What are Food Additives?
A food ingredient is any substance that is added to a food to achieve the desired effect. Direct food additives are used in foods to impart specific technological or functional qualities. For example, stabilizers are used to help prevent separation of nutrients in milk products, while phosphates are used as a leavening agent in baked goods. Indirect additives are not intentionally added to food but may be present in trace amounts as a result of processing, packaging, shipping or storage. Both direct and indirect food additives are controlled by national regulatory authorities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Any food ingredient must be proven safe to be used in foods.
Are Food Additives Harmful to my Health?
Food safety is and always will be the primary objective for food ingredient manufacturers. Before food additives can be added to foods, they must be reviewed and deemed safe for their intended use by either the Food and Drug Administration or a panel of experts. These experts examine studies and all scientific information related to a particular substance and must conclude that the substance is safe for its intended use. Many food additives actually help make foods safer and more enjoyable by ensuring they do not spoil in transport or storage, maintain desirable characteristics, and remain uniform from batch to batch. Additives may also have beneficial health effects. For example, some food additives such as stabilizers and emulsifiers help ensure vitamins and nutrients do not separate out of a food or beverage.
Why are Food Additives Added to Foods?
To provide or maintain nutritional benefits.
To maintain product quality and freshness
To prevent spoilage during transport, storage, and sale.
To aid in the processing and preparation of foods.
To make foods more appealing and ensure that familiar foods have consistent qualities.
To extend shelf-life and prevent food waste.
To make some foods more affordable.
Can I Use Food Additives in Cooking at Home?
Of course. Food additives are used regularly in home cooking. Common food additives used in home cooking include baking soda, vinegar, pectin, cornstarch, salt, xanthan gum, and gelatin. You might also find a use for food additives when making innovative and eye-catching cocktails.
Can I Consume Too Many Food Additives?
When a food additive or GRAS substance is evaluated for safety, qualified researchers look at many different usage levels of it to determine the level that is safe for consumption. For consumers that eat a large amount of a particular type of food or ingredient, a 100 fold safety factor is used. This means that the maximum levels allowed to be used in food are 100 or more times lower than what might cause an effect. While everyone should pay attention to the types and amounts of food they eat, there are no concerns about consuming too many additives through processed foods.
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