Food Additives – A Review..! 

By Harsha Pore


Food Additive means any substance not normally consumed as a food by itself and not normally used as a typical ingredient of the food ,whether or not it has nutritive value, the intentional addition of which to food for a technological purpose. 

Food additives are intentionally added to food and must be safe for a lifetime of consumption based on current toxicological evaluation. Food additives are used for the purpose of maintaining or improving the keeping quality, texture, consistency, appearance and other technological requirements. Food additives do not include use of vitamins, minerals, herbs, salt, spices, yeast, hops, starter cultures, malt extract etc. Food additives are classified on the basis of their functional use and are grouped as:

  1. Colours
  2. Preservatives
  3. Acidity Regulator
  4. Antioxidants
  5. Antifoaming Agents
  6. Artificial sweeteners
  7. Enzymes
  8. Emulsifiers
  9. Flavours
  10. Modified Starches
  11. Stabilizers

1. Colours :There are three types of colors in food industry. One is natural and other is nature identical and the third is synthetic. Natural colors are extracted directly from the natural pigments of food, comparatively higher in cost than rest two.

Synthetic colors are completely made in the lab using chemicals compounds. Colors enhance the sensorial properties the food product, makes it bright, vibrant and attractive to the consumer eyes.

2. Preservatives : Preservatives are the compounds added to food extend the shelf life of a product in order to reduce the microbial growth in food.

FSS (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 defines preservative as “a substance which when added to food is capable of inhibiting, retarding or arresting the process of fermentation, acidification or other decomposition of food” They are classified into Class I and Class II preservatives.

Class I Preservatives are natural and found in nature.

Class II Preservatives are man made and processed for its further application.

Class I preservatives are

  1. Common salt
  2. Sugar
  3. Dextrose
  4. Glucose
  5. Spices
  6. Vinegar or acetic acid
  7. Honey
  8. Edible vegetable oils

Addition of class I Preservative in any food is not restricted

Class II preservatives are 

  1. Benzoic acid including salts thereof
  2. Sulphurous acid including salts thereof
  3. Nitrates or Nitrites of Sodium or Potassium in respect of foods like ham. Pickled meat
  1. Sorbic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts
  2. Propionates of Calcium or sodium, lactic acid and its sodium, potassium and

calcium salts and acid calcium phosphate

  1. Nisin
  2. Methyl or Propyl parahydroxy Benzoates Sodium Diacetate. 

FSSAI has given limits for each and every preservative we use in the food application.

3. Acidity Regulators 
Acidity regulators, or pH control agents, are food additives used to change or maintain pH (acidity or basicity). They can be organic or mineral acids, bases, neutralizing agents, or buffering agents. Typical agents include the following acids and their sodium salts: sorbic acid, acetic acid, benzoic acid, and propionic acid.[1] Acidity regulators are indicated by their E number, such as E260 (acetic acid), or simply listed as “food acid”.

4. Antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures. They are sometimes called “free-radical scavengers.” The sources of antioxidants can be natural or artificial.

Ascorbic acid (E300), or vitamin C, is found in many different fruits. It is also commonly used as a flour improver.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (E320) is a synthetic antioxidant which works by stabilising free radicals.BHA, Tocoferol are some of the antioxidants.

5. Antifoaming Agents
Food antifoaming agents or defoamers are chemical additives used as ingredients in food or industrial processes to reduce and prevent foam formation or effervescence.

6. Artificial sweetener or Sugar substitute
A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy than sugar-based sweeteners, making it a zero-calorie or low-calorie sweetener. They are many times sweeter than regular sugar, so they are also referred to as intense sweeteners.

Artificial sweetener is one of the most attractive substitutes to sugar as it does not add many calories in our diet. It can be used directly in the processed food as in puddings, dairy products, candy, soft drinks, baked goods, jams and many other foods and beverages. It can also be used after mixing it with starch-based sweeteners. Examples are Sucralose, aspartame, saccharin.

7. Enzymes
Enzymes are proteins that are biological catalyst. The role of enzymes in food industry is to enhance the physiochemical and biological properties. Some of the important microbial enzymes used in the food processing industry are lipases, amylases, proteases, rennet, pectinases, invertases, cellulases, and glucose oxidase. Enzymes play an important in food preservation. These can be widely used in bakery and beverages.

8. Emulsifiers
Emulsifiers are additives that help two liquids mix. For example, water and oil separate in a glass, but adding an emulsifier will help the liquids mix together. It is commonly used for different foods and drinks. Some examples of emulsifiers are egg yolks, lecithin and gums, mustard.

Emulsifiers helps in improving the textural and sensorial properties. These can be widely used in bakery products.

9. Flavours
Flavourings are products not intended to be consumed as such, which are added to food in order to impart or modify odour and/or taste. Just like color  there are three categories of flavour.

Natural flavoring substances
These flavoring substances are obtained from plant or animal raw materials, by physical, microbiological, or enzymatic processes. They can be either used in their natural state or processed for human consumption, but cannot contain any nature-identical or artificial flavoring substances.

Nature-identical flavoring substances
These are obtained by synthesis or isolated through chemical processes, which are chemically and organoleptically identical to flavoring substances naturally present in products intended for human consumption. They cannot contain any artificial flavoring substances.

Artificial flavoring substances
These are not identified in a natural product intended for human consumption, whether or not the product is processed. These are typically produced by fractional distillation and additional chemical manipulation of naturally sourced chemicals, crude oil, or coal tar. Although they are chemically different, in sensory characteristics they are the same as natural ones.

10.Modified Starches
Modified starches are plant-based ingredients used in food, derived from cereals and tubers. They belong to the Carbohydrates family. They are used for their functional properties to enhance the texture and appearance of the food. Three types of starches basically used in food industries are native Potato starch, native wheat starch, native Corn starch etc. Modified starches

11.Stabilizers/Thickening and gelling agents
Stabiliser is a food additive which helps to maintain the structure of the product. Stabiliser helps to stop separation of two phases or two ingredients e.g. forming ice crystals in ice cream. Most common stabilizers are hydrocolloids for e.g. Alginate, Agar, Carrageenan, Gelatin, Gums etc. The stabilizers are a group of compounds, usually polysaccharide food gums, that are responsible for adding viscosity to the mix.

Overall, all food additives are added to the food either to enhance the shelf life or to improve the sensory parameters of the food. Food additives are widely available across the world, people are becoming aware of food additives and their applications in food. Within the prescribed limit all food additives and preservatives are safe to use and it gives the look and feel to the food product. There is no harm using permitted additives & preservatives. All additives given by FDA and FSSAI carries E numbers and categorized in the FSSAI manual precisely.

The Author is R & D Manager at Maverix Platforms Pvt Ltd