CORDIS - EU research results

Exposure to ‘cocktails’ of food additives and chronic disease risk

Project description

Evaluating hazards posed by food additives

Colours and sweeteners are just two of the most common additives used to give food a marketable quality. There are several hundred food additives allowed on the EU market. Since safety assessments are based on currently available evidence, the long-term health impact of additives intake is a growing concern. The findings of recent animal and cell-based tests suggest several additives have harmful effects on human health. The EU-funded ADDITIVES project proposes innovative tools developed to collect precise and repeated data, including names and brands, on foods and beverages widely consumed. Based on a combination of epidemiological studies and in vitro/in vivo tests, it will elucidate individual exposure to food additives in relation to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and mortality.


Today, our daily diet typically contains dozens of food additives (e.g. colours, emulsifiers, sweeteners: ~350 substances allowed on the EU market). Safety assessment is performed by health agencies to protect consumers against potential adverse effects of each additive, yet such an assessment is only based on current available evidence, i.e. for most additives, only in-vitro/in-vivo toxicological studies and exposure simulations. Meanwhile, the long-term health impact of additives intake and any potential ‘cocktail’ effects remain largely unknown and have become a source of serious concern. Growing evidence link the consumption of ultra-processed foods, containing numerous additives, to adverse health outcomes, in particular our recent results on cancer (Fiolet BMJ 2018). While most additives allowed in the EU are likely to be neutral for health and some may even be beneficial, recent animal and cell-based studies have suggested detrimental effects of several such compounds. In humans, data is lacking. No epidemiological study has ever assessed individual-level exposure to a wide range of food additives and its association with health, hampered by unsuited traditional dietary assessment tools facing the high additive content variability across commercial brands. Hence, a major breakthrough will come from the novel and unique tools I developed with my team, notably within the NutriNet-Santé cohort (n=164,000), collecting precise and repeated data on foods and beverages usually consumed, including names and brands of industrial products. With this unique resource, I propose a project at the forefront of international research to provide answers to a question of major importance for public health. Built as a combination of epidemiological studies and in-vitro/in-vivo experiments, this project will shed light on individual exposure to food additive 'cocktails' in relation to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and mortality, while depicting underlying mechanisms.


Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 918 125,00
75654 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 918 125,00

Beneficiaries (2)