Colors, flavors, and antioxidants: these are artificial food additives. Do you know what they are used for and how they affect your health?
People have always invented methods of preserving food to make it fit for consumption over a longer time, using such means as, for example, salt.
However, nowadays, the food industry uses artificial food additives
not only to extend the life of the food but also to influence its other characteristics.
What are artificial food additives?
Food additives are substances added to food and beverages in minimal amounts.
They can be used to modify the organoleptic characteristics of food or for technical reasons related to its production, processing, preparation, flavoring, packaging, transportation, and storage.
CAE, the body that regulates the use of food additives, can only be used if:
- There is a clear need to use them, and their use significantly improves the product.
- It can prove that the use of food additives does not present any risk.
- They meet the appropriate standards of cleanliness.
- They can identify by simple analytical methods.
The use of additives is not allowed if it is likely that other methods can have the same effect as artificial food additives.
Moreover, they must not be used if they may mislead the consumer by hiding the true quality of the food or if they underestimate its nutritional value.
Food additives are usually safe thanks to stringent regulations. In Europe, the European Union requires them to appear on the labeling of food products.
Artificial food additives and their effects
Here are the main functions of food additives:
- Ensuring the safety and health of products.
- Increasing the stability of products.
- Ensuring the availability of food products without carbon dioxide content.
- Maintaining or providing the nutritional value of foods.
- Increasing consumer interest.
- Assistance in producing, transforming, preparing, transporting, and storing food.
- Ensuring homogeneity.
Why do food additives use?
The food industry appreciates food additives because they allow, for example, to extend the shelf-life of food products.
Their use makes it possible to slow down the destruction of perishable goods or practically eliminate unwanted reactions that reduce the safety and nutritional value of food.
In addition, they also improve the sensory characteristics of certain foods, making them easier to eat.
Types of food additives
In general, we divide food additives according to their action. Here are some examples of such a classification:
- Additives that prevent biological and chemical changes. They include antioxidants and preservatives.
- Substances that stabilize characteristics such as emulsifiers, thickeners, gelling agents, antifoams, anticoagulants, moisturizers, and pH regulators.
- Additives that correct plastic properties, such as bread improvers, wine improvers, and ripening agents.
- Organoleptic regulating substances such as dyes, flavor enhancers, artificial sweeteners, and flavors.
Food additive categories
The dyes can be natural or artificial. Their only purpose is to color food products, that is, to give them an attractive color that they do not naturally have.
These food additives prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeasts. This makes their use legitimate.
However, it should remember that preservatives should not use as a way to mitigate the risk of non-compliance with industry-wide standards or to conceal the use of poor-quality raw materials.
They prevent the oxidation of fats, which can occur due to the action of heat, light, or metals. In other words, they prevent the appearance of toxic compounds as well as unpleasant odors and strange tastes.
They use in margarine, cakes, bread, and melted cheeses.
Antioxidants include, among others, tocopherols and vitamin E, which are not harmful, as well as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). In its case, it is not yet known whether its use is risky or not.
Stabilizers and emulsifiers
They use to improve the texture of products or to thicken, stabilize, prevent clumping or turn into a fluid state. They can sometimes be deceptive.
Some people use them to increase the creaminess of the mayonnaise instead of using the egg-based emulsification process, which makes the product less expensive. They use to replace the fat in margarine.
They are much sweeter than sugar, so you can achieve the same effect using smaller amounts. Thereby, the number of calories in the final product can reduce.
Legal regulations only allow them to be used in foods with no added sugar or in foods that are advertised as "low-energy". Such assumptions are to prevent their use as cheap sugar substitutes.
Flavor enhancers can be a bit deceptive as they are used to enhance the flavor of products that have no flavor due to the lack of specific ingredients. In other words, they hide the true flavor of the food.
Although their use does not recommend, the food industry uses them quite often, especially in soups and broths. They can also find in meat products, sausages, and frankfurters.
Flavor enhancers such as soda glutamate can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Flavors are likely one of the most common use food additives. Oddly enough, for some reason, food producers do not require to list their codes.
In many cases, the producers know the chemical composition of the flavorings used. The chemical composition of the latter makes them practically the same as natural aromas.
Just because aromas are "natural" does not mean that they are not harmful. Some of the aromas derived from plants consider carcinogenic and their use is prohibitive.
Food products free of food additives
The law in states that artificial food additives may not include in the following food products:
- Dry pasta,
- Virgin oils,
- Mineral and spring water,
- Natural yogurt,
- Certain types of rice
- Fresh vegetables,
- Fresh mushrooms,
- Sour cream,
- Ground coffee,
- Fresh potatoes,
- Fresh fruit,
Finally, it should emphasize that there are various websites on the Internet where you can check various food additives and find out about their toxicity. It is a valuable resource to help you discover what exactly is in your food.