Study Refutes Food Additives Link to Hives, Skin Rashes

Some consumers have blamed food additives for causing allergic reactions, but new research published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice shows additives like dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers and flavor enhancers are probably not the culprits of various skin irritations.

SAN DIEGO—Some consumers have blamed food additives for causing allergic reactions, but new research published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice shows additives like dyes, preservatives, emulsifiers and flavor enhancers are probably not the culprits of various skin irritations.

Lead author Jessica Rajan and researchers from  Scripps Clinic in San Diego studied 100 patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), a condition defined as the presence of skin irritations for six weeks or longer. They tested 11 additives commonly blamed for allergic reactions, including aspartame, monosodium glutamate, yellow dye No. 6, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.

Only two of the 100 subjects had a positive urticarial response on the single-blind test, and neither of these patients had a positive response on the double-blind, placebo-controlled test. Patients also had no gastrointestinal, respiratory or other types of symptoms. Researchers concluded that sensitivity to any of the 11 food and drug additives occurs in less than 1% of patients with CIU.

The use of food additives has become a topic of interest for increasingly health-conscious consumers looking for clean-label food products. Recent innovations in natural color additives have led to a significant growth in the market, which is projected to hit $5.8 billion by 2018. In addition to color additives, preservatives, stabilizers, thickeners, binders, texturizers, fat replacers and flavor enhancers are also predicted to experience strong growth in upcoming years. For details on what increased interest in natural colors means for food and beverage formulators, view the FoodTech Toolbox slide show A Look at Natural Colors.

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