Banned Additives

The history of food additives is riddled with additives that, after many years of use, were found to pose health risks.

The food and chemical industries have said for decades that all food additives are well tested and safe. And most additives are safe. However, the history of food additives is riddled with additives that, after many years of use, were found to pose health risks. Those listed below have been banned. The moral of the story is that when someone says that all food additives are well tested and safe you should take their assurances with a grain of salt.



Natural or Synthetic

Year Banned


Agene (nitrogen trichloride)flour bleaching and aging agentsynthetic1949Dogs that ate bread made from treated flour suffered epileptic-like fits; the toxic agent was methionine sulfoxime.
Artificial Colorings:    
Butter yellowartificial coloringsynthetic1919Toxic, later found to cause liver cancer.
Green 1artificial coloringsynthetic1965Liver cancer
Green 2artificial coloringsynthetic1965Insufficient economic importance to be tested
Orange 1artificial coloringsynthetic1956Organ damage
Orange 2artificial coloringsynthetic1960Organ damage
Orange Bartificial coloringsynthetic1978 (ban never finalized)Contained low levels of a cancer-causing contaminant. Orange B was used only in sausage casings to color sausages, but is no longer used in the United States.
Red 1artificial coloringsynthetic1961Liver cancer
Red 2artificial coloringsynthetic1976Possible carcinogen
Red 4artificial coloringsynthetic1976High levels damaged adrenal cortex of dog; after 1965 it was used only in maraschino cherries and certain pills; it is still allowed in externally applied drugs and cosmetics.
Red 32artificial coloringsynthetic1956Damages internal organs and may be a weak carcinogen; since 1956 it continues to be used under the name Citrus Red 2 only to color oranges (2 ppm).
Sudan 1artificial coloringsynthetic1919Toxic, later found to be carcinogenic.
Violet 1artificial coloringsynthetic1973Cancer (it had been used to stamp the Department of Agriculture’s inspection mark on beef carcasses).
Yellow 1 & 2artificial coloringsynthetic1959Intestinal lesions at high dosages.
Yellow 3artificial coloringsynthetic1959Heart damage at high dosages.
Yellow 4artificial coloringsynthetic1959Heart damage at high dosages.
Other Additives:    
cinnamyl anthranilateartificial flavoringsynthetic1982Liver cancer
cobalt saltsstabilize beer foamsynthetic1966Toxic effects on heart
coumarinflavoringtonka bean1970Liver poison
cyclamateartificial sweetenersynthetic1969Bladder cancer, damage to testes; now not thought to cause cancer directly, but to increase the potency of other carcinogens.
diethyl pyrocarbonate (DEPC)preservative (beverages)synthetic1972Combines with ammonia to form urethane, a carcinogen
dulcin (p-ethoxy-phenylurea)artificial sweetenersynthetic1950Liver cancer
ethylene glycolsolventsynthetic1998Kidney damage
monochloroacetic acidpreservativesynthetic1941Highly toxic
nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA)antioxidantdesert plant1968 (FDA), 1971 (USDA)Kidney damage
oil of calamusflavoringroot of calamus1968Intestinal cancer
polyoxyethylene-8-stearate (Myrj 45)emulsifiersynthetic1952High levels caused bladder stones and tumors
safroleflavoring (root beer)sassafras1960Liver cancer
thioureapreservativesyntheticc. 1950Liver cancer