Food Additives

What are food additives ?

Food additives are substances usually not consumed as foods. They are not typical food ingredients with or without nutritional value, whose intentional, technological

use during production, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport and storage will result in intended or expected results in the food products or in semi-

finished products that are its components. Additives may become food ingredients directly or indirectly or otherwise affect its characteristics.

What are the main groups of additives and their functions?

Food additives - substances that are not typical ingredients of the food. The task of food additives is to give it the most extended durability, to obtain flavour values, to

make meals more attractive, to protect against the loss of nutrients.

Chemical food additives can be broadly divided into:

* Flavouring compositions sometimes called flavouring mixtures.

* Food colours (they are divided into organic, natural, synthetic, inorganic, mineral).

*Emulsifiers, thickeners, raising agents and other products that change the consistency of products.

* Preservatives, antioxidants, stabilisers - compounds that prolong the durability of products.

All these supplements can be of natural or artificial origin. From this point of view, these additives are divided into:

* Natural - derived directly from natural products.

* Identical to natural ones - i.e. synthesised by man, but with a similar chemical structure to natural compounds.

* Artificial - synthesised by man and with a structure that does not correspond to any naturally occurring compounds.

The division into natural, artificial compounds is not strict. Each chemical compound can be produced in various ways - it can be extracted from natural products or be

synthesised by man. If the chemical structure and purity of the compounds from both sources are identical, they also have similar properties as food additives.

What does E mean?

The E symbol means that the add-on is registered and admitted to trading in the European Union. The number assigned by INS (International Numbering System)

determines to which group the given supplement belongs.

The primary division of add-ons from the list:

100-199 Dyes

200-299 Preservatives

300-399 Antioxidants and acidity regulators

400-499 Emulsifiers, raising agents, gelling agents, etc.

500-599 Auxiliary equipment

600-699 Amplifiers of taste

900-999 Sweeteners, polishes and others

1000-1999 Stabilizers, preservatives, thickeners and others

Dyes are used to giving or restoring food colour. Dyes are divided into natural and synthetic. Natural dyes do not pose a threat to humans, but they are less durable.

Examples of natural dyes are: carotene (E 160a) - orange-yellow, chlorophyll (E 140) - green, cochineal (E 120) - red, caramel (E 150)

Antioxidants (antioxidants) prevent darkening of fruits and oxidation of fats. Examples of antioxidants are: vitamin C (ascorbic acid - E 300), citric acid - E 330,

phosphoric acid (V) - E338

Preservatives inhibit food spoiling. Traditional preservatives include sodium chloride, sucrose, ethane solution (E 260), some spices, substances in smoke, sulfur oxide

(VI) - E 220. The synthetic preservatives include propionic acid (E 280) ), benzoic acid (E 210) and sodium benzoate (E 211), salts of nitric acids (E 249, E 250, E 251, E


Synthetic sweeteners are used as sugar substitutes. The most commonly used sweeteners are aspartame and acesulfame K, saccharin xylitol, sorbitol.

Flavours give the food the right taste and aroma. Natural aromas are usually obtained from plants, e.g. citral - from lemons, limonene - from citrus fruits. Synthetic

fragrances are derived as a result of a chemical reaction.

Fragrance essences are natural flavours or mixtures of natural and synthetic aromas in a solution of ethyl alcohol (pineapple essence) or vegetable oil (rum essence).

Acidity regulators are used to changing acidity and increase shelf life. Lactic acid, acid lemon, acetic acid, calcium carbonate, lactate sodium, potassium tartrates

What are the benefits of food additives?

Why do we need food additives?

Once in most houses, there were smokehouses, wherein the aromatic smoke, for example from juniper, sausages, hams and bacon were prepared. Then hung from the

ceiling in the attic, they could wait for a few months to eat.

Barrels of pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut were submerged in the pond for the entire winter. Many products were stored in the so-called glaciers, i.e. basements dug

in the ground lined with ice. The ice blocks were cut from the frozen surfaces of ponds or rivers.

The use of preservatives forced the development of civilisation. We do not have, as our great-grandfathers, time to produce food in their own home and it has become

uneconomical. Secondly - chemical substances have appeared that better preserve food products for longer than traditional methods. They also increase the quality and

attractiveness of food, i.e. its colour, taste, smell, consistency and nutritional value.

Preservatives must meet a lot of requirements to allow for mass production and are used only in the necessary amounts, that is as small as possible. Sometimes

scientist needs to examine 10,000 chemical compounds to choose one, entirely safe for everyone.

