The Worst Food Additives for Children

The Worst Food Additives for Children

Food additives such as colourings, preservatives, chemicals in food packaging, and so on can have a negative impact on children and cause issues such as hyperactivity and disruptive behaviour. This is due to children’s lower body weight than adults, which serves as a reference point in determining the permissible limits of food additives. In order to restrict your child’s exposure to certain food additives, we have developed a list of these additives, foods that typically contain them, and how to recognise them.

Richa Pande

Food additives are used to keep food fresh, prevent spoilage, and improve its flavour, texture, and appearance. However, some evidence suggests that these additives may have a negative impact on health, particularly in children and the elderly. Similarly, chemicals found in some food packaging could be hazardous to their health. Thus, it is important to educate ourselves about these additives and chemicals and take measures to reduce our exposure to them.

Common Food Additives that can be harmful for kids

Artificial food colours

Food colours are used to enhance the appearance of food products. However, there have been numerous concerns raised in recent years about potential health consequences. According to certain research, food colours such as Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 can induce allergic reactions in some people. Many food colours have been related to hyperactivity in children, however another study suggests that this may be due to some children being more sensitive than others. It has also been proven that if children diagnosed with ADHD cut synthetic food colours from their diet, they show decreased ADHD symptoms.


Some food preservatives are also linked with causing hyperactivity in children. A recent study indicates Sodium Benzoate, a preservative commonly used to preserve fruit pulp and purees, jams, pickles, margarine, olives, fruit yogurts, canned vegetables, and salads, etc. can also cause hyperactivity in children.

Always go through the ingredient list in the food labels, and avoid picking the products for your children that have these food additives

  • INS 102 or Tartrazine
  • INS 104 or Quinoline Yellow
  • INS 107 or Yellow 2G
  • INS 110 or Sunset Yellow
  • INS 122 or Azorubine
  • INS 124 or Ponceau Red
  • INS 127 or Erythrosine
  • INS 128 or Red 2G
  • INS 129 or Allura Red
  • INS 132 Indigotine
  • INS 133 Brilliant Blue
  • INS 142 Green S
  • INS 151 Brilliant Black
  • INS 200-203 sorbates 
  • INS 210-213 benzoates 
  • INS 220-228 sulphites 
  • INS 280-283 propionates 

Nitrates / nitrites

They are commonly used in cured and processed meats as a food preservative and to enhance the meat colour. It has been found that they can interfere with thyroid hormone production and the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen in the body. They have also been linked with gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers.


It is an artificial sweetener present in several sugar-free beverages and some vitamin supplements. It has been found to have negative consequences on the child’s neurological development and to cause increased frequency of mood disorders and frequent headaches.

Antioxidants like BHA and BHT 

They are commonly present in butter/oil blends, edible oils (may not be listed on packaging), milk powder, chewing gums, etc. and they can cause symptoms like dermatitis, fatigue, aggressive behaviour, insomnia, and headaches in children.

How to avoid these food additives?

It is crucial to note that these food colours are mostly present in ultra-processed foods, and their consumption in a balanced diet should be limited regardless. Always choose whole foods because they include more key nutrients and are naturally free of food colouring.

Chemicals found in Food Packaging that are harmful for kids 

  • Bisphenols A (BPA) – They are found in the lining of food cans, soda cans, plastic food ware with the number 3 or 7, etc. They can act like the hormone oestrogen and interfere with puberty and fertility. Bisphenols can also increase body fat, and cause problems with the immune and nervous system. 
  • Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) – They are commonly found in cardboard food packaging, microwave popcorn bags, wax pastry bags, and commercial household products such as non-stick pans.

How to avoid exposure to chemicals in food packaging?

Avoid microwaving food or beverages in plastic containers. Avoid preparing infant formulas, and storing pumped human milk, in plastic containers whenever possible. Use glass or stainless steel cookware. Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3, 6, and 7.

Enquire Now

    Enquire Now