What are food additives?

- 2022-02-12-

What are food additives?

Food additives are substances that become part of a food product when they are added during the processing or making of that food.

"Direct" food additives are often added during processing to:

Add nutrients
Help process or prepare the food
Keep the product fresh
Make the food more appealing
Direct food additives may be man-made or natural.

Natural food additives include:

Herbs or spices to add flavor to foods
Vinegar for pickling foods
Salt, to preserve meats
"Indirect" food additives are substances that may be found in food during or after it is processed. They were not used or placed in the food on purpose. These additives are present in small amounts in the final product.

Food additives serve 5 main functions. They are:

1. Give the food a smooth and consistent texture:

Emulsifiers prevent liquid products from separating.
Stabilizers and thickeners provide an even texture.
Anticaking agents allow substances to flow freely.
2. Improve or preserve the nutrient value:

Many foods and drinks are fortified and enriched to provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Examples of commonly fortified foods are flour, cereal, margarine, and milk. This helps make up for vitamins or minerals that may be low or lacking in a person's diet.
All products that contain added nutrients must be labeled.
3. Maintain the wholesomeness of foods:

Bacteria and other germs can cause foodborne illnesses. Preservatives reduce the spoilage that these germs can cause.
Certain preservatives help preserve the flavor in baked goods by preventing the fats and oils from going bad.
Preservatives also keep fresh fruits from turning brown when they are exposed to the air.
4. Control the acid-base balance of foods and provide leavening:

Certain additives help change the acid-base balance of foods to get a certain flavor or color.
Leavening agents that release acids when they are heated react with baking soda to help biscuits, cakes, and other baked goods rise.
5. Provide color and enhance flavor:

Certain colors improve the appearance of foods.
Many spices, as well as natural and man-made flavors, bring out the taste of food.