This project was completed as part of Miami University's CHM491Q Chemistry in Societal Issues capstone course toward partial completion of my Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry (Oxford, OH, May 2020). Title: Synthetic Food Additives: Chemistry, Health Effects, and the Societal Dilemma Authors: Kayleigh Antonelli, Michael DeBrota, Tony Durgham, Nicholas Kress, Bryce Miller, Qingxin Zhang Advisor: Dr. Michael A. Kennedy, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami University Abstract: Have you ever been puzzled by complex-sounding ingredients on your food label, wondering why they are used and what they do? Synthetic additives are ubiquitous in today's commercial food products, and their definitions, uses, and regulations are surprisingly complex. Today, many categories of synthetic additives exist, designed to improve food's characteristics or manufacturing processes. Various principles of chemistry underlie the functioning of these additives, and each possesses a unique and specific function. Certain additives have been subject to public scrutiny due to suspected negative health effects arising from their consumption. Moreover, the use of additives presents an additional challenge in that the accessibility to healthy alternatives, especially for individuals with low socioeconomic status, is hindered by the widespread availability of cheap, highly processed foods. Here, we present a summary of information gathered from recent studies, journal publications, and reference sources, with the intent of providing a general overview on synthetic food additives. To this end, we examine their history and definitions, the chemical basis of their function with special focus on three commonly used additives, concerns and benefits surrounding their use, and potential strategies for mitigating these concerns.