods containing sulfite include

  • Fruit juices
  • Dried fruit (e.g. apricots)
  • Wine and beer

The most common reactions to sulfite affect people with asthma and tend to occur when the asthma is poorly controlled. Reactions can range from mild to potentially life threatening. Symptoms include:

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing

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This is a yellow food coloring most commonly used in beverages, sweets, ice cream, desserts, cheese, canned vegetables, hot dogs, salad dressing, and tomato ketchup. Reported adverse reactions can include hives or swelling, and possibly a trigger for asthma symptoms. However, studies have not documented this relationship consistently.

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