Commonly Used Food Additives

From the Baltimore Sun

Here are some commonly used food additives:

Alpha tocopherol: Vitamin E. Prevents rancidity in vegetable oils.

Annato: Food coloring.

Ascorbic acid: Vitamin C. Prevents loss of color and flavor.


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): Prevent rancidity in oils and in foods that contain oils.

Carrageenan: Thickening agent in creamy foods.

Casein: Thickens and whitens foods.

EDTA: Prevents food spoilage from the trace amounts of metals that come off food processing machinery.


Glycerol: Maintains moistness.

Invert sugar: Mixture of fructose and dextrose; sweeter than table sugar.

Lecithin: Prevents separation of oil and water.

Mono- and diglycerides, and polysorbate 60: Increase shelf-life of bread. Improve food texture.


Monocalcium phosphate: Used to leaven dough.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Enhances food flavor.

Nitrate and nitrite: Prevent microbial growth.

Sodium benzoate: Prevents microbial growth.


Sulfites: Prevent microbial growth and discoloration.

Source: “Eating Smart Additive Guide,” Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C.