Romsey Australia

A selection of Preservatives and colourings used in food that may be detrimental to your health

Select an article on this page.
 1: Certain additives linked to a negative effect on children’s behaviour.
 2:  Coca-Cola to Remove Sodium Benzoate in the U.K
 3:  Benzene found in flavoured beverages.
 4:  Benzene a known carcinogen.
 5:  Study shows Drinking Chlorinated Water may boost Cancer Risk.
 6:  Bladder cancer and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
 7:  Your Clothes and contact dermatitis. Toxins in Your Textiles
             8:  View complete list of Australia and New Zealand Food Additives Codes.
    Double Click on a word on the table below to get a definition of that word.

Select a code number.

No. Type Chemical Name Origin Possible Human side effects Food Types
102 Colouring Tartrazine Synthetic, azo dye People who are intolerant to salicylates (aspirin, berries, fruits) . In combination with benzoates (E210-213), tartrazine is implicated in a large percentage of cases of ADHD syndrome (hyperactivity) in children. Asthmatics may also experience symptoms following consumption of tartrazine, as it is a known histamine-liberating agent. Confectionery, fruit juice cordials, soft drinks, canned fruit, canned peas, brown sauces, pickles and flavoured pie fillings.

 110 Colouring Sunset Yellow FCF Synthetic coal tar azo dye Hypersensitivity in aspirin-sensitive people, producing urticaria (nettle rash), swelling of skin, gastric upset, vomiting.

Fruit juice cordials, packet rifle mix, hot chocolate mix, packet soup and confectionery.

 122 Colouring Azorubine ( Carmoisine ) Synthetic, azo dye Can produce adverse reactions in sensitive people - aspirin allergy or asthmatics. Reactions include nettle rash and oedema.

Jelly crystals, confectionery, pre-packaged sponge fillings, pre-packages Swiss roll, marzipan, brown sauce.

 123 Colouring Amaranth Synthetic coal tar azo dye Possible connection to malignant tumours

Package cake, trifle mix, jelly crystals, fruit-flavoured fillings

 124 Colouring Ponceau 4R Synthetic coal tar azo dye Azo dye to be avoided by asthmatics aspirin-sensitive people.

Desert toppings, canned strawberries, packet cheesecake, cake mix, trifle mix, jelly crystals.

 127 Colouring Erythrosine Synthetic iodine-containing red dye Increased hyperactivity has been reported in a few cases, as well as a possible connection with mutative activity. Erythrosine causes an increased photosensitivity in people with sensitivity to sunlight. In high concentrations erythrosine interferes with iodine metabolism.Thyroid gland.

Glace cherries, scotch eggs, biscuits, custard mix, canned cherries, rhubarb, strawberries.

 129 Colouring Allura Red AC Synthetic Has been associated with cancer in mice.

Orange Red colour used in sweets, drinks, condiments, medications, cosmetics.

 132 Colouring Indigotine Synthetic coal tar dye Avoid if history of allergy. May cause vomiting or nausea, high blood pressure.

Commonly added to tablets and capsules, Biscuits, confectionery, ice cream, sweets, baked goods.

 133 Colouring Brilliant Blue FCF Synthetic azo dye Cancer, malignant tumours, asthma, hyperactivity.

Soft drink, dairy products, canned peas, gelatine, cereal, toothpaste cosmetics, deoderant.

 155 Colouring Brown HT Synthetic azo dye Allergic reaction in aspirin sensitivity and asthmatics, hyperactivity, cancer.

Chocolate cake mix and biscuits.

 200 Preservative Sorbic acid Synthetically manufactured from ketene Possible skin irritant. Almost every food product.Sausages,yoghurt , confectionery , lemonade, cheese, rye bread, cakes , pizza, shellfish, lemon juice, wine, cider and soups.

 210 Preservative Benzoic acid Chemical synthesis Asthmatics nettle-rash sensitive people should avoid. Reported to be responsible for neurological disorders.

Cordial, chilli paste, brewed soft drinks, fruit juice, non-dairy dips non-canned tomato juice.
 211 Preservative Sodium benzoate Sodium salt of benzoic acid Combined with 102 can exacerbate allergic reactions in asthmatics or people with sensitive skin. - has the ability to deactivate parts of DNA and eventually cause diseases such as Parkinson's and cirrhosis of the liver. These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria.

