Food additives refer to any substance added to your food. This includes any substance used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage.
Direct additives are added for a specific purpose and indirect additives become part of the food due to its packaging, storage or other handling. Many direct additives are identified on the ingredient label of foods.
Without some food additives, the loss and costs associated with spoilage and pests would make that food cost more. Also, additives are used to improve the nutritional value and can make food more appealing by improving their taste, texture, consistency or color.
Most people today have come to rely on the many technological, aesthetic and convenience benefits that additives provide in food.
Many substances listed on the ingredient label sound foreign, yet you might know them by a different name. For example:
- beta-carotene is a source of Vitamin A
- ascorbic acid is another name for Vitamin C
- alphatocopherol is another name for Vitamin E
Some additives have been used for centuries, i.e. salt, to preserve meats and fish. Herbs and spices are used to improve the flavor.
Some additives are manufactured from natural sources such as soybeans and corn, which provide lecithin to maintain product consistency. Or beet powder is used for food coloring.
Other useful additives are not found in nature and must be man-made. Artificial additives can be produced more economically, with greater purity and more consistent quality than some of their natural counterparts.