What is the Problem?
Non-communicable diseases like heart problems, cancer and diabetes are causing most of the deaths in the EU that could be avoided. One cause of these diseases is a poor diet. Some additives can be part of that problem. For example, the sweetener Aspartame (E951) is widely spread in drinks like Coca-Cola light or in chewing gums. But it could possibly be carcinogenic. The preservatives Nitrites and Nitrates (E249 – E252) are used in ham for a more appealing, reddish look even though they are linked with a recognized risk of collateral cancer. This does not only mislead consumers but also poses a health risk. Nevertheless, these substances are allowed in our food.
All in all, 338 food additives are allowed in the European Union. A lot of them are controversial. And the pure number of food additives also poses a health risk: Additives might interfere with each other – that’s what is called cocktail effect. Eating and drinking several additives throughout the day could put our health in danger.
What is the Solution?
It is time to clean up our food. Therefore, foodwatch demands a ban of food additives that are potentially dangerous for human health or misleading for consumers. As there is insufficient research about possible cocktail or cumulative effects of additives, foodwatch calls for minimum use and approval of additives: The organic sector for example only uses 56 allowed substances.
There are three steps which are necessary, but not sufficient, to achieve an improved approach to additives in the EU.
- Quickly ban the most questionable additives, on the bases of the precautionary principle.
- Lower the total amount of allowed additives, to minimize potential cocktail effects.
- Make sure additives are properly labelled. The correct E number and the name of the substance should be marked.
What is foodwatch doing?
One prominent instance was the campaign against the white food colouring additive, titanium dioxide (E171), back in 2021. Titanium dioxide can damage the intestinal flora, and due to its nanoparticles, it can possibly cause cancer. The campaign culminated in the EU implementing a ban on this additive in 2022. This shows the power of public protest is able to bring positive changes.
foodwatch France is running a campaign against the harmful additives nitrite and nitrate (E249 – E252), used in the meat industry. With over half a million signatures, the petition put pressure on the EU to consider a ban. This move was backed by research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of WHO, and by the French national health authorities (ANSES) in 2022 who recognized the link between cancer and added nitrite as proven.
foodwatch demands safe, healthy, and accessible food for every European citizen. We cannot wait any longer to get rid of dangerous additives.