Understanding Food Additives

By Enda / a couple of years ago
salt a food additive
(Last Updated On: September 14, 2016)

I sense that many people know that additives are put into food. They can also probably figure out that it is done to help preserve the food and extend its shelf life. They are also used to add colour to food. What most people are not so aware of, is do they have any side effects? Are they even bad for you?

if you are out and about the shops, you may have noticed a trend in what are called natural and organic foods. Many stores and supermarkets are expanding this section of the store, to cater for more of this style of product.

Today, you can find more organic items than ever before, and many things that are made without any food additives at all. The thing you will notice though, that comparatively speaking, those items do tend to cost more than similar products.

Before we go any further I think it is worth pointing out that not all additives are bad.

Types of Food Additives

salt a food additiveWe are surrounded by different types of food additives and some we will be very familiar with such as salt and vinegar. Bacon is often salted and vinegar is used for pickling many products.

This helps increase and preserve the flavours. These would commonly be referred to as natural and quite common additives.

Most people would understand that these types of additives are quite natural and have been used for hundreds of years.

Understanding “E” Numbers

For most of us we can barely pronounce some of these, never mind understand what they mean, or what they are used for. There are a  lot of them but they break down into a few categories:

  • Acids or acid regulators
  • Anticaking agents used in baby milk to stop it from clumping
  • Anti-foaming – as the name would suggest helps stop foaming in foods
  • Antioxidants – to stop oxygen in the air from breaking down our food
  • Bulking – these are used to help bulk out a product
  • Colouring agents
  • Emulsifiers – used in ice-cream and mayonnaise to hold those together
  • Flavour enhancers
  • Glazing – to make certain foods look shiny and sell better
  • Humectants – helps stop food from drying out
  • Preservatives – to make food last longer
  • Sweeteners
  • Thickeners

Quite a long list I am sure you will agree. In the UK though any “E” number does have to get tested and approved. No manufacturer is intentionally going to put any additive into a food or drink that is harmful. Their main purpose is to help improve taste, and make the products that you buy last longer.

organic food

So as you can see food additives have their place though. With the increase in the last 100 years of processed food, this list had continued to grow. People who want to live a truly healthy lifestyle are now making the move away from processed food to naturally tasting food.

Organic then takes that to the next level as those foods are grown without the aid of artificial fertilizers. That takes more work and that explains whey they are more expensive.

About the author

Enda

I enjoy cooking and love using a whole variety of small kitchen appliances. On this website, I review many of the best kitchen gadgets that are fun to own, and even more fun to use.