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Allergic and asthmatic reactions to food additives

Ronald A Simon, MD
Section Editor
Scott H Sicherer, MD, FAAAAI
Deputy Editor
Anna M Feldweg, MD


The list of additives used in the food industry is extensive and includes thousands of natural and synthetic substances used as flavorings, coloring substances, preservatives, sweeteners, antioxidants, thickeners, etc. However, only a small number of additives have been implicated in immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated or other (immunologic or nonimmunologic) adverse reactions.

Food additives that have been linked to urticaria/angioedema, asthma, and anaphylaxis will be discussed here. Food additives that cause asthma/rhinitis in food industry workers and testing and challenge procedures for food additives are mentioned briefly here and reviewed in more detail elsewhere. (See "Occupational asthma: Pathogenesis" and "Occupational rhinitis" and "Testing and challenge procedures to evaluate allergic and asthmatic reactions to food additives".)

Issues surrounding food additives that are not discussed in this topic review include the following:

Hyperactivity and behavioral changes in children (see "Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Overview of treatment and prognosis")

Oncogenic potential of food additives (see "Risk factors for gastric cancer")

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 04, 2017.
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