It is also worth remembering that the natural origin of food does not guarantee its harmlessness. - It can be contaminated with, for example, pesticides. There are also

harmful old germinating potatoes, covered with a green shell (it's poisonous solanine) or some varieties of green tomatoes containing tomatine, which strongly irritates

the digestive system.

The use of additives results from the various benefits they bring for both the producer and the food consumer. For the producer, these are primarily economic and

technological benefits. For us - consumers, the use of food additives also brings certain benefits resulting from, for example, increasing the attractiveness of food

products and their application in practice. The following are the benefits of using additives.


- extending the durability of products - ensuring the safety of consumption;

- improving the product's features, e.g. giving a specific taste and smell;

- preventing adverse changes in colour, flavour and consistency during the production and storage process;

- expanding the product range;

- maintaining constant, reproducible product quality;

- facilitating production;

It should be emphasised that some additional substances also have beneficial health properties. An example is a lecithin, which is an excellent emulsifier, added for

example in the production of chocolate. Lecithin is also a valuable pro-health substance and is added to many nutrients.

Examples of legislation surrounding the use of food additives

1. What are food additives used for?

Additives can be used for various purposes. EU legislation defines 26 "technological objectives". Additives are used, among others, as:

a) dyes - they are used to give or restore colour foods;

b) preservatives - they prolong the shelf life of food for protection against microorganisms;

c) antioxidants - substances that extend the shelf life of food for protection against deterioration due to oxidation (e.g. rancidity of fat or change in colour);

d) flour treatment agents (imprints) - added to flour or dough to improve their baking properties.

2.Are food additives safe?

The safety of all currently approved food additives has been assessed by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EU

list includes only those additives whose proposed uses were considered safe.

Since most assessments come from the 1980s and 90s, and some even from the 1970s, it is appropriate for EFSA to re-evaluate all authorised additives. The re-

evaluation will be carried out by 2020. Based on the EFSA opinion, the Commission may propose a revision of the conditions for the use of additives and, if necessary,

delete the additive from the list.

As a result of the re-evaluation program, the use of three food dyes has so far been verified because EFSA reduced their acceptable daily intake (ADI) and considered

that the exposure of humans to these dyes is probably too high. Therefore, the maximum levels of these dyes that can be used in food will be lowered at the will be

reduced at the beginning of 2012. This applies to quinoline yellow (E 104), sunset yellow (E 110) and 4R puff (E 124).

3.How is the safety of food additives assessed?

EFSA assesses the safety of food additives. The evaluation of a substance is made by documentation, usually provided by the applicant (usually the manufacturer or

potential user of a given food additive). This documentation must include the chemical identification of the additive, describe its production process, methods of analysis

and response, and fate in food, and, if necessary, also give the proposed uses and toxicological data.

Toxicological data must include information on metabolism, sub-chronic and chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity

and, if necessary, references to other studies.

Based on this data, EFSA determines the level below which the uptake of a substance can be considered safe - the so-called acceptable daily intake (ADI). At the same

time, EFSA also estimates, based on the proposed uses in different foodstuffs, whether it is possible to exceed the ADI. If this possibility does not exist, the use of this

food additive is considered safe.

4.What are the conditions for the authorisation of food additives?

A food additive may only be authorised if it meets the following conditions:

a)  does not create - against the background of available scientific evidence - risks to consumer health at the proposed level of use;

b)  there is a reasonable technological need that can not be met otherwise, and its use is not misleading and benefits consumers.

Other relevant factors may also be taken into account when authorising the use of food additives. These can be ethical, customary, environmental factors, etc.

5.What are the benefits for consumers?

EU legislation stipulates that food additives must have a benefit and benefit for the consumer. They must, therefore, serve one or more of the following purposes:

a)  keep the nutritional value of food;

b)  be the necessary ingredients for food produced for groups of consumers with special dietary needs;

c)  increase the storage or stability of the food or improve its organoleptic properties, provided that the consumer is not misled;

d) aid in the production, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage of food, including food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings,

provided that the food additive is not used to conceal waste or unsanitary practices.

6.Food colours can mislead consumers, so why are they allowed?

The use of food colours is considered acceptable for the following purposes:

a)  to restore the original appearance of foods whose colour has changed as a result of processing, storage, packaging and distribution;

b)  to improve the visual attractiveness of food;

c)  to give colour to food that would otherwise be colourless.

The use of food colours must always meet the general condition that consumers should not be misled. For example, the use of dyes should not give the impression that

the food contains ingredients that have not been added.

Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavour or enhance taste, appearance, or other sensory qualities. Some additives have been used for centuries to preserve food, for example, vinegar, salt, smoke, sugar, etc. This allows for longer-lasting foods such as bacon, sweets or wines.

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