Why do we need Food Additives?
Meeting consumer demands for variety and convenience with food products that are at the same time wholesome, safe and affordable can be achieved using modern food processing technology including a variety of food additives proven useful and safe through long use and rigorous testing.
Why are they used?
Additives are ingredients with a purpose; they are added to food products Intentionally to enhance safety, nutritional value and/or appeal. The role of additives can be summarised as follows:
To improve the keeping quality of a food e.g. preventing microbial spoilage which can cause food-borne illness and retarding oxidisation which can cause fats and oils to become rancid.
To maintain the nutritional quality of a food - e.g. by avoiding degradation of vitamins, essential amino acids and unsaturated fats.
To provide ingredients for consumers with specific nutritional requirements e.g., sweeteners in tooth friendly confectionary or bulking agents for those seeking to reduce caloric intake.
To enhance the appeal of foods and food products by maintaining or improving the consistency, texture and other sensory properties such as taste and colour. Examples include emulsifiers, thickeners and stabilisers that maintain consistent texture and prevent the separation of ingredients In such products as margarine, ice cream, jams and jellies and salad dressings. Additives such as colours enhance the appeal of many food products while baking powder makes baked products rise and acidulants modify acidity and alkalinity to enhance flavour as well as to preserve food products.
The purpose for which food additives may be used have been categorised by the Codox Alimentarius Commission (1), which operates under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). This list of additive functions is widely used to guide national food legislation throughout Europe and the rest of the world. In the European Union, the specific levels of additives in foods and beverages are regulated by the three food additives Directives (2).
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