Everything You Need to Know About Artificial Ingredients

Peter Balsells


Artificial ingredients show up in all sorts of food products, from breakfast cereal to beverages to marinades for meat. Artificial ingredients are made from chemical reactions, they’re man-made and don’t have origins in a plant or animal that’s found in nature.

The word “artificial” just sounds scary, and you may wonder if you should avoid all products with these man-made ingredients.

Use of Artificial Ingredients

Artificial ingredients can show up in foods to add color or flavor. They also serve as sweeteners and preservatives for some foods. Artificial ingredients help boost the appearance and taste of modern foods that often sit on shelves for weeks, are transported in trucks across the country (and the world) and feed a demanding population that wants food to look good.

How Artificial Ingredients are Made

Artificial ingredients are made from chemical reactions that take place at high temperatures or high pressures. The compounds used to make artificial ingredients don’t come from natural food products but from chemicals.

Artificial flavors, for example, are actually chemical formulas owned by the companies that create them. Flavor companies don’t even have to reveal their formulas. The FDA gives them a pass as long as they can prove the ingredients are classified as GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.” Artificial flavors can be crafted from a combination of 1,300 FDA-approved ingredients.

Regulation of Artificial Ingredients

The FDA does not provide a standard “grade” or quality marker for artificial ingredients in foods. They are made using purified chemicals, so there’s not a lot of contamination in artificial ingredients. The creators of the ingredients must use pure ingredients to get just the right chemical reaction to create a precise flavor, color, preservative or additive. “Pure” doesn’t mean “natural” or “good for you,” however.

Artificial ingredients cannot appear in organic products. By their very nature of being man-made, they do not conform to organic standards.

Concerns About Artificial Ingredients

For some people, artificial ingredients can cause adverse reactions when consumed. Ingredients such as artificial colorings and monosodium glutamate can result in symptoms including fatigue, headache, chest pain, and allergic reactions. Because manufacturers don’t have to disclose the specific ingredients in artificial flavors or colors, you may find it hard to narrow down the exact ingredient that’s the root cause of your symptoms.

Artificial ingredients skew people’s taste and understanding of what real food is. When a company manufactures flavors in a lab and you regularly eat these flavors, you may lose your taste for real, natural foods. Plus, consumers start to expect all food to look uniform and aesthetically pleasing. Fruit with blemishes, meat that’s slightly gray or vegetables that are not bright green may be deemed unappetizing or not worthy of consumption, when indeed, they’re perfectly safe and nutritious.

Published On:
February 25, 2019

Peter Balsells



CEO of Everything Food, Inc.

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