Food additives are substances added to foods to perform specific functions. Food additives allow manufacturers to produce a wide range of food products to meet consumer demand.
The 3 main groups of additives include;
Natural e.g paprika
Nature identical e.g vanillin
Synthetic e.g saccharin
Additives maintain the quality of food until its ready to eat. They improve the appearance and taste, prolong shelf life and improve nutritional profile of a food product.
Preservatives maintain freshness and prevent microorganisms from growing. Food can be transported greater distances and stored for longer e.g sulphur dioxide in many processed foods is used to keep food safe for longer.
Colours make food look attractive and during processing some colours can be lost so additives can be added to restore original colour.
Colour additives can also be used to make the existing food brighter e.g enhance yellowness of custard.
Antioxidants reduce the chance of oils and fats in foods from combining with oxygen and changing colour or going rancid.
Antioxidants are also used in fruits, vegetables and juice to extend the shelf life as they slow down enzyme activity.
Flavourings can be used to improve a specific characteristic of a food product e.g strawberry flavour in strawberry yoghurt.
Monosodium glutamate is an example of a flavour enhancer.
Emulsifiers and stabilisers
Emulsifiers help mix together ingredients like oil and water that would normally separate; stabilisers prevent them from separating again.
They are used in foods such as ice-cream.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals can be added to products to replace the nutrients lost during processing e.g breakfast cereals.
Vitamins are added to give health benefits to certain groups of people who may suffer a deficiency e.g folic acid in bread.