Health care food, as a specific type of food, can regulate the function of human body, and is suitable for specific people. However, the phenomena of adding chemical drugs and illegal additives in health care food are endless. Therefore, it is urgent to set up an effective detection method with multiple indicators to provide technical guarantee for the quality and safety of health care food. Efficient sample pretreatment as well as sensitive analytical method are very important for the detection of illegal additives. The applications of pretreatment methods such as solvent extraction, solid phase extraction (SPE), and analytical methods including high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), direct analysis in real time (DART-MS), surface-enhanced raman spectroscopy (SERS) and its tandem technique in the detection of trace illegal additives in recent three years are reviewed. A theoretical reference for the further research and establishment of efficient and simple pretreatment methods, new detection methods and technologies is provided.