Navigate / search

Food Additives Banned by One or More Countries

Due to requests I have produced a list of additives which have been banned by various countries. I’ve gone through the book ‘E for Additives’ by Maurice Hanssen (1987) noting which ones have been singled out by governments for exclusion from diet.


E For Additives

I have done this so that it makes clear that large bodies of educated people in the employment of governments around the world have surveyed the available evidence on the properties of these chemicals and have for one reason or another decided that these should not be allowed in the food chain. In short, there is compelling evidence as to these being poisonous to our health.


I have been contacted by someone who has brought critical reflections to this article and suggested that the legislative information which I have quoted needs updated.  I am very appreciative of this and am at the moment working to incorporate the suggested points into this article. Key here is being able to reference reliable information resources so that informed decisions on what to exclude in the diet can be made..


Should you want to find other solid and dependable (legislation linked) information on the toxicity of a substance (which is a good habit) I would recommend looking up the Material Data Safety Sheet on the chemical you are checking.  Here is an example of one on Benzene:


Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab




Note that in ‘Section 3: Hazards Identification’ of the above Data Safety Hazard Sheet, anyone will be able to find clear information about what is known about the toxic nature of the substance.  Material Data Safety Sheets are reliable sources of information on toxicology.  So, in the above Material Data Safety Sheet we can read about the following:


  • Potential Acute Health Effects: Very hazardous in case of eye contact (irritant), of inhalation. Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator), of ingestion. Inflammation of the eye is characterized by redness, watering, and itching. Potential Chronic Health Effects:
  • CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Classified A1 (Confirmed for human.) by ACGIH, 1 (Proven for human.) by IARC.
  • MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Classified POSSIBLE for human. Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast.
  • TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available.
  • DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Classified Reproductive system/toxin/female [POSSIBLE]. The substance is toxic to blood, bone marrow, central nervous system (CNS). The substance may be toxic to liver, Urinary System. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.



It is concise and nails the points which you really want to know.  Is this carcinogenic ?  Is this toxic to any part of my body (or the environment) ?  This information can help me make decisions about whether I want this in my food


An approach like this can help inform you about issues such as sources of benzene in soft drinks, for example.  Sodium Benzoate is an additive which you can find in some soft drinks.  Knowing what you know now (ibid that benzene is confirmed carcinogenic for humans) would you want to drink a soft drink which used benzene based preservatives ?


There is a wikipedia article illustrating some of the controversies about benzene in our food chain:


It has been suggested by William Leyland that “The idea that a benzoate compound is toxic because benzene is toxic is exactly as scientifically illiterate as saying that common salt (sodium chloride) is toxic because chlorine can be used as a chemical weapon. Sodium chloride is essential for life. Chlorine kills. Benzene is super hazardous. This tells you absolutely nothing about the hazards of benzoates”…


Without venturing too deeply into syllogisms and logical fallacies, the point which was made needs disambiguating (clarified).  If sodium chloride (table salt) were put into some food stuff which liberated chlorine gas, it would be a matter of legitimate concern to investigate.  Salts of compounds sometimes change the action of their component parts in biological systems but sometimes they do not.


For example, Sodium acetylsalicylate the sodium salt of acetylsalicylate is still biologically a useful drug – it is just another form of aspirin.  A salt in chemistry is an ionic compound that can be formed by the reaction of an acid and an alkali.


Making an assumption is to base decisions on what is not known.  If there is a situation where assumptions are temporarily useful, it might be in the precautionary principle which is commonly used in health and wellbeing contexts whilst an investigation takes place…


The important point being made here that it is important to clarify what you are studying…  So, benzoates have in them benzene which can be released when benzoates are exposed to commonly occurring substances – specifically vitamin C, copper and iron which are essential and common nutrients in everyone’s diet.

Here is a paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry illustrating how the production of benzene occurs from benzoates such as sodium benzoate:


“The present study shows that hydroxyl radical, generated by the metal-catalyzed reduction of 02 and H202 by ascorbic acid, can attack benzoic acid to produce benzene under conditions prevalent in many foods and beverages. Since benzene has been shown to be carcinogenic its potential formation in foods during processing and storage should be of some concern”



Journal of agricultural and food chemistry


Gardner, L.K.; Lawrence, G.D. (May 1993). “Benzene Production from Decarboxylation of Benzoic Acid in the Presence of Ascorbic Acid and a Transition-Metal Catalyst”. J. Agric. Food Chem. 41 (5): 693–695. doi:10.1021/jf00029a001


A key principle of the matter should be about focusing on amassing robust evidence and research to learn from the published peer reviewed science out there.  The chemistry is understandable and if you dont want to venture into the breakdown chemistry you can always look up the specific material data safety sheet.


Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab



We can logically deduce precautionary safety protocols…  So if you have a diet which does not contain ascorbic acid (vitamin C), copper and iron; or if you do have a diet which has these things in but think you can keep those separate from the foodstuffs which have benzoates in them, then you may just want to pay attention to the legislation linked safety information for the chemical itself – in this situation we are looking at Sodium Benzoate…


As you can find in the Material Data Safety Sheet on Sodium Benzoate available above:

Section 3: Hazards Identification

Potential Acute Health Effects: Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of inhalation. Slightly hazardous in case of ingestion. Potential Chronic Health Effects:




DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Classified Reproductive system/toxin/female, Reproductive system/ toxin/male [SUSPECTED].

The substance may be toxic to blood, the reproductive system, liver, central nervous system (CNS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.


Section 11: Toxicological Information

Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans: May cause adverse reproductive effects and birth defects (teratogenic). May affect genetic material (mutagenic)

Special Remarks on other Toxic Effects on Humans: Acute Potential Health Effects: Skin: May cause skin irritation. Eyes: Dust may cause mechanical Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract irritation. Ingestion: Ingestion of large amounts may cause gastrointestinal tract irritation with gastric pain, nausea, and vomiting. May also affect behavior/central nervous system (tremor, convulsions, change in motor activity), and respiration (dyspnea).

Chronic Potential Health Effects: Ingestion: Prolonged or repeated ingestion may affect behavior/central nervous system (sypmptoms similar to acute exposure) as well as liver, metabolism, blood, and urinary system.


So, now you have read the discussion about sources of benzene, benzoates and sodium benzoate, are you in a better position to make your own informed decision about whether you want this in your food ?



Take Home Message

Key in all of this article is that the science is understandable and it is available in libraries and peer reviewed journals online, and even sometimes linked to in wikipedia articles (if you check the references as the source of information).  Knowledge is not just for some people as some might have you believe; anyone can come to grips with tried and tested information with a little effort.  Avoid pseudoskepticism and try to engage with genuine thinkers and educators.


Investigate, investigate, investigate


It can be confusing trying to understand what is an impartial source of information on these matters.  So for many people who did not want to read the book or invest in understanding the science, I wrote a list out of all the food additives which were banned by one or more country (at the time of publishing, 1987) which formed the original basis of this article.


This made a simple and conservative list to give people to consider removing from the diet.  E For Additives is a good book and an interesting one to pick through as a reference.  Even though it is an old book, a great deal of the science is still the same.  Legislation sometimes does change but it is very rare, if known at all, that something has been banned from the food chain before being put back in by a countrys administration. I would certainly like to know of any cases.



List of Banned Additives from Book

This is not a specific section of the book but instead a series of verbatim quotes from the additives indicated in the book as being banned in one or more countries.  Following will be a representation of how the information is presented in the published version, which will show how the author has laid out the data:


  • E102 Tartrazine (C.I. 19140: FD and C Yellow 5); Synthetic azo dye; Yellow colour: Prohibited in Norway and Austria
  • E104 Quinoline Yellow (C.I. 47005); Synthetic coal tar dye; dull yellow to greenish-yellow colour.  Prohibited in Norway, the USA, Austria and Japan.
  • 107 Yellow 2G (Food Yellow 5); Synthetic coal tar dye and azo dye: The Food Advisory Committee have recommended that yellow 2G should be withdrawn from use in Britain. Within the EEC, the UK is the only country to retain its use.  It is prohibited in Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and the USA.
  • E110 Sunset Yellow FCF (C.I. 15985; FD and C Yellow 6); Synthetic azo dye; red colour: Prohibited in Norway and Finland.
  • E122 Carmoisine (Azorubine; C.I. 14720); synthetic azo dye; red colour: Prohibited in Norway, Sweden, the USA and Japan.
  • E123 Amaranth (C.I. 16185; FD and C Red 2); Synthetic coal tar dye and azo dye; purplishred colour: Prohibited in Norway and the USA.  In France and Italy it may only be used in caviar.
  • E124 Ponceau 4R (C.I. 16255); Synthetic coal tar dye and azo dye; red colour: Prohibited in Norway and the USA.
  • E127 Erythrosine (C.I. 45430; FD and C Red 3); Synthetic coal tar dye; cherry pink to red colour: The 1987 Food Advisory Committee’s recommendation is that erythrosine should be permitted in cocktail and glace cherries only and limited to a maximum content of 200mg/kg. It is prohibited in Norway and the USA.
  • 128 Red 2G (C.I. 18050); Synthetic coal tar dye and azo dye; red colour: It is used in no other EEC member state nor is it permitted in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, the USA, Canada, Japan, and Australia.
  • E132 Indigo Carmine (Indigotine; C.I.73015; FD and C Blue 2); Synthetic coal tar dye; Blue colour and diagnostic agent: Prohibited in Norway.
  • 133 Brilliant Blue FCF (C.I. 42090; FD and C Blue 1); Synthetic coal tar dye; blue colour: Prohibited in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Germany.
  • E142 Green S (Acid Brilliant Green; Food Green S; Lissamine Green; Ci.I. 44090); Synthetic coal tar dye; green colour: Prohibited in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Canada and the USA.
  • E151 Black PN (Brilliant Black PN; C.I. 28440); Synthetic coal tar dye and azo dye; black colour: Prohibited in Norway, Finland, Japan Canada and the USA.
  • E153 Carbon Black (Vegetable carbon); Can be prepared from animal charcoal, furnace black, lampblack, activated charcoal or it can be prepared in a laboratory; black colour: Banned in the USA in 1976.
  • 154 Brown FK (Kipper Brown; Food Brown); Synthetic mixture of six azo dyes and subsidiary colouring matters; Brown colour: Prohibited in all EEC member states bar the UK and Irish Republic, also prohibited in Austria, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the USA, Canada, Japan and Australia.
  • 155 Brown HT (C.I. 20285; Chocolate Brown HT); Synthetic coal tar dye and azo dye; brown colour: Prohibited in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the USA, and Australia
  • E171 Titanium dioxide (C.I. 77891); prepared from the mineral ilmenite; white colour: Prohibited in Germany
  • E172 Iron Oxides, iron hydroxides (yellow/brown: C.I. 77492; red: 77491; brown: 77499); naturally occurring pigments of iron: Prohibited in Germany.
  • E237 Sodium formate; sodium salt of formic acid; preservative: Prohibited in the UK.
  • E238 Calcium formate; calcium salt of formic acid; preservative: prohibited in UK
  • E320 Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA); A mixture of 2- and 3-tert-butyl-4-methoxyphenol prepared from p-methoxyphenol and isobutene; retards flavour deterioration in foods due to oxidation: Prohibited in Japan


Even better is if you develop an enjoyment of the science, it’s not that hard to pick up and quite interesting to read about the tests which have been done and the things which are generally agreed about.  Carcinogenic = causes cancer, Teratogenic = halt the pregnancy or produce a congenital malformation (causes birth defects); it is just a matter of getting the lingo. You can draw your own conclusions from there, you dont need a diploma from a medical school to understand this.


Once you start understanding some of the principles which are known you can start looking up the meanings of words and then searching for published peer reviewed papers on the internet and making your own notes.


Further Reading:

Here is some of the governance about what is safe to have in our food chain:


Food Additives Guidance to Legislation
Click To Download


Also, here is a great Masters thesis on the Toxicological Aspects of Food Colourings – interesting stuff


Toxicological Aspects of Food Additives Azo Dyes by Christina Gil
Click To Download






The above is completely wrong. The use of food colorants is governed by EU Directive 1333/2008. It applies to all member states. The link provided to FSA does not support what is written. It refers back to 1333/2008 and this specifies what is allowed in which foods and how much.can be used.


Hi Rob, What do you mean it is completely wrong ? Could you clarify a little please ? I know that I am linking to the governance, but only as a backdrop. I have added some to the article to give it a better narrative structure. My interest here is simplifying the toxicology for people who are trying to work out how to rationally decide something is toxic or not. Maurice Hanssen’s book is a good text which illustrated a point. I hope the article is better with the additions


Hi Alex,

It is too easy to make sweeping statements without bothering to check the facts.

1333/2008 specifies what colours that can be used in different foods and drinks. For some products, all colours are banned, others have specific exceptions. There are limits to how much you can use. There are limits on some natural dyes. It is continually updated. All the amendments since its inception are grouped together into a consolidated version.

There are many instances where something was OK in 2008 but not in 2017.

This directive covers all EU States. I am not aware of specific opt-outs by different countries unless you can show me different.


Hi Rob,

When I wrote this, and as I develop it I do check the facts. The whole point of the exercise is to learn the facts and putting aside the subject and content, it is good to try and develop skills for assessing the facts for yourself. My background is rooted in the biochemistry side and so I look for ways to communicate to people robust sources of knowledge to think through the issue for themselves. The issue is that many are intimidated by the idea of learning the science as a general subject. I am trying to put into context the simple steps an individual can do to use the internet or public libraries to make informed decisions on things which are important to them.

The legal side I included, despite having little active knowledge of the law, because I think it provides an important backdrop to be able to look to. In theory, governments are acting in the best interests of all the people of a society. Governments are wise to employ the advice and guidance of experts in their field. On consideration of the evidence, if a government decides to ban a chemical in the food chain it is an attempt to avoid known issues which would negatively affect the population.

Would you be interested to write an article for the website framing up what you are saying and indicating helpful information resources online which people can use to become better informed ?

Best wishes, Alex

William Leyland

The idea that a benzoate compound is toxic because benzene is toxic is exactly as scientifically illiterate as saying that common salt (sodium chloride) is toxic because chlorine can be used as a chemical weapon. Sodium chloride is essential for life. Chlorine kills. Benzene is super hazardous. This tells you absolutely nothing about the hazards of benzoates.


Hello William, Many thanks for your thoughts. The article needed revamping which I have done. I hope this is of interest. Best wishes, Alex

Leave a comment


email* (not published)