Recommendation 12 Background

There are many food additives. They are deliberately added to most manufactured foods and drinks as a part of the manufacturing process. These are colorants, flavorings, preservatives including antioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilizers, solvents, and sweeteners. Processing aids may be present as residues in food.

Some food additives are known to be toxic, and some have been found to be mutagenic or carcinogenic in experimental conditions. Their use is regulated by national and international bodies. According to the panel, when additives are used following agreed specifications, they do not modify significantly the risk of human cancer. The effects of unregulated additives or those used in amounts exceeding regulations are unknown.

The AICR/WCRF panel feels that … there is currently little epidemiological evidence that the properly regulated use of food additives significantly affects cancer risk. There is probably no relationship between saccharin and bladder cancer, and the panel notes that there is possibly no relationship between cyclamates and bladder cancer. Evidence on other additives is, at most, insufficient.

The following table summarizes the findings.

Food Additives and Cancer

Evidence Decreases risk No relationship Increases risk
Probable   Sweeteners

Bladder (saccharin)

Possible   Sweeteners

Bladder (cyclamates)


Adapted from Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, 1997

To learn more about food additive and pesticides please see:


EXTOXNET FAQS Diet and Cancer Homepage

Prepared 1998 by Bernadene Magnuson, Ph.D.
University of Idaho, Dept. of Food Science and Toxicology - EXTOXNET FAQ Team.