Food additives are certain types of substances that getadded unintentionally or intentionally during the production or processing ofthe food. The most common food additives include monosodium glutamate,artificial sweeteners and coloring agents. Antioxidants can be found in fattyor oily foods, fruit juices sometimes contain the benzoic acid while sulfitescan be found in some alcoholic beverages. Meat products sometimes containnitrates and nitrites while different food stabilizers and emulsifiers cancontain corn starch, lecithin, waxes, gelatins, gums and propylene glycol.
What they do
Food additives basically have five main functions that theyare supposed to serve. The first one is to maintain the consistency of a product.A consistent texture and non-separating products are provided certain types ofsubstances called emulsifiers. An even texture can be obtained by using astabilizer or a thickener while the free flow of substances is provided bycertain anti-caking agents. Many foods and beverages are enriched and fortifiedwith minerals and vitamins so that they could have a better nutritional value.It is common thing with products like cereal, margarine, milk and flour butthese products must always be labeled appropriately.
Preservatives are usuallyadded to the food in order to prevent the food from being spoiled by certaintypes of yeast, bacteria, fungi and air. These elements can contaminate thefood and causes various illnesses. The preservatives are also beneficial inpreserving the flavor of baked foods, preventing the oils and fats from goingbad and keeping fresh fruits from turning brown due to the exposure to the air.Sometimes a desires color, taste or flavor is needed in a certain type of foodand that can be done by additives that changed the balance of acids and bases.Leavening agents get heated in order to release acids and react with bakingsoda in order to help baked goods to rise. Sometimes certain types of foodrequire some color in order to improve the appearance. Flavors also sometimesget enhanced by synthetic and natural flavors and spices.
Are they safe?
The scientific community and the FDA have a list of foodadditives that are considered safe, although not all of them have been testedproperly. The GRAS list has about 700 items and it includes salt, sugar,vinegar and guar gum among many others. The margin of safety is limited only bythe intake of a potentially dangerous substance. Intentional food additiveshave obvious potential enhancing effect on many types of food but unintentionalfood additives can sometimes be harmful.