Decoding Common Food Additives

The Ingredients You Won’t Find on CUSD’s Menu

It’s hard enough to pronounce the names of common additives, let alone know what they do! To make it simpler, we are looking into the research and history of 30 common additives that didn’t make the cut onto our menus.

CUSD Nutrition believes in providing nutritious and wholesome meals to our students. If there is any question about an additives safety, we don’t feel its necessary to serve it to our students.


Aspartame was created in 1965 and can now be found in over 6,000 products. It is an artificially made and added to food, gum and medication to add sweetness. Since aspartame is synthetically made, it is not listed under “Sugars” on a food label. It is often found in products advertised as “Sugar Free” or “Diet”

OTHER NAMES: Equal, NutraSweet, or AminoSweet

WHERE IT’S FOUND: Soft Drinks, Chewing Gum, Dessert Mixes, Gelatin Deserts, Candy, Condiments, Puddings, Yogurt, Table Sweeteners, Sugar-Free Cough Drops and Medications

THE RESEARCH: Studies have been conducted on both rats and humans. Conflicting results about whether or not aspartame poses a serious health risk have been found. Research conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, as well as multiple studies conducted on rats found that long-term, continued use of aspartame does pose a healthy risk related to cancer and tumor growth. Although, the FDA believes the research regarding aspartame is flawed and needs to be reevaluated.

Overall, they report that aspartame when limited to small amounts does not pose a risk to human health.

ALTERNATIVES: Since the research related to aspartame is inconclusive and people are recommended to only consume small amounts over time, CUSD Nutrition feels there are better ways to sweeten your foods! Natural sweeteners including- agave, date sugar, honey, maple sugar, molasses, or coconut sugar


BHA is an antioxidant that is used in a variety of foods. It is added in order to preserve the food and increase its shelf life. Since 1947, It has been added to fat and fat-containing foods.



WHERE IT’S FOUND: Cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, vegetable oil.

THE RESEARCH: There are conflicting results between studies conducted on BHA. Some studies have found it to cause harm to animal organs that do not exist in humans, while others have found it to have no effect. Even with controversial research, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  “reasonably considers” BHA to be a carcinogen and advised its use be limited.

ALTERNATIVES: BHA works as an antioxidant to preserve fat-containing foods. A natural alternative is Vitamin E, an antioxidant that can preserve food and add nutritional value. Another alternative includes leaving BHA and any other preservative out of the food- since they are not required to produce a quality product.


MSG is added to foods to enhance their flavor. It is substituted in recipes in replacement of real food ingredients. Even though MSG is naturally occurring, it artificially gives foods a savory and meat like taste.



WHERE IT’S FOUND: Soup, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, restaurant foods

THE RESEARCH: A 1960’s study was conducted that found large amounts of MSG caused considerable harm to rats. After it was made public, all MSG was removed from baby food. Continued research has reported that some people are more sensitive than others to MSG’s effects. Many people have reported headaches, nausea, and weakness after consuming foods containing MSG. More research is needed to determine if MSG is truly harmful in varying amounts.

ALTERNATIVES: Instead of artificially adding flavor, more of the desired ingredients can be added. CUSD Nutrition plans to make numerous items from starch, eliminating many flavor-enhancing additives. Whole-food recipes are exceptionally tasty, containing fresh herbs and spices.

Visit the blog weekly to find more research, information and alternatives to common food additives!



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