Read Your Labels: The “Top Ten” Additives to Avoid: A Recap

From our Read Your Labels Campaign, a recap of the series “Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid”, courtesy of

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been blogging about the Citizens For Health selections of the top ten food additives to avoid in the “Read Your Labels” campaign. In case you missed any of the actors in this rogue’s gallery of unnecessary and health-damaging ingredients that turn up in so many products, here’s a recap of what they are, where you’re most likely to find them, and why you should keep them out of your diet.

As the high point of this campaign, Citizens for Health has declared Thursday, April 11 to be  “Read Your Labels Day.” On that date, we would like you to help spread the “411” on these additives by taking a photo of food and beverage products containing these undesirable ingredients and sharing your photos on Instagram by using the hashtag #ReadYourLabels.

The “Read Your Labels”  top ten additives to avoid in review:

#1. High fructose corn syrup

Where you’ll find it:

Where do we begin? HFCS has permeated the marketplace in so many foods and beverages it’s just about impossible to create a list. For starters, it’s in most all sodas, and many other beverages such as tea and flavored drinks, and numerous juice drinks made for kids, as well as other sweetened items such as jellies, cookies and pastries. It also turns up in some surprising places like bread and condiments, and oddly, even in some diet foods (where it’s possible that a super-high fructose version is used). All in all, to purge HFCS from your diet, you need to read ingredient labels and reject all products containing this laboratory sweetener.

Why you should avoid it:

  • HFCS and high fructose consumption have been implicated in a variety of diseases and health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.
  • The actual fructose percentage of HFCS is variable and unknown (which is why Citizens for Health has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to require the true fructose content of HFCS formulas be disclosed on food labels).
  • Contrary to industry propaganda, HFCS isn’t “corn sugar” or a “natural” ingredient, but a test-tube concoction that’s much cheaper than sugar.

#2. Aspartame

Where you’ll find it:

Aspartame is apt to turn up in foods labeled as “light” or “low-cal,” diet soft drinks, teas and juice drinks, kid’s vitamins, liquid cold drugs and other pharmaceuticals, chewing gum, cereal, sugar-free candies. Foods containing this artificial sweetener must also bear a warning that the item contains phenylalanine for those with a disorder called PKU.

Why you should avoid it:

  • Aspartame has never been proven to be a safe food additive, and is, in fact, considered by experts to be in a class of ingredients called “excitotoxins” that can literally excite brain cells to death, especially in children and the elderly (as are the three additives that follow);
  • Studies have connected it to the development of brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in monkeys.
  • Thousands of aspartame-related health complaints, from migraines to memory loss to dizziness to vision problems have been reported to the FDA.

#3. Hydrolyzed protein
#4. Autolyzed yeast
#5. Monosodium glutamate

Where you’ll find them:

These “excitoxins” can be found in soups, broth, flavoring additives, chips, dips, soup mixes, ramen noodles, frozen meals, snack mixes, canned fish, and a wide variety of other dishes –  including “natural,” “vegetarian,” and organic ones.

Why you should avoid them:

  • These are all toxic substances containing processed glutamic acid that can kill brain cells. They are especially harmful to kids, the elderly and developing fetuses.
  • Adverse reactions to these additives include everything from skin rashes and asthma attacks to mood swings, upset stomach, migraines, heart irregularities and seizures – even potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

#6 Potassium bromate

Where you’ll find it:

Added to flour, it can be found in breads, flat breads, bakery products, knishes and tortillas. (It may also be listed on ingredient labels as “bromated flour.”)

Why you should avoid it:

  • Potassium bromate has been known for over three decades to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
  • It’s banned in Europe, China, Canada and Brazil.
  • If it’s not used “properly,” a significant residue of this additive can end up in the finished food product.

#7 Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO

Where you’ll find it:

Some Gatorade products, Mountain Dew and other drinks containing citrus flavorings.

Why you should avoid it:

  • BVO builds up in fatty tissue and been shown to cause heart damage in research animals.
  • It’s banned in Europe, India and Japan.
  • It’s never been declared safe by the FDA, where its status has remained in limbo  for over 30 years.

#8 BHA and BHT

Where you’ll find them:

This pair of preservatives turn up in many breakfast cereals (including most Kellogg’s varieties), as well as snack foods, chewing gum, pies, cakes and processed meats.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Made from coal tar or petroleum, BHA and BHT have been of concern for decades.
  • Over 30 years ago studies found that after pregnant mice were fed BHT and BHA, their offspring were born with altered brain chemistry.
  • BHA is considered a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization and listed as a carcinogen in California.

#9 Trans fats

Where you’ll find it:

Any food products containing partially hydrogenated oil contain trans fats, regardless of a zero trans fats listing on the nutrition facts label. These can include bakery items, pizza, dough, pies, cakes and cookies, snack foods and frozen meals.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Trans fats increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol.
  • People with high blood levels of trans fats appear to have a greater risk of developing certain cancers. (Some research has even linked them to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.)
  • All health authorities, including government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are in agreement that trans fats cause heart disease and that cutting them out of our diet could prevent thousand of heart attacks and death from coronary disease each year.

