Alternate Names : Artificial Colors, Preservatives, Additives, Artificial Flavors
Additives are substances that are added to foods. They may be added
purpose, such as when vitamins
are added to some foods to replace those lost when the food is processed.
On the other hand, some drugs given
to animals and chemicals used on crops are examples of additives that
get into food by accident. Metals from cooking utensils can also leach
Additives are used in foods for 5 main reasons:
To control food texture. Emulsifiers,
stabilizers, and thickeners can give food an even texture.
They help keep ingredients and flavors blended in the product. Some
examples of these are lecithin, mono and diglycerides,
guar gum and carrageenan. An example of a food they are found in is
peanut butter. Emulsifiers help keep the peanuts and oil from separating.
To improve nutritional value.
When nutrients are added to foods to replace those that were lost
during processing, the foods are said to be enriched.
as well as fiber,
are often added to enrich foods in this way. For example, many of the
B vitamins are lost as whole-wheat flour is being refined into white flour, so they
are added back in.
When nutrients are added that were never in the food, the foods
are said to be fortified. For example, vitamins A
are added to milk
to fortify it. This process of adding nutrients to foods has helped reduce
To maintain freshness and safety. Some
additives are called preservatives. These are used to prevent spoiling in
foods that may be exposed to air, mold, and bacteria.
For example, antioxidants,
such as vitamin E,
are added to fats and oils to prevent them from becoming rancid. They also
are used in baked goods, cereals, processed foods, and salad dressing to
prevent spoiling and discoloration. Other examples are BHA and BHT.
The US Food and Drug Administration, known as the FDA, has classed
some food additives as "generally recognized as safe." This is also known
as GRAS . BHA and BHT are classed GRAS. Other preservatives
A small percentage of the population is allergic to sulfites.
The FDA requires that labels clearly show when packaged and
processed foods contain more than 10 parts/million of sulfites.
To help foods rise and to control the acid-base balance
of food. Leavening agents cause baked goods, such as bread, to
rise. Other additives, such as yeast and sodium bicarbonate, help
control the acidity and alkalinity of foods, which affect the flavor, taste,
To improve flavor and color. Natural and
artificial colors and flavors enhance the appearance and taste of
certain foods. Common examples include
FD&C Red No. 40
monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG
MSG is a well-known flavor enhancer. In the past, people
have questioned the safety of MSG. The FDA has considered
MSG as GRAS. Some people are allergic to the flavor enhancer.
These people should always read ingredient
lists and be careful of ordering food in restaurants, especially Asian
There are 33 colors approved for use in foods. Only seven of
them are man-made. The push is towards using more natural coloring
agents. The only color that has been known to cause
in a very small amount of people, is Yellow No. 5.
The FDA regulated the use
of food additives. Before the FDA approves the use of a particular food
additive, studies must be conducted that prove the substances are
safe in large doses when fed to animals. Even then, these substances
can only be used at levels 100 times lower than those that have been
shown to cause harmful effects in animals.
Many additives are on the FDA GRAS list. These
substances have been widely used for a long time without
known problems. A few examples of the 700 items on the GRAS
list include salt, sugar, guar gum, and vinegar.
Food additives are quite safe for most people, but some people
may be allergic or sensitive to certain additives. Because of this, food
manufacturers are required to list additives on food labels. People who
know they are allergic or sensitive to certain things should always read
the food labels and avoid any foods that may not be healthy for them.