Food Science and TechnologyVolume 34, Issue 3 p. 52-55 FeaturesFree Access Making life look and taste better First published: 31 August 2020 https://doi.org/10.1002/fsat.3403_13.xCitations: 1AboutSectionsPDF ToolsExport citationAdd to favoritesTrack citation ShareShare Give accessShare full text accessShare full-text accessPlease review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.I have read and accept the Wiley Online Library Terms and Conditions of UseShareable LinkUse the link below to share a full-text version of this article with your friends and colleagues. Learn more.Copy URL Share a linkShare onFacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditWechat Ralph Early, formerly Professor of Food Industry and Head of the Food Department at Harper Adams University, discusses the important role played by food additives in improving taste, appeal and availability of a wide range of food products. Introduction Food can be an emotive subject. We live in an age when our modern food marketplace is overwhelmed with products as never before, which can and often does make wise food choices something of a challenge. This can be especially so when the complexity of products transcends consumers’ understanding of manufacturing methods and the function of food ingredients and additives. When faced with a knowledge deficit concerning food products, consumers invariably place their trust in those who make and sell foodstuffs to protect their interests, for instance, concerning the assurance of authenticity and food safety. This does not mean, however, that consumers will not express apprehension about the foodstuffs they are offered, or that concerns will not arise from time-to-time. A clear illustration is seen in the highly impassioned issue of chlorinated chicken, which may be imported into the UK from the USA as part of a Brexit-related trade deal, facilitated by the lowering of UK food standards. While chlorinated chicken represents a particular and topical point of concern about food, other factors also fuel consumers’ anxieties. Of these, one of the most enduring is that of food additives. Indeed, such can be consumers’ concerns about these additions to food that the subject has occupied a place at or near the top of consumers’ list of uncertainties about food for many decades. So, what exactly are food additives? Are they safe? Who regulates them? What do they do? Why do we use them? This article addresses these questions and provides some insight into the importance of food additives in food science and technology. Food additive regulation Food additives are substances of natural or synthetic origin which may be added to food for specific technical reasons in order to achieve desired outcomes, e.g. to prevent spoilage and ensure food safety by use of antimicrobial agents or to alter organoleptic properties, such as flavour, colour and mouthfeel with sensory agents. They are typically used in accordance with legal requirements, although the nature of regulation varies from country to country and accordin to the agreements of trading communities. At a global level, three organisations have been influential in standardising the regulation of food additives1: the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)2, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)3 and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)4. The definition of ‘food additive’ varies among regulator authorities. For example, in the USA ‘indirect food additives’, e.g. food contact materials, are included, but ‘colour additives’ are regulated separately. Processing aids are also classed as food additives in the USA, while some other authorities do not consider them so, e.g. the EU. In the USA, a substance intentionally used as a food additive may be classified as ‘GRAS’ (Generally Recognized As Safe) under sections 201(s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act5, whereby a substance achieves GRAS status through appropriate scientific procedures, or it was granted such status because it was in use in food before 1958. Within the EU, food additives are governed by Regulation (EC) No 1331/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 20086. Food additives are classified into six categories (Table 1) which define the key functions of the additives allocated to each category and these are further subdivided (Table 2), as illustrated by the EU's E number classification system, where the letter ‘E’ prefix for each additive code indicates ‘Europe’. The Codex Alimentarius Commission has established class names (Table 3, p54) and an international numbering system7 for food additives, based on the EU's code system which allows all food additives, whether approved or not, to be identified by a common means. While the E prefix is used in the EU, it is omitted outside Europe. Table 1. Six main categories of food additives Preservatives Antimocrobials Antibrowning agents Antioxidants Nutritional supplements Vitamins Minerals Flavouring agents Sweeteners Flavour enhancers Other flavours Colourings Carotenoids Dyes of various colours Texturing agents Stablisers Emulsifiers Miscellaneous Enzymes Catalysers Solvents Propellants Adapted from: Güngörmüş, C. and Kılıç Süloğlu, A. 2012. The Safety Assessment of Food Additives by Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity Studies. Chapter 2. In, El-Samragy, Y. (Ed.) Food Additive. https://www.intechopen.com/books/food-additive/the-safety-assessment-of-food-additives-by-reproductive-and-developmental-toxicity-studies (Accessed: 16 June 2020) Table 2. The European