Food Additives-What am I Really Eating?

Last year a class action lawsuit was filed against Pinkberry, a frozen yogurt store in LA and NY, stating it misrepresented its product as an all-natural frozen yogurt. The claim was recently settled and while no guilt was assigned Pinkberry now lists the ingredients in its product on its website; here are the ingredients found in Pinkberry’s Frozen Yogurt-Original Flavor (

Skim milk, nonfat yogurt with live and active cultures, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, nonfat dry milk, nonfat dry yogurt, citric acid, maltodextrin, mono and diglycerides, sodium citrate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, magnesium oxide, lactoglycerides, propylene glycerol esters, guar gum, calcium fumarate, soy lecithin, starch, added color, yellow 5 lake, natural and artificial flavors, absorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherol

A food additive is defined as any natural or synthetic material, other than the basic raw ingredients, used in the production of a food item to enhance the final product.

By looking at the ingredient list, it is clear that Pinkberry uses both raw ingredients and food additives. Here is more information on several of the additives found in Pinkberry’s yogurt:

Guar Gum: Gums are stabilizer and thickening agent found in beverages, candy, cottage cheese, dough, drink mixes, puddings, ice cream, and salad dressing. Gums are derived from natural sources such as bushes, trees, seaweed, and bacteria). Other than the possibility of causing an allergic reaction, the limited research has deemed them safe.

Mono-and Diglycerides: These are emulsifiers typically found in baked goods, candy, margarine, and peanut butter. They make bread softer, margarine more stable and caramel less sticky. They also prevent the oil in peanut butter from separating. These emulsifiers are likely safe.

Propylene Glycerol Esters: Another type of stabilizer and thickening agent; this one is made from seaweed (kelp) and is recognized as safe.

Yellow 5: An artificial coloring found in baked goods, candy, gelatin dessert, and pet food. One of the more widely used colorings, it may cause mild allergic reactions and hyperactivity. It is used almost exclusively in products with little nutritional value, because of the absence of fruit or other natural ingredients

Most of the additives used in Pinkberry’s yogurt to appear to be safe. Below are examples of other food additives that may need to be avoided:

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): An antioxidant found in cereal packages, chewing gum, oil, and potato chips; it retards the rancidity in fats, oils and foods that contain oil. Based on animal studies, it may be carcinogenic.

Potassium Bromate: A dough strengthener found in white flour; there is some research to support a link with cancer. Bromate is banned in the UK and is not used in California.

Propyl Gallate: Another antioxidant and preservative found in chewing gum, chicken soup base, meat, potato sticks, and oil. Its role in food is to prevent fat ands and oils from spoiling. Again, a cancer link has been suggested.

Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrite: Used as a coloring, flavoring, and preservative, nitrates are found in bacon, corned beef, frankfurters, ham, luncheon meat, and smoked fish. Their role in food is to stabilize the red color, to add flavor, and to prevent the growth of bacteria. The risk again is that of cancer.

While most food additives are safe, some have not been adequately tested, and a few could be dangerous. Remember knowledge is the best line of defense so always read the labels!