Food additives are any substances added to the food item during its processing or production. This broad category covers all sorts of things from added vitamins to monosodium glutamate (MSG). Although the Food and Drug Administration regulates food additives, they have not tested many of the additives that they list as “generally regarded as safe”. The real deal is that we don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to the safety of food additives. There are so many of them, each unique, and it’s difficult to pinpoint how exactly each one effects us as individuals.
MSG is the one food additive that has gained probably the most attention and scrutiny thus far. MSG has many aliases on food labels and it still pretty common place in processed foods. An increasing number of studies are linking MSG to health issues, but for every study that states it’s a problem, there’s one that states it’s safe. Some people report that they are sensitive to MSG and have mild reactions when it’s in their food. It’s important to be aware of MSG and other food additives in the food and beverages you consume, so you can not only pay attention to if you seems sensitive to any of these additivities, but also so you can make your own decision as to which ones you’re okay with consuming and which ones you want to avoid.
When it comes to public health, the U.S. government should err on the side of caution and not use food additives with an unknown or nonexistent track record. We don’t want the track record to be developed on the backs of millions of Americans only to find out decades later that some of these “generally regarded as safe” food additives are now considered “generally regarded as unsafe.”
Check out this New York Times article that sums up the basic information about food additives.