What is food?  
  What happens to the food we eat?  
Our nutrient needs  
  Energy balance  
  Nutritional status  
  Laws & labels  
  Additives & colours
  Toxicity in food  
  Processing food  
  Stability of food nutrients  
  Storage life of foods  
  Food- associated health problems  







- Food Additives and Colours -

Food additives

Food additivesFind out more about this term 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 Find out more about this term, and peanut butter could not be conveniently presented without food additives.

Figure 26 gives examples of food additives, the function they perform in food and examples of foods in which they are likely to be used.

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.

Anti-caking agents
Artificial sweetening substances
Bleaching agents
Flour treatment agents
Food acids
Flavour enhancers
Mineral salts
Vegetable gums


Although some 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.

Food Facts
Food additives
- Food colour
26: The use of good additives
27: Permitted colouring for food
28: How much juice in the orange drink?

Also on this page:

-  Classification
   of food additives