Additives serve a wide variety of uses. For example, preservatives protect foods against deterioration and prevent growth of fungi and bacteria. Other additives help improve the texture and consistency of foods, keep them flowing freely when poured, or prevent them from drying out. Flavourings restore taste losses or can enhance the flavour or aroma of food. Emulsifiers ensure that oil and water in foods do not separate. Some commonly used preservatives which are doubted to have a relation with cancer are – Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a phenolic antioxidant which prevents rancidity of fats and oils in food by protecting against lipid oxidation. High levels of BHA is found to create stomach tumor in laboratory animals.
The following are some chemicals that are known to perpetrate cancer.
- Bisphenol A(BPA) can be found in reusable plastic food containers and the lining of food and beverage cans. Research shows that BPA exposure is linked to breast cancer, and has been shown to interfere with chemotherapy treatment for the disease.
- Phthalates can be found in some plastic food containers and are considered as endocrine disruptors. Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used to produce food packaging. It was one of the first chemicals designated as known human carcinogen and has been linked to increased mortality from breast cancer and liver cancer among workers involved in its manufacture.
Some pesticides and herbicides used on foods we eat have been labeled as human or animal carcinogens.
- Zeranol: Commonly found in the beef industry processing, it mimics an estrogen like action in the body and has been found carcinogenic in laboratory animals. This chemical is banned by the European Union.