Add It Up: Why You Should Care About Fake Colors, Flavors, and Preservatives

Last Update: October 9, 2023

The piece of bread in the toaster, the dressing on that “healthy” salad, the sports drink athletes chug after a brutal workout—they’ve all got additives. Colors, preservatives, flavor enhancers…no matter what their purpose, these artificial ingredients are lurking in almost all processed foods.

But Americans don’t seem to care. Certainly, the government doesn’t. The EU has restricted or banned over 1,300 artificial additives while the U.S. has banned or restricted only 11. What gives?

The FDA, in conjunction with the USDA, is responsible for approving which additives are safe for human consumption and which should be avoided. The agency has come under fire in recent years for its reliance on funding from the very companies that it’s supposed to regulate.

What’s the problem?

Artificial additives show up in nearly every processed food that isn’t marked organic. And these ingredients aren’t innocuous.  They’ve been linked to adverse health effects ranging from ADHD in children to cancer. Sure, they can extend the shelf-life of processed foods, and to flavor food inexpensively, but those benefits come at a price to your health.

Why should you care?

The FDA does very little to regulate the usage, and food companies use this to their advantage by producing massive amounts of food for lower costs that are loaded with artificial ingredients. In fact, there is an entire group of substances that are exempted from the FDA regulation process. Group 1 additives were determined safe before 1958, and thus are no longer regulated by the FDA. An example of these “safe” ingredients: Sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite, an additive used to preserve and give a brighter, more appetizing color to lunch meats, and has been linked to carcinogenic effects in humans.

Thanks to the Environmental Working Group, we’ve laid out a list of the twelve worst food additives and where to find them, and despite scientific evidence of their detrimental effects on the human body the FDA has done little to ban or restrict these substances.

What can you do?

Most importantly, know where your food comes from. At Thrive Market we’re changing the status quo by offering GMO-free, non-toxic food and home products at the same price as conventional options for the first time in history. By becoming a member of our site, making your purchases with us,  and sharing us with your friends, you’ll contribute to supporting companies that don’t stand for artificially flavored, genetically modified food.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

We believe that everyone deserves the right to access healthy food. But even in the United States, it can prove impossible for some families. So we created Thrive Gives: a program that gives access, family by family, to affordable, healthy, and wholesome food. Click here to see if you qualify for a free Thrive Gives membership! 

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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