Send to

Choose Destination
Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005 Dec;95(6):499-507; quiz 507, 570.

Adverse reactions to food additives.

Author information

Allergy and Immunology Section, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana 71130-3932, USA.



To summarize the literature related to the classification of food additives and their reported adverse reactions and to provide a practical approach for evaluation of patients suspected of having such reactions.


Information was derived from selected reviews and original articles published in peer-reviewed journals and from authoritative textbook chapters, supplemented by the clinical experience of the authors.


Priority was given to studies that used blinded, placebo-controlled oral challenges to confirm adverse reactions to food additives. In addition, selected, appropriately evaluated case reports are included.


A large number of food additives are widely used in the food industry. Adverse reactions to additives seem to be rare but are likely underdiagnosed in part due to a low index of suspicion. Numerous symptoms have been attributed to food additive exposure, but the cause-and-effect relationship has not been well demonstrated in all.


Reactions to food additives should be suspected in patients who report symptoms to multiple unrelated foods or to a certain food when commercially prepared but not when homemade and the allergy evaluation rules out a role for food protein. It is also prudent to investigate food additives in patients considered to have idiopathic reactions. There is a minor role for skin testing or in vitro testing. Oral challenge testing with common additives, preferably preceded by a trial of an additive-free diet, is the definitive procedure for detecting the offending agent. Once the specific additive is identified, management is basically avoidance of all its forms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center