Can food additives trigger an allergic reaction?

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Food additives such as preservatives and flavor enhancers can trigger allergies in some individuals. An allergic reaction to food additives generally include diarrhea, hives and other GI tract issues and respiratory problems.

Food additives that can trigger an allergic reaction

Monosodium glutamate

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added to foods for enhancement of flavor. This is commonly used in Asian dishes that can trigger reactions such as asthma, chest tightness, migraine, headache, diarrhea, burning sensation at the neck and upper chest and sweating.


A reaction to sulfites generally include skin rashes and stomach upset.

Sulfites are widely used in the processing of foods and beverages such as dried fruits, wine, frozen potatoes, white grape juice, fresh shrimp, maraschino cherries and some jellies and jams. A reaction to sulfites generally include skin rashes and stomach upset.

Yellow dyes

Various foods are tinted using the yellow dye No. 5 and No. 6. This food additive is known to contain carcinogenic benzidine and other chemicals that the body converts to benzidine.

Take note that yellow dye No. 5 is usually found in margarine, butter, medications, sodas, chocolate, oranges and candies. It can trigger allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions. As for yellow dye No. 6, it can cause kidney and adrenal tumors as well as hypersensitivity reactions in some individuals.


Butylated hydroxy toluene (BHT) as well as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are included in several cereals, breads and other grain-based products to preserve color, flavor and odor.

Potassium bromate

Potassium bromate is utilized in preparing several baked goods. This additive is capable of triggering cancer in animals. After the baking process, a trace amount of carcinogen potassium bromate is left in the bread.

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