As above.
Pepsi Max, Fanta, Sprite, Sunkist, and Coke Zero, cordials and other drinks. Benzene found in some beverages ( applies to code 210, 211, 212, 213 when combined with 300 Ascorbic acid )
 212 Preservative Potassium benzoate Potassium salt of benzoic acid >Inadvisable for asthmatics or those allergic to aspirin

As above.
 213 Preservative Calcium benzoate Calcium salt of benzoic acid. Can cause adverse reactions in asthmatics aspirin-sensitive people.

Fruit juice cordials, flavoured cordials, soft drinks, fish marinades.

 220 Preservative Sulphur dioxide Produced by combustion of sulphur. May cause gastric irritation. Can precipitate an asthma attack.

Fruit juices, cider, low-kilojoule jam, mixed dried fruit, dehydrated peas, cordials, syrups, flavoured toppings, pickles.

 221 Preservative Sodium sulphite Sodium salt of sulphurous acid - stops browning of potatoes, etc.

To be avoided by those with impaired kidneys or liver. Can cause skin gastric irritations, diarrhoea.

As above uncooked prawns shrimps,bread enhancer.

 222 Preservative Sodium bisulphite Sodium salt of sulphurous acid - preservative for alcoholic beverages.

To be avoided by asthmatics those with impaired organs. reduces thiamine content.

As above.
 223 Preservative Sodium metabisulphite Commercially manufactured. Known to cause allergic skin reactions.

Bread flour products, frozen vegetables shellfish, dried fruits, pickles, fruit juice, cordials.
 224 Preservative Potassium metabisulphite Commercially manufactured. May cause allergic skin reactions and gastric irritation.

Fruit juices, cider, low-kilojoule jam, mixed dried fruit, dehydrated peas, cordials, syrups, flavoured toppings, pickles.

 249 Preservative Potassium nitrite Curing agent - potassium salt of nitrous acid. Nitrites can affect the blood's ability to transport oxygen, causing breathing difficulties, headaches. Not permitted in foods for children.

Corned, cured, pickled, manufactured pressed salt meats.

 250 Preservative Sodium nitrite Manufactured from sodium nitrate. May cause breathing difficulties headaches.

Canned, manufactured, cured pressed meat.
 251 Preservative Sodium nitrate Natural mineral. As above. Forms small amounts of nitrosamines. Hazardous poison ; possible carcinogenic.

Slow-dried meat, prosciutto ham manufactured meat.

 252 Preservative Potassium nitrate Manufactured from waste - animal or vegetable material.

Anaemia, kidney inflammation, vomiting, muscular weakness.

As above.
 282 Preservative Calcium propionate Synthetic or naturally. Irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance

Bread flour products.
 283 Preservative Potassium propionate potassium salt of propionic acid.

All propionates are thought to be linked with migraine headaches Bread flour products.
 311 Anti-Oxidant Octyl gallate Obtained by acid or alkaline hydrolysis.

Not permitted in foods intended for infants. May cause adverse reactions in asthmatics aspirin-sensitive people.

Edible fats, spreads, lard, dripping margarine.

 312 Anti-Oxidant Dodecyl gallate Obtained by acid or alkaline hydrolysis.

May cause problems in asthmatics aspirin-sensitive people.

Edible fats, margarine, salad oils essential oils.

 320 Anti-Oxidant Butylated hydroxyanisole Synthetic.

Asthma, hyperactivity, fatigue, allergic reaction to aspirin sensitivity.

Instant mashed potato, edible oil, reduced fat spread, chewing gum, baby oil, lipstick. eye liner.

 321 Anti-Oxidant Butylated hydroxytoluene Synthetic preparation for use with petroleum rubber products.

Has been linked to reproductive failures ( high doses in experimental animals )

Food by absorption from food wrapping. Also Pecan walnut kernels, as above.

 407 Thickener Carrageenan Fibre extracted from sea weed.

Ulcerative collitis, asthma, skin rash, colon camcer

Ice cream, dessert mix, confrctionary, pastries, biscuits, thickened cream.

