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Food Additives

Substances intentionally added to food to

improve colour, flavour, keeping quality,
nutritive value or physical

© PDST Home Economics.

Classification of additives
• Colourings: E100-199
• Preservatives: E200-299
• Antioxidants: E300-399
• Physical conditioning agents: E400-E499
• Flavourings: No E nos.
• Flavour Enhancers: E 600-699
• Sweeteners: E900-999
• Nutritive additives: No E nos
Colourings: E100-E199
Class Examples Use Origin Functions

Natural Chlorophyll Tinned veg Plants •Improve

(E140) Soft drinks Carrots appearance of
Carotene Red jelly Cactus insects food
Cochineal (E120) Brown sauce, Heated carbs.- •To replace
Caramel gravy colour lost in
Caramelisation processing.
•To satisfy
Synthetic Tartrazine - Soft drinks All made from consumer
Artificial Yellow (E120) coal tar expectations.
Red (E128) Sausages •To give colour
Green (E142) Sweets to food that
Amaranth - would be
purply-red colourless

Colourings are not permitted in fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit, veg or baby
Preservatives E200-E299
Classes Examples Use Origins Functions

Natural Sugar Jam, sweets Beet/cane •Prevents

Salt Bacon, pickles Rock, sea spoilage by
Vinegar Pickles, chutney Fermentation preventing
Alcohol Fruit, cake Fermentation growth.
Smoke Fish, meat, cheese Burning wood •Extend shelf
Artifical Sulphur Sausages, fruit •Prevents
dioxide juice, dried fruit & food
(E220) veg. poisoning.
Made in labs
Soft fruit, fruit •Reduces
Sorbic yoghurt, processed waste.
acid cheese. •Greater
(E200) Citrus fruit, bananas variety foods

Not permitted in baby foods
Antioxidants E300-399
Classes Examples Use Origins Functions

Natural Ascorbic acid Fruit drinks Fruit & veg. Prevents

Tocopherol Nuts & seeds oxidation
(E306) Vegetable oils where food is
spoiled by
Artificial BHA (E320) Stock cubes, Made in lab reacting with
cheese spread oxygen
BHT (E321) Chewing gum
BHA and BHT not permitted in baby food
Physical Conditioning agents E400-499
Classes Examples Use Origin Function

Emusifiers Lecithin Mayonnaise Eggs, soya To make

Hollandaise beans permanent
Alginates Ice cream Sea weed emulsions
Stabilisers Carageen Ice cream Sea weed To stabilise
Guar gum Confectionary Guar plant emulsions by
E412 thickening them

Poly- Magnesium Salt- as anti- Lab To prevent lumping

phosphates carbonate caking agent,
Cake mixes
Pectin E440 Jams / jellies fruit cell walls To set mixtures

Humectants Sweetners Confectionary Lichen They absorb water

sorbital and and sweets vapour from air
mannitol Cakes/ buns and keep foods
Flavourings (No E numbers)
Classes Examples Use Origin Functions

Natural Sugar Jam, tinned Cane, beet,

beans, cereals. fruit •To add
Salt Cheese, butter, Sodium flavour to
convenience fds chloride food
Spices Meat products, Rock or sea
Herbs sauces, stock Root, seeds •To replace
cubes and leaves of flavour lost
plants in
Artificial Ethyl acetate Rum flavour Chemical rxn. processing.
Amyl acetate Pear flavour heating acetic
Benzaldehyde Cherry flavour acid and ethyl
Maltol Fresh baked
smell Tree Bark •To enhance
food flavour
Flavour Monosodium Chinese food, Glutamic acid
Enhancers Glutamate soup, sauces, an amino acid
E600-699 E621 stock cubes
Sweeteners E900-E999
Class Examples Use Origin Functions
Natural Fructose Tinned peas Fruit
Sucrose Biscuits, Sugar beet & To sweeten
sweets, sugar cane food
tinned fruit
Glucose Tinned fruit, Fruit & honey
syrup jelly

Artificial Aspartame Diet drinks Dipeptide

E951 Sweetener (aspartic acid+ Used in low
“Nutrasweet, phenyalanine) calorie /
Canderel” diabetic
Saccharine Coal tar food &
Diet drinks drinks
Bulk Sorbitol Diabetic food,
sugar free
Lichens Sorbitol used
in diabetic
Sweetners Mannitol
food as it does
Sugar free not need
E965 gum, ice cream insulin
Nutritive additives
• Nutritive additives are nutrients added to food
during manufacture
• The foods are then called fortified foods.
Replace nutrients lost in processing e.g. flour skimmed
To increase nutritional value e.g. breakfast cereal
To increase sales e.g. fruit juice
To imitate another food e.g. butter/marg, meat /TVP
Advantages of additives
• Increase shelf life – preservatives
• Reduce risk of food poisoning – preservatives
• Prevent waste – preservatives
• Make food more appetising – colouring
• Improve taste – flavouring
• Improve texture – physical conditioning agents
• Increase nutritive value
• Provide wider variety of foods
• Ensure consistency of quality
Disadvantages of additives
• Allergies: migraine, hyperactivity, rashes e.g.tartrazine
• Little known about cumulative or combined effect of
• Bulking agents can deceive consumers
• Some additives destroy nutrients e.g.sulphur dioxide
destroys vit. B
• Sweetners can leave bitter aftertaste e.g. saccharine
Legal Control over use of
additives in EU
• List of approved additives
• Approved additives have been well tested
• In EU every approved additive has E number (except
• The E no. or name must be on labels
• Additives should not reduce nutritive value
• Cannot be used to disguise faults
• Must not be health hazard
• Must not mislead consumer
Legal Control over use of
additives in EU
• Must be used in smallest possible effective quantity
• Colourings not allowed in fresh fruit, veg. meat,
poultry, fish
• Preservatives and BHA, BHT and colourings not
allowed in baby food.
• Sweeteners not permitted in food for infants or
young children
Legal Control over use of
additives in EU
• Additives are tested by the European Scientific
Committee for Food (SCF)
• The SCF take advice from the World Health
Organisation (WHO) and the Joint Expert Committee
on Food Additives (JECFA)
• In Ireland the FSAI are responsible for enforcing
the safe use of food additives
• Substances that enter food unintentionally or
illegally at various stages of production which may
cause harm.
• Pesticides: used in agriculture to prevent damage to
crops. They include insecticides, herbicides,
fungicides. Run off can contaminate water supply.
• Antibiotics: used for animals and poultry to cure
diseases. Passed on to humans in milk or meat.
• Metals: from soil, water, containers cooking
equipment e.g. Lead, cadmium

• Plastic chemicals from packaging

• Formaldehyde from treated paper packaging
• Foreign bodies; hair, glass, wire etc..
• Other Chemicals: growth promoters, carcinogens
from smoking and barbecuing, dioxins from burning
• Micro-organisms
Effects of Contaminants
Pesticides Respiratory problems. Heart and circulatory
problems. Damage to nervous system. Cancer.

Antibiotics Build up resistance to antibiotics. Allergies


Metals Stomach cramps. Damage to liver, kidneys,

immune system, nervous system.

Dioxins Cancer.

• Department of agriculture and food are responsible

for production of safe food.
• Samples are testing and comparisons made with EU
max permitted levels.
• People opt for organically grown food to avoid these