What are food additives and what they are for. They're safe?

When we take a look at food labeling, it is probably the moment when we become aware of those strange or curious ingredients, which contain the foods that we usually consume, and that in most cases begin with the letter "E-" , although it is also possible to find them with their common name, as is the case of "ascorbic acid".

They are known by the name of Food Additives, or food additives, and as its name suggests, are elements or compounds that are added to food for a specific purpose. In most cases, the main objective is to improve the flavor and aroma, or to increase the shelf life.

With these substances, for example, it is achieved that a certain food product or drink has a much more attractive appearance, its flavor and aroma are improved and also tend to last longer without spoiling or expiring. As we see, the objective of these substances is to preserve and improve their organoleptic properties, while facilitating or improving their processing / preservation process.

What are food or food additives?

They are substances or compounds that are added to certain food products (can be both food and beverages) with the aim of providing color, aroma, flavor and to increase their shelf life.

Since it is common for them to be included in the ingredients used to make this food product, we usually find them on the labels of.

In the European Union, food additives are regulated by the European Directive 89/107 / EEC, which defines them as "Any substance, which normally is not consumed as a food in itself, nor used as a characteristic ingredient in food, regardless of whether it has nutritional value or not, and whose intentional addition to foodstuffs, with a technological purpose in the phase of its manufacture, transformation, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage has, or can reasonably be expected to have, directly or indirectly, as a result that the additive itself or its by-products become a component of such food products. "

These additives must undergo a complete and rigorous scientific evaluation, which guarantees their safety before their consumption is authorized.

To do this, in Europe the Scientific Committee for Food of the EU (Scientific Committee for Food, SCF) is responsible for conducting such studies, while internationally we find the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, JECFA (Committee Joint Experts on Food Additives), which works under the orders of the WHO (World Health Organization) and the FAO (United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture).

Functions of food additives

  • Keep the consistency of the product: while the thickeners or stabilizers provide a uniform texture, the emulsifiers provide a consistent texture, preventing the products from separating.
  • Improve and / or preserve the nutritional contribution of food: it is usual for certain additives to strengthen or enrich the nutritional value provided by the food.
  • Keep the taste of food: antioxidants, for example, help baked foods do not become rancid.
  • Preserve the healthiness of food: Certain additives tend to reduce bacterial contamination and the damage that air, fungi or yeast can cause in food.
  • Control alkalinity and acidity: they allow to obtain a better taste and flavor.
  • Improve your appearance: they provide a better flavor, taste and allow to obtain the desired color, improving the appearance of the food.

What are the food additives for?

They are substances or compounds with which it is achieved that a certain food product or drink has a much more attractive appearance, improves its flavor, aroma and also tend to last longer without spoiling or expire.

As we see, the objective of these substances is to preserve and improve their organoleptic properties, while facilitating or improving their processing / preservation process.

How the safety of food additives is evaluated. Are they safe for health?

What concerns to how the safety of food additives is evaluated, it is necessary to know that all the food additives that are used in the food industry must have a demonstrated purpose or useful purpose. For this, they are subjected to a specialized scientific evaluation, both rigorous and complete, which allows you to guarantee your safety before the authorization of its use.

At the international level, there is a Joint Committee of Experts on Food Additives (JECFA), which works under the order of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and WHO (World Organization). of Health), whose evaluations are based on the review of all available toxicological data.

From these data determine a maximum dietary level of the additive (known as "level without observed additive effect"), and that does not have demonstrable toxic effects, to then determine the amount of "acceptable daily intake" (or ADI).

In addition, in Europe, the Scientific Committee for Food of the EU (Scientific Committee for Food, SCF) is responsible for conducting such studies. This article is published for informational purposes only. You can not and should not replace the consultation with a Nutritionist. We advise you to consult your trusted Nutritionist.

What are food additives? (June 2024)