are substances that are intentionally added to modify visual appearance,
taste, texture, processing, or the storage life of food. In most countries
the use of food additives is controlled by law. Only certain permitted
additives may be used and then they are only allowed in particular
foods in amounts not exceeding a stated maximum concentration.
Before an additive
is approved for use in a particular food it must be established that
it is safe, and also that a comparable product cannot be produced
without using the additive. Sometimes it is difficult to decide from
laboratory tests with animals whether a substance will be harmful
to people when consumed in small amounts over a long time. It is wisest
to err on the side of safety. If appropriate animal tests indicate
a potential hazard for people, then approval for use of the additive
should not be given. From time to time there is concern when additives
that were once considered to be safe are subsequently shown to be
potentially hazardous. This is because decisions approving additives
were made on the best evidence available at the time. As further information
becomes available or new test procedures are developed, the original
decision may have to be modified. This may involve limiting usage
or even withdrawing approval for a particular additive.
Many of the foods
we now take for granted could not he produced without the use of food
additives. We use cake mixes, requiring only addition of liquid and
baking; soups and mashed potato, requiring only water and heating;
the use of additives in bread maintains freshness and retards spoilage
from mould and bacteria. Free-flowing salt, sausages and prepared
meats, salad dressings, processed cheese , and peanut butter could
not be conveniently presented without food additives.
26 gives examples of food additives, the function they
perform in food and examples of foods in which they are likely to
When a food additive
is used, the label must list all the additives added to the food.
The additive can be designated on the label by its chemical name or
by a general class name. Class names used for designating groups of
food additives on food labels are shown in the following table. In
most cases, the class names describe the function the additive performs
in food. To identify specific additives within the class, a code number
has been allocated to most approved additives. When a class name is
used it must be followed by brackets containing the number corresponding
to the specific approved additive. For example, sodium benzoate, which
has been allocated the number 211, would appear in the list of ingredients
as 'preservative (211)'.
With the exemption
of flavours which are not designated by a code number, this system
will allow those interested to identify foods containing specific
additives, including colours. A list of food additives and their code
numbers appears in Appendix A.
OF FOOD ADDITIVES
Artificial sweetening substances
Flour treatment agents
foods are exempt from the normal ingredient labelling requirements
(alcoholic drinks, most types of cheese other than processed cheese
and cheese spread, the flavour components in flavour essences, and
certain foods in small packages), when antioxidants, colouring, flavouring
and preservatives are used, the label must indicate their presence.
Under certain circumstances it is possible that an additive present
in a food which is used as an ingredient in the preparation of another
food will 'carry over' without being declared in the ingredient list
on the label. For example, if margarine is used in the preparation
of a cake, margarine will appear in the ingredient list rather than
the individual components of margarine. The presence of such 'hidden'
additives may need to be considered when planning some dietary regimens.