 620 Glutamates (inc. MSG) Flavour enhancer L-Glutamic acid Commercially produced from carbohydrates solution of bacterium.

Inadvisable for children. See MSG below.Contains gluten

Low-sodium salt substitutes.
 621 Glutamates (inc. MSG) Flavour enhancer

Monosodium glutamate Commonly found in plant animal tissue, Sodium salt of glutamic acid known as glutamates.

In susceptible adults it causes vomiting, dizziness, headaches. Animal experiments show brain damage.

Not permitted in foods manufactured for children infants.Occurs in sauces, packet soups, quick soups, flavoured noodles, condiments.

 622 Glutamates (inc. MSG) Flavour enhancer Monopotassium L-glutamate Synthetic May cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea abdominal cramps.

Low-sodium , salt substitutes
 623 Glutamates (inc. MSG) Flavour enhancer Calcium glutamate Synthetic May cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea abdominal cramps.

Low-sodium , salt substitutes
 624 Glutamates (inc. MSG) Flavour enhancer Monoammonium L-glutamate/b> Synthetic May cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea abdominal cramps.

Low-sodium , salt substitutes
 625 Glutamates (inc. MSG) Flavour enhancer Magnesium glutamate Synthetic May cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea abdominal cramps.

Low-sodium , salt substitutes
 951 Aspartame Sweetener ( Nutrasweet ) Synthetic Cancer; asthma; hyperactivity; fatigue; headache; anxiety; MS-like symptoms; migraine; depression; insomnia, irritability; impotence; dizziness; memory loss; Alzheimer’s disease; epilepsy; diabetes; Parkinson’s disease; blindness; neuralgia; seizures; plus many nore..

Artificial sweeteners, diet drinks, low-joule foods, low-joule gum, confectionery, brewed soft drinks, anything which is “sugar free” or “without added sugar” (used in over 5,000 products)
 952 Cyclamate Sweetener Synthetic Cancer; various skin conditions; migraine; it should be avoided by those with circulation, heart or liver problems

Artificially sweetened canned fruit, brewed soft drinks, low-joule foods
 1520 Propylene Glycol Humectant Synthetic Kidney damage; liver abnormalities; liver toxin; central nervous system depression; neurotoxin, contact dermatitis.

Confectionery, sweetened coconut, flavouring essences
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 New research:  Certain additives linked to a negative effect on children’s behaviour

U.K. Food Standards Agency revises advice on certain artificial colours

Parents of children showing signs of hyperactivity are being advised that cutting certain artificial colours from their diets might have some beneficial effects.
The colours – Sunset yellow (E110), Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Allura red (E129), Tartrazine (E102) and Ponceau 4R (E124) – were studied as part of new FSA-commissioned research.

The research, carried out by Southampton University, suggests that eating or drinking certain mixes of these artificial food colours together with the preservative sodium benzoate could be linked to a negative effect on children’s behaviour.

‘After considering the COT’s opinion on the research findings we have revised our advice to consumers: if a child shows signs of hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) then eliminating the colours used in the Southampton study from their diet might have some beneficial effects.

‘If parents are concerned about any additives they should remember that, by law, food additives must be listed on the label so they can make the choice to avoid the product if they want to.’


Hyperactivity, in the context of this study, is being used to mean occurrence of the following behaviours at the same time: over-activity, inattention and impulsivity.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or Hyperkinetic Disorder) is an extreme form of hyperactivity that is clinically diagnosed when specific patterns of behaviour occur together to a strong degree. It is characterised by inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity such that they impair learning and function at home and at school.

Source:  Food Standards Agency U.K.

 Coca-Cola to Remove Sodium Benzoate in the U.K
27 May 2008 - Reports in the British press have recently stated that the Coca-Cola Company is phasing out sodium benzoate (E211) from its soft drinks 'where technically possible', and, by the end of the summer, Diet Coke should no longer contain the preservative.

Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in food and drinks to kill most yeasts, bacteria, and fungi. The preservative, which is used to increase the shelf life of many soft drinks, was subject to a lot of controversy last year and during the early months of 2008 after different research studies indicated that it may cause hyperactivity and DNA damage. Also, when mixed with vitamin C in soft drinks, it causes benzene, a carcinogenic substance
Source:  FlexNews.
Coca-Cola Australia  has no plans to phase out a controversial additive in its drinks, despite moves in Britain to remove it.
Source:  May 27, 2008,21985,23763505-662,00.html

 Benzene found in flavoured beverages
What is benzene?

Benzene is a widely used industrial chemical.   It is converted to other chemicals which are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibres, as well as some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. It is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke.

Why is benzene found in some beverages?

Benzene can be formed at very low levels in beverages that contain both ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate [Additive number 211] is a permitted food preservative that may be added to many food products to ensure the microbiological safety of the food. Ascorbic acid [Additive number 300] is also an approved food additive (antioxidant) which may be added to drinks. It also occurs naturally in fruit and fruit juices.  Ascorbic acid reacts with metals (copper, iron) found in water to form hydroxyl radicals, which react with benzoic acid to form low levels of benzene.  

FSANZ survey of benzene in non-alcoholic beverages.

FSANZ sampled 68 flavoured beverages in March/April 2006. These were purchased from typical retail outlets and analysed for benzene by a suitably qualified independent laboratory. The survey results are not representative of all flavoured beverages as the sampling was targeted mainly at beverages that were more likely to contain benzene and included; cola and non cola soft drinks, flavoured mineral waters, cordial, fruit juice, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and flavoured/sports water.  

What were the results of the survey?

Of the 68 samples tested, 38 beverage products contained trace levels of benzene. The levels detected ranged from 1 to 40 ppb. More than 90% of all beverages surveyed had levels of benzene below the WHO guidelines for drinking water (10 ppb).

How am I exposed to benzene?
Benzene is widely distributed in the environment. Most people are exposed to a small amount of benzene on a daily basis, both in the outdoor environment and in the workplace. Exposure of the general population to benzene is mainly through breathing air that contains benzene from traffic pollution, and from both active and passive smoking. The major sources of benzene exposure via air are tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles (benzene is present at 1-2% in most petrol blends), and industrial emissions. Vapours (or gases) from products that contain benzene - such as glues, paints, furniture wax and detergents - can also be a source of exposure.  Much of the exposure of non-smokers comes from car-related activities, such as driving and refuelling.

Referenced from: Australia and New Zealand Food Standards

 Benzene a known carcinogen.

Breathing very high levels of benzene can result in death, while high levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness. Eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid heart rate, and death.

The major effect of benzene from long-term exposure is on the blood. Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection.

Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries, but we do not know for certain that benzene caused the effects. It is not known whether benzene will affect fertility in men.

Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, particularly acute myelogenous leukemia, often referred to as AML. This is a cancer of the bloodforming organs. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene is a known carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the EPA have determined that benzene is carcinogenic to humans.

Children can be affected by benzene exposure in the same ways as adults. It is not known if children are more susceptible to benzene poisoning than adults.

Benzene can pass from the mother’s blood to a fetus. Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
Referenced from: Department of Health and Human Services

 Study shows Drinking Chlorinated Water may boost Cancer Risk.

Drinking, bathing or swimming in chlorinated water may increase the risk of bladder cancer.

The findings are the first to suggest that these chemicals can be harmful when they are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, as well as when they are ingested, Dr. Cristina M. Villanueva of the Municipal Institute of Medical Research in Barcelona, and colleagues note.

    Click to view complete Article 

 Bladder cancer and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

4  Februray 2008
Hairdressers, sewing machinists, vegetable growers, meat workers, truck drivers and cleaners are among the professions fingered in new research on links between occupation and cancer.

For hairdressers the issue is hair dye, for vegetable growers the culprit is chemicals.
Sewing machinists are exposed to dyes in the fabrics they handle and truck drivers are at risk from the goods they transport.

Research by Massey University's Centre for Public Health Research into bladder cancer and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in New Zealand has confirmed that occupational cancers account for between 300 and 400 deaths in New Zealand each year.

Occupations identified as higher risk for bladder cancer, which comprises around 12 per cent of cancers, were hairdressers and sewing machinists.

The researchers continue to believe that only about 10 per cent of cancers caused by occupations are reported as such.

Professor Neil Pearce said the new research in New Zealand was consistent with overseas studies.
"The thing that stood out was hair dressers and textile workers," he said.
They were an interesting group as they had dyes in common. It was known that dyes caused cancer in animals.
He said most general practitioners didn't know what patients did for a job and importantly what they did for a job 20 years ago.
The link with asbestos exposure in workplaces and illness was generally reported but the impact of other factors wasn't.

Dr Andrea 't Mannetje was lead author of a study on Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in New Zealand published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and second author of a study of high risk occupations for bladder cancer in New Zealand, published in the International Journal of Cancer.

The Non-Hodgkin's findings include that workers in plant nurseries are four times more likely to develop the disease, with apple and pear growing associated with a five-fold risk.

Vegetable producers and those in general horticulture production have more than a two-fold risk of developing Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is understood to account for about 9 per cent of cancer cases.

Dr Andrea't Mannetje said that overseas studies have indicated that dairy and beef farmers had an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin's, which is a group of cancers arising from lymphocytes, a type of while blood cell. In New Zealand this was not the case.

"Farming in other countries can be very different from what is done here," she said. "Animal farming, for example, in the Netherlands where I come from is very intensive because they don't have a lot of space. In New Zealand, the sheep and dairy farming is spread out and there are not many farmers using barns."

The hypothesis behind farming exposure was that the risk emerged from exposure to agents from animals, including viruses. In horticulture however, the risk is from pesticides.

Overseas the findings were not always replicated because, Dr. Mannetje said, overseas crop farming is much larger in scale with more spraying and processing done by machine.

"Vegetable and fruit products here are applied by farmers and often they have close contact with sprayed fruit and veg."

Other occupations with increased non-Hodgkin's risk include meat workers, possibly through exposure to animal viruses, cleaners through exposure to cleaning chemicals, heavy truck drivers through exposure to petrochemicals or agents being carted and metal product manufacturing through exposure to trace metals and lubricants.

Occupations identified as higher risk for bladder cancer, which comprises around 12 per cent of cancers, were hairdressers and sewing machinists.

In both cases the likely cause was exposure through skin to a group of known carcinogens named aromatic amines, including benzidine. Dr. Mannetje said that although several of these aromatic amines have been banned for some time, chemicals structurally similar to benzidine are still used in dyes.

Sewing machinists are exposed to the dyes through fabrics, she says, while hairdressers are exposed using hair dye. Aromatic amines are also found in tobacco smoke, Dr. Mannetje said, and bladder cancer is also linked to smoking.
Referenced from: SBS World news
Read article  Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

 Your Clothes and contact dermatitis.

"Foot dermatitis caused by the textile dye Basic Red 46 in acrylic blend socks
" We suggest that patients with foot dermatitis be routinely patch tested for textile dyes. In particular, testing with Basic Red 46 should be considered in those with a history of use of dark-coloured acrylic and/or acrylic blend socks. "
Contact Dermatitis sometimes results from wearing clothing dyed with the dye whose generic name is Basic Red 46.Foot dermatitis caused by the textile dye Basic Red 46 in acrylic blend socks
, by Opie J., Lee A., Frowen K., Fewings J., and Nixon R., in Contact Dermatitis, December 2003, vol. 49, no. 6, pp. 297-303(7).

Toxins in Your Textiles

Teflon in Your Trousers
The chemicals that the WWF was warning about are perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which include the non-stick additive Teflon. These chemicals are increasingly being added to clothing because it makes them last longer and also can make them wrinkle-free.
Most clothing labeled "no-iron" contains PFCs.
PFCs have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, birth and developmental defects, and (recently) with immune system suppression
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are widely-used in water, grease and stain repellents. They're found in carpets and on clothes, on fast-food wrappers, and on the inner lining of pet food bags. You might know them as Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster and Gore-Tex. They pollute water, are persistent in the environment, and remain in the human body for years.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that PFCs are cancer-causing compounds.

There is Poison in the Pot.

“ But of all possible nefarious traffic and deception, practised by mercenary dealers, that of adulterating the articles intended for human food with ingredients deleterious to health, is the most criminal, and, in the mind of every honest man, must excite feelings of regret and disgust. "  
A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons.    Friedrich Accum  (1769-1838)

A selection of Preservatives and colourings used in food that may be detrimental to your health .  (12 pages)

by Romsey Australia
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.


Revised September 2010