Food Chemicals: An Introduction
Food chemicals are compounds found in food that either occur naturally or have been added during the manufacturing process.
Emsley and Fell [Emsley J, Fell P. Was it something you ate? Food Intolerance: what causes it and how to avoid it. O.U.P. 1999.] estimate that there are about half a million natural chemicals in the food we eat. Only a few of these have been identified and even fewer have been tested, analysed and their implications for health understood. Food chemicals which have been identified as causing problems, for some people, include Amines, Purines, and Salicylate.
The chemicals added during the manufacturing process are known as food additives. Many food additives have been identified as causing problems for some people. The most notorious problem groups include azo colour dyes, benzoates, and sulphites.
We are often told that both groups are 'safe' but, in fact, these chemicals can cause serious problems for individuals sensitive to them.
A food chemical, natural, or man made, becomes a problem for some people when it is eaten in large amounts, is eaten on a regular basis, or the body cannot detoxify it due to illness or a deficiency in the metabolic pathways. Adverse reactions to food chemicals are usually classed as a form of food intolerance; some doctors still deny they can cause problems.
You can find out more information on food chemicals in the Food Intolerance Handbook.