#10 Artificial colors

Where you’ll find them:

They’re present in many cereals, cakes, candy, bakery products, drinks, juice drinks, vitamins and pharmaceuticals.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Artificial colors are widely acknowledged to cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children.
  • They’re made from both coal tar and petroleum extracts – hardly the sort of things one would want to ingest.
  • Some, such as Red #3, have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but are still allowed to be used in foods.

So there they are in review – the top ten offenders among food additives. They’re best avoided (except in the case of processed glutamic acid), by buying organic processed foods, or, better yet, by cooking your own food from scratch as much as possible. But if you’re too hard pressed to always do all that, you should at least take the time to read those ingredient labels – and keep the items that contain these health-threatening intruders out of your kitchen and out of your life.

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Comments (29)

Thank you for the list, and the explanation of how they are used.
This is really a great article.

Thank you so much for sending us this list. I am forwarding to everyone I know so they will not buy products with these ingredients and protect the health of their children and themselves to live a healthy and quality life.

You say to avoid aspartame, yet most sugarless gum uses it.
Sugar destroys teeth and other body systems.

What are we to do?

Would like this emailed to me so I can print share it with my mom she dose not do email at all’ thanks.

Toni: Why don’t you just print the screen? That should do the trick.

My nominee for the ‘worst lie on a label’ award — in large letters on the front: “No MSG.” In tiny print in the ingredient list on the back: “monopotassium glutamate.”

Trans fats result from the high temperature necessary for hydrogenation (not from than the addition of hydrogen). Any unsaturated fats/oils that have been processed at high temperature will contain trans fats. Trans fats are produced when you microwave unsaturated fats! (When a microwave photon excites a double bond in a cis fat it will likely convert to the trans isomer.) There is no such thing as a saturated trans fat.

I wish you had listed sources as my niece is a scientist and if I post this may come back with “there is no scientific backing to support these claims”.

Why no link to Pinterest?

Thank you so much for compiling the list. I am going to print it out to reinforce what I have been telling my family. It helps that it’s not “mom” that is also saying those things. It just breaks my heart to watch my kids or anyone eat those things.

Too much reading can you break it down go straight to the point like list what breaks down the brain cells. What kind of diseases are linked to different food.

It’s a really scarey world outside my kitchen and it’s getting worse all the time. We should all go back to raising our own food, as if that’s possible. We must be our own advocates concerning what we eat. Good luck to us all!!!

A really informative article! Thank you for your research.

Great article – where is the print button? Thanks

very informative,and fast and easy to read. Great layout telling ingredient, where its found and why to avoid. Short and simple and very well done.

Genevieve, All chewing gum in the US is made from plastic. Do your research and don’t chew the stuff!!

Thank you for the article. I would like to add that the FDA has just approved Aspartame to be added to all milk and they don’t have to include it in the ingredients. The arguement was that kids will drink more milk if it’s sweetened, and milk is good for you… well, it might have been, but that’s no longer the case! The only milk not included is Organic milk. Heaven help us!

Dear Genevieve Marcus,

Try gum sweetened with Xylitol. It supposedly protects against cavities.

Genevieve, there IS gum without Aspartame… check your local health food stores. Also, you could just AVOID chewing gum all together. I don’t chew gum and haven’t had a head ache in YEARS.

Try Xylitol gum. It’s a natural sweetener derived either from corn or birch bark. I prefer the latter, since I stay away from corn products (most of which are GMO).

This information is ongoing and other toxins will always be found in any foods we eat…My article “High Fructose Corn Syrup” can be found on scroll down to find it..Also on my Website, My article “The Invisible Illiness” AKA Multiple Chemical Sensitivies..go to articles and Radio show you can click on any time…Suma G Nathan, Certified registered Holistic Nutritionist/Certified Chinese Herbologist/Holistic Health practitioner/Journalist/Seminars/pioneering Holistic since the 1960’s

[…] Citizens for Health has declared today as being National “Read Your Labels Day.” For some, this already may be a daily practice (yay!), yet for others, we may need a few reminders or insights as to why this is so important. The truth may surprise you… […]

Chew gum that uses xylitol as the sweetener. It is also good for your teeth.

Thank you for all the explainations. That did clear up alot forme Thanks again

There are many alternatives to artificial sweeteners. I use mastic chewing gum, which has a side benefit of protecting teeth from cavities.
For general sweetening use, I use agave sweetener, Lo han guo, and, where licorice flavor is not objectionable, Stevia. Also, I seldom buy canned foods, and only when I do not have time to cook from scratch. If you do your own baking and cooking, you have control over ingredients and can avoid the additives and fillers and junk that they put in to lower production costs. There are many sites online, including cooking sites, that provide logical and inexpensive substitutions and alternatives to unhealthy commercial versions. For instance, I downloaded some recipes to make my own spices, stocks and other simple ingredients. Fresh also tastes better. I buy my most often used non-perishable items in bulk online.

Yes this is what we have to contend with. It is a way to curb population, this stuff will eventually shorten lives and kill off embryos, well most of it. Pregnant women especially need to take these things off their plate, half of it is know to cause brain damage and even abort fetus. We need lots of prayer especially over our food stuffs.

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