Even if you know next to nothing about eating healthy, you probably know one thing for sure: that preservatives and additives found in many packaged and pre-made foods are bad for you. But even though I know a few things about what constitutes a healthy diet, if I’m being honest with myself, when I’m staring down the barrel of a loaded food label, I’m not always sure what even is a preservative. With so much coded language (and so many gross additives), it’s hard to tell what’s harmless–and what’s carcinogenic.
Rarely does the label on the back of your potential purchase say, out-right, that is contains dangerous, under-studied, over-subsidized fillers and additives. Instead, amid the normal-looking ingredients, there lurk food dyes, plasticizers, stabilizers, and emulsifiers, which keep food, shipped from thousands of miles away, looking and tasting as if it was just bottled or boxed. And while a lot of these ingredients have technically been deemed “safe” by the FDA (though not, it turns out, by the food safety commissions of other nations, like Australia and England) the fact is that when it comes to GMOS, artificial sweeteners, and the aforementioned preservatives, we’re currently part of what’s basically the largest food safety study of all time. Many of these ingredients were only introduced in the last 30-50 years, and haven’t had quite enough time to prove their danger.
So which preservatives have been found to cause cancer? Digestive issues? Hormonal imbalances? And what products tend to contain them? Flip through this gallery to see which preservatives are some of the worst–and which household food items are most likely to harbor potentially disease-causing additives. Then, it’s up to you to decide for yourself if it’s something you really need.