The evidence for and against food additives is probably the most contentious I have ever assessed, second only to vaccinations. They both are highly emotive.
The official (and this includes government and dieticians) line is that all additives that have been sanctioned for use in this country are safe (within a specified dosage range), though a few individuals have demonstrable allergies – they are the minority.
But some scientific (see clickable guide below) and certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence, seems to suggest otherwise.
Some aspects of the additive saga that have not been adequately investigated include the synergistic and cumulative effects of a wide variety of chemicals added to the diet, overall dosage of these different additives and environmental issues that may be causing us to be more intolerant/allergic individuals.
Additives generally considered safe:
160(a) (betacarotene, Vitamin A)
300-304 (types of Vitamin C)
306-309 (types of Vitamin E)
In an allergic individual (prone to rashes, asthma, eczema, hayfever etc) treat all other additives with suspicion.
If you experience mood changes or suspect your child of having ADHD or learning difficulties – an unrefined diet will have the added benefit of being nutrient rich, regardless if the jury is still out on the role additives play in these conditions.
A clickable reference guide to each additive, linking to abstracts from medical databases
Food Intolerance Network – Sue Dengate (mother and author of books on food intolerances). Check out the Nasty Foods awards.
Top 20 additives to avoid and also the handful that are ok to eat.
update: check out a further post on additives in infant medicines