Food Additives - A Guide

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Additives, particularly artificial ones are often the cause of a number of allergic reactions and the labelling of them on food products has become essential.

Food manufacturers use additives in a number of ways principally to give the food a longer shelf life and to maintain or exaggerate its taste and colour whilst minimising the risk of food poisoning.

For those who suffer from foods containing additives they can find some comfort in the ‘additive free’ range of products sold at most supermarkets and the labelling of E numbers is now standard. Of course the best way to avoid any problems is to buy and eat as much fresh food as possible.

E Numbers
Due to the number of additives used in food manufacturing for varying functions they are now categorised by an E number which is an additive approved by the European Council.

Used to restore or accentuate the colour of food often through natural colourings, a cosmetic additive to make food look more attractive.

Used for preserving foods by preventing the growth of organisms which lead to food spoilage and poisoning

Antioxidants, which are used to prevent the deterioration of oils and fats in foods through oxidation. Notable examples are E306, better known as Vitamin E, which is a natural antioxidant, and E300 (Vitamin C), which is used to maintain the natural colour in fruit juices.

Stabilizers and emulsifiers, these are used to blend ingredients together and prevent them from splitting. Salad dressings containing oils, vinegars and water would require these.

MSG and other Flavourings
MSG is the notorious flavour enhancer predominant in Chinese cookery, which has been long associated with allergic reactions and has led to many restaurants in both the West and Asia to advertise their menus as MSG free. Quite often foods will contain a mixture of natural and artificial flavourings to boost the products flavour and the consumer needs to show caution as these are yet to be appointed with an EC serial number. Artificial Sweeteners A popular alternative to sugar for the obvious health benefits of a lower calorie option.