Food additives are used to enhance flavor, color and texture, plus, extend a product's shelf life.
A quick internet search shows you they can be controversial. Studies link some to cancer, others to hyperactivity in children.
Consumer Investigator Kristin Byrne sat down with Assistant Professor of Food Science at Mount Mary University, Anne Vravick.
“You have studies out there saying these food additives are carcinogenic, but then you have other people like you saying not so much,” Byrne said.
“It is confusing for sure,” Vravick said.
Vravick said packaged, processed foods for the most part are healthier today because of the additives inside of them.
“I read these articles all the time and I get a little frustrated with the extreme attitude of stay away when it really is just a matter of how much we're eating,” Vravick said.
She explained food additives are dangerous at very high levels, levels she said consumers don't come into contact with.
“Even vitamin A is toxic at too high of a level, so you could say we should stay away from vitamin A," said Vravick. "Well, we know that's not true because at low levels vitamin A is very healthy. The amount of study and time that goes into understanding these molecules is very extensive and there's a lot of knowledge out there in the literature that’s there and yes, we have to determine the point at which it becomes toxic, but that isn't the level in which people are exposed to it.”
“Have you come across a case where some food additives, to your knowledge and your studies are carcinogenic?” Byrne asked.
“If eaten at those very high levels, so yes,” Vravick said.
“Do you think an average consumer would be eating them at that level?” Byrne asked.
“Never,” said Vravick. “The levels at which we consume it, our bodies are very readily able to metabolize it and excrete it. I actually feel very confident in the food that we have in our world right now.”
Vravick said and that includes fresh foods too.
“There's definitely a nutritional benefit to eating whole foods and things that are in its natural state,” she said.