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Answer: If they're in your food, they've either been approved by the FDA or are on the agency's Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list, meaning they won't hurt you when consumed in normal quantities.
"Still, I always tell my clients that it's a good idea to limit most artificial colors and preservatives -- not because they're unsafe, but because they're often found in products that have a low nutritional value to begin with," says Suzanne Henson, RD, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's EatRight Weight Management Program. "Preservatives make foods more shelf-stable, but who needs a snack cake that stays fresh for six weeks?"
Originally published in Fitness magazine, May 2006.