Food additives. Lancet 1972 Apr 22;1(7756):887


The fifteenth F.A.O./W.H.O. report on food additives is concerned with additives in baby foods, and with enzymes, chemically modified starches, and some other chemicals. The food industry's technologists produce new additives, and the committee dutifully ponders on their safety. They are experienced men, so, within the conventions of toxicology, the answers are sensible. But basic questions of food and health are rarely mentioned. Baby foods and their additives are a concern of the affluent, in whom the major nutritional problem is obesity; what is the role of these baby foods and their promotion in development of obesity?

Enzymes obtained from edible parts of animals or plants are regarded by the Expert Committee as foods, and therefore not as additives, but clearly many active toxic compounds can be extracted and concentrated from normal foods (e.g., oxalic acid from spinach). We know from drug toxicity studies that animal tests are very imperfect indicators of human toxicity; only clinical experience and careful control of the introduction of new drugs can tell us about their real dangers. In one known case where a food additive was implicated in disease - an outbreak of exudative erythema multiforme - it was only the unusual nature of the epidemic that brought the connection to light. No routine epidemiological studies are made to find out if food additives are toxic. Perhaps the Expert Committee should stop accepting the conventions and press for a start to the large-scale research programmes that are needed.


It appears that baby foods are no longer only for the affluent, but are used by all who feed babies. Further, obesity is certainly not the major childhood problem today, with the rise to epidemic dimensions of ADHD and Autism. And yet, STILL it is true that "No routine epidemiological studies are made to find out if food additives are toxic."