Common Food Additives

Food additives are substances that are intentionally added to foods either directly or indirectly during processing with the following purposes:

  1. To maintain or improve the nutritional quality of a food item.
  2. To maintain the products quality and freshness.
  3. To aide in the processing of the food.
  4. To make food more appealing.

The processing of foods can often reduce its nutritional value; therefore many manufactures enrich or fortify their finished food product.

  • To enrich- replace vitamins and mineral lost in the processing of a food product.
  • To fortify-add nutrients that may be lacking in the diet.

Here is a list of common nutrients added to processed foods.

  • Beta Carotene
  • Iodine
  • Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
  • Niacinamide
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

Preservatives or antimicrobials prevent food spoilage from bacteria, molds, fungi and yeast. They also maintain the quality and freshness of a product by extending its shelf life and protecting the natural coloring and flavors. Here is a list of common preservatives added to processed foods.

  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)-antioxidant
  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)-antioxidant
  • Butylparaben - preservative
  • Calcium propionate – preservative
  • EDTA (ethylene-diaminetetra-acetic acid) – antioxidant
  • Heptylparaben – preservative
  • Lactic acid – preservative
  • Methylparaben – preservative
  • Potassium propionate – preservative
  • Sodium benzoate – preservative
  • Sodium nitrate – preservative
  • Sodium propionate – preservative
  • TBHQ (tertiary butyl hydroquinone) – antioxidant
  • Tocopherols (vitamin E) – antioxidant
  • Vitamin C – antioxidant and preservative

Different types of additives aide in the processing and preparation of foods in different ways.

  1. Emulsifiers help to evenly distribute the particles of one liquid into another, improving the consistency or texture and the products stability in fluctuating temperatures.

  2. Stabilizers are thickening texturizers that impart body and improve the overall “mouth feel” of a product.

  3. Leavening agents affect the cooking results of baked goods, particularly the texture and volume of the finished product.

  4. pH control agents change or maintain the alkalinity or acidity of a product.

  5. Humectants cause moisture retention.

  6. Maturing and bleaching agents or dough conditioners, accelerate the aging process and improve the quality of the end product.

  7. Anticaking agents prevent the lumping or clumping of powdered or crystalline substances.

Common additives in this category are:

  • Acetic Acid – pH control
  • Acetone peroxide – maturing and bleaching agent, dough conditioner
  • Ammonium alginate – pH control
  • Arabingalactan – stabilizer and thickening
  • Calcium bromated – maturing and bleaching agent, dough conditioner
  • Calcium phosphate – leavening agent
  • Carob Bean Gum – stabilizer and thickening
  • Cellulose – stabilizer and thickening
  • Diglycerides – emulsifier
  • Glycerine – humectants
  • Guar Gum - stabilizer and thickening
  • Gum Arabic - stabilizer and thickening
  • Hydrogen peroxide – maturing and bleaching agent, dough conditioner
  • Iron-ammonium Citrate – anticaking agent
  • Lactic Acid – pH control
  • Locust Bean Gum – stabilizer and thickening
  • Mannitol – anticaking, stabilizer and thickening
  • Modified Food Starch – stabilizer and thickening
  • Phosphoric Acid – pH control
  • Polysorbates – emulsifier
  • Potassium Bromate – maturing and bleaching agent, dough conditioner
  • Propylene Glycol – stabilizer, thickening agent
  • Silicon Dioxide – anticaking
  • Sodium Citrate – pH control
  • Sodium Stearyl Fumarate – maturing and bleaching agent, dough conditioner
  • Sorbitan Monostearate – emulsifier
  • Tartaric Acid – pH control
  • Tragacanth Gum – stabilizer, thickening

To make foods more appealing manufacturers use flavor enhancers to magnify or modify the original taste or aroma of food; flavoring to restore or intensify the natural flavor of foods lost in processing; colors to make foods look more appetizing; and sweeteners to make the taste and aroma more pleasing. Here is a list of common additives:

  • Annatto Extract – color
  • Canthaxanthin – color
  • Dextrose – sweetener
  • Disodium Guanylate – flavor enhancer
  • Dried Algae Meal – color
  • FD &C Colors
  • Blue No 1
  • Red No 2
  • Red No 40
  • Yellow No 5
  • Grape Skin Extract – color
  • Invert Sugar – sweetener
  • Iron Oxide – color
  • Mannitol – sweetener
  • Saffron – color
  • Riboflavin – color
  • Tagetes (Aztec Marigold) – color
  • Titanium Dioxide – color
  • Ultramarine Blue – color
  • Vanilla - flavor