Food Additives

Food additives play a vital role in today's bountiful and nutritious food supply. They allow our growing urban population to enjoy a variety of safe, wholesome and tasty foods year-round. And, they make possible an array of convenience foods without the inconvenience of daily shopping.

Although salt, baking soda, vanilla and yeast are commonly used in foods today, many people tend to think of any additive added to foods as complex chemical compounds. All food additives are carefully regulated by federal authorities and various international organizations to ensure that foods are safe to eat and are accurately labeled. The purpose of this brochure is to provide helpful background information about food additives, why they are used in foods and how regulations govern their safe use in the food supply.

Here are 9 types of Food Additives
1. Flavorings:  There are approximately 1100 to 1400 natural and synthetic flavorings available to food processors. Scientists are most concerned regarding the toxicity of a number of the ones that are commonly used. Flavorings give foods a more acceptable taste, restore lost flavors due to processing and in some cases will improve natural flavors.
2. Stabilizers/Gelling Agents/Thickeners:  These are used to keep products in a set state, such as jellies, jams and baby foods. They are also used to keep ice cream creamy. They generally improve consistency and will affect the appearance and texture of foods. The more common ones are modified food starch and vegetable gum.
3. Colorings:  Ninety percent are artificial and do not contain any nutritional value. Some foods have a tendency to lose their natural color when processed and must be dyed back to make them more appealing to the consumer. An example of this is banana ice cream which is dyed yellow and maraschino cherries which are dyed red and green. The majority of the colorings presently being used are derived from coal tars (carcinogens). As the years go by more and more of these colorings are being further tested and banned.
4. Sweeteners:  The United States consumption of artificial sweeteners is estimated at approximately six to nine pounds per person, per year. These are designed to make the foods more palatable.
5. Aroma Enhancers:  An example is yellowish-green liquid diacetyl which is used in some cottage cheeses to produce an artificial butter aroma.
6. Preservatives:  Helps maintain freshness and prevents spoilage that is caused by fungi, yeast, molds and bacteria. Extends shelf life and protects the natural colors or flavors.
7. Acids/Bases:  Provides a tart flavor for many fruits and is used in pickling as well as putting the carbonation in soft drinks (phosphoric acid).
8. Antioxidants:  Reduces the possibility of rancidity in fats and oils. Natural ones are vitamins C, E, A, selenium and beta-carotene. Artificial ones are BHA and BHT.
9. Taste Enhancers:  Brings out the flavors of certain foods. MSG is a good example but is not recommended.

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