Union's E number codes for food additives approved for use by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) E100-199 Colour additives E200-299 Preservatives E300-399 Antioxidants, Acidity regulators E400-499 Thickeners, Stabilisers, Emulsifiers E500-599 Acidity regulators, Anti-caking agents E600-699 Flavour enhancers E700-799 Antibiotics E900-999 Miscellaneous E1000-1599 Additional chemicals Table 3. Class Names in the Codex Alimentarius System for Food Additives CLASS FUNCTION Acidity regulator Control the acidity or alkalinity of a food. Anticaking agent Reduce the tendency of components to adhere to one another. Antifoaming agent Prevent or reduce foaming. Antioxidant Protecting against deterioration caused by oxidation. Bleaching agent Decolourise food. Bulking agent Contribute to the bulk of a food without adding significantly to its available energy value. Carbonating agent Provide carbonation in a food. Carrier Dissolve, dilute, disperse or physically modify a food additive or nutrient without altering its function. Colour Add or restore colour. Colour retention agent Stabilise, retain or intensify the colour of a food. Emulsifier Form or maintain a uniform emulsion of two or more phases in a food. Emulsifying salt Rearrange proteins to prevent fat separation. Firming agent Make or keep tissues of fruit or vegetables firm and crisp. Interact with gelling agents to produce or strengthen a gel. Flavour enhancer Enhance the existing taste and/or odour of a food. Flour treatment agent Added to flour or dough to improve baking quality or colour. Foaming agent Form or maintain a uniform dispersion of a gaseous phase in a liquid or solid food. Gelling agent Provide food texture through formation of a gel. Glazing agent Impart a shiny appearance or provide a protective coating. Humectant Prevent food from drying out by counteracting the effect of a dry atmosphere. Packaging gas A food additive gas introduced into a container before, during or after filling to protect food, e.g. from oxidation or spoilage. Preservative Prolong the shelf-life of a food by protecting against deterioration caused by microorganisms. Propellant A gas which expels a food from a container. Raising agent Liberate gas to increase the volume of a dough or batter. Sequestrant Control the availability of a cation. Stabilizer Maintain a uniform dispersion of two or more components. Sweetener Impart a sweet taste to a food (other than a mono- or disaccharide sugar). Thickener Increase the viscosity of a food. Adapted from: Codex Alimentarius. 1989/2015. Class names and the international numbering system for food additives. CAC/GL 36-1989. Rome: FAO. Historical use of food additives Although consumers today may express concerns about the use of additives in food products, they often overlook the fact that some have been in use for thousands of years. Salt is one of the earliest and most prized. Indeed, the concept of food preservation likely began with salt somewhere alongside the wood smoking of meat, fish and cheese. The harvesting of salt dates back around 8000 years in China and around 4000 years ago it was used to preserve fish. The use of salt to preserve soy beans undoubtedly led to the development of soy sauce. The Ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians traded in salt and salt preserved foodstuffs, while the Romans sought rock salt deposits in their conquest of European provinces. During the Neolithic period from the 8th to 5th centuries BC, salt was mined in the Austrian settlement of Hallstatt and the wealth of the Austrian principality of Salzburg, as the name suggests, was built upon the mining of salt8. Other early applications of food additives include the use of alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) by the Romans to whiten bread and the Egyptian practice of colouring food with saffron. In early Indian and Chinese civilisations, wall saltpetre (Ca(NO3)2) was used to cure meat and by the European Medieval period, salt combined with saltpetre (NaNO3) was used to redden and cure meat9. This happened beneficially to reduce the risk of botulism, although it was not understood at the time that e.g. sodium nitrate (NaNO3) is reduced to sodium nitrite(NaNO2), which is bacteriostatic against Clostridium botulinum. Other historical methods of food preservation utilising food additives, which also effect advantageous physical and organoleptic changes with materials such as meats, fruit and vegetables, include increasing osmotic pressure with sugar, acidification with acetic acid as vinegar and the use of alcohol. Food additives today While the traditional use of food additives centred mainly on food preservation, developments in industrial chemistry during the last two centuries brought new possibilities to food science and technology. Importantly, as new food additives became available, they transformed the nature, quality and variety of food products available to consumers. Certainly, many food products would not exist today without the use of food additives. These substances make possible many products ranging from confectionery, snack-foods and convenience foods to ready-to-eat and low-calorie products as well as vegetable fat spreads, etc. One of the most significant early uses of modern food additives was in the nutritional fortification of foodstuffs, as during the early part of the 20th century, the nutritional inadequacy of food10 was becoming well understood. The fortification of salt with iodine to prevent goitre began in the 1920s and in 1941, bread in the UK was fortified with calcium to prevent rickets while the fortification of white and brown flour with iron, thiamine and niacin is legally mandated to compensate for losses during milling. Food additives which serve as processing agents are invaluable to today's food industry. These materials enable the modification and control of food systems. For instance, egg yolk, which contains the natural emulsifier lecithin, has traditionally been used as an emulsifying agent in the manufacture of ice cream and is still used by some manufacturers. However, cost effective alternatives, such as mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, are now commonly used (Table 4) along with the additives, locust bean gum and guar gum, which provide structure, viscosity and resistance to melt. In an age when consumers may be concerned about calorie intake, ice cream-like products can even be made by creative use of additives to permit the exclusion of fat and sugar (Table 4). Other food additives invaluable to food processing include starches, used in a wide range of products to modify texture, regulate viscosity, replace fat, etc. and glycerol, a humectant, used to control moisture in confectionery and baked goods. Table 4. Example Ice Cream Ingredients Lists Dairy Ice Cream Cream, Skimmed milk, Sugar, Egg yolk, Vanilla. Soft Scoop Ice Cream (based on UK ingredients declarations) Skimmed milk concentrate, Sugar, Glucose syrup, Coconut oil, Whey powder, Dextrose, Emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), Stabilisers (locust bean gum, guar gum), Flavourings, Colours (carotenes, beetroot red). No Sugar Low-calorie Ice Cream (based on US ingredients declarations) Milk, Polydextrose, Sorbitol, Maltodextrin, Sucralose, Dessert solids (whey solids, non-fat dry milk), Edible salts (sodium carbonate, sodium citrate, dipotassium phosphate), Stabiliser (microcrystalline cellulose, celluose gum, mono & diglycerides, polysorbate 80, guar gum, locust bean gum, carrageenan, maltodextrin), Artificial flavour. Preservatives are a very important class of food additive; they help to maintain food as fit to eat, thereby reducing waste as well as ensuring food safety. Different preservatives have different functions and choice will be determined by factors such as food system type, fat content, water activity and packaging system as well as whether preservation needs to address chemical change and the use of e.g. antioxidants, or microbial activity and the use of antimicrobials. Preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and tocopherols act as antioxidants or free radical scavengers to protect against lipid rancidity. As stated above, the antimicrobials, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite protect against botulism, but if preventing fungal spoilage is important, then organic acids such as benzoic and propionic acids may be used. Food colourings and food flavourings are invaluable food additives. They can be used to enhance or change the features of a product or to rectify changes which occur when, for example, thermal processing used for preservation causes degradation and loss. Visual acceptability is critical to consumers’ acceptance of food and the flavour-aroma complex provides an inducement to repeat purchase. Food colourings and food flavourings have, consequently, become pillars of the modern food industry and indispensable to the existence of some food products. Sweetness is, perhaps, inevitably exploited by some food businesses as a means of attracting consumers given the pleasure humans derive from sweet foodstuffs. However, the use of nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar and glucose-fructose syrup, may give rise to health concerns, e.g. obesity and type 2 diabetes, so, in response, some manufacturers utilise synthetic, non-nutritive sweeteners such as cyclamates, aspartame and acesulfame K to produce low- calorie products. Consumer-related perspectives There can be no doubt that food additives are essential to the work of the food industry as well as being beneficial to consumers, whose food choices would be limited by their absence. Consumer understanding of the role of food additives may at times be distorted by halftruths and myths perpetuated by social media and complicated by distrust in the food industry and regulatory authorities. The term ‘food additive’ itself can be a source of anxiety for consumers because it conveys a sense of something unknowable to all but scientists, and it may then be intensified by seemingly inaccessible code numbers and/ or chemical names on product labels. Actors within the food industry also do little to allay consumers’ concerns when voicing arrogant rejoinders that all foods are chemicals, so why worry about food additives? When knowledge and trust are problematic, the food industry and government together bear the moral obligation to put consumers at ease. Information should, as a normative moral obligation on the part of the industry and government, always be available to facilitate consumers’ informed consent in matters of food choice and, of course, the moral duty likewise exists to ensure that any additives used are safe to consume. However, this can be an aspect of food technology where science and politics collide. The joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives is the international body responsible for evaluating the safety of food additives. The work of this committee determines the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for food additives as the level that will not cause harm over a lifetime of consumption. The matter of harm can