In some cases of chronic urticaria it is suspected that food additives such as tartrazine and sodium benzoate or salicylates may play a role in the pathogenesis of the condition. Since, at times, chronic urticaria may appear histologically similar to a mild cell-mediated immune response, the release of the T cell-derived lymphokine leucocyte inhibitory factor (LIF), in response to incubation with these additives and with acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), was measured in vitro using cells from normal controls, from patients with chronic urticaria with or without clinically associated additive sensitivity and from patients with asthma with or without associated ASA sensitivity. It was found that significant production of LIF occurred in response to tartrazine and sodium benzoate in those individuals with chronic additive induced urticaria. In addition, tartrazine caused LIF release from mononuclear cells of ASA-sensitive asthmatics. These results may indicate a possible role for additive-induced cell-mediated immune responses in the pathogenesis of some cases of chronic urticaria and suggest a potential diagnostic test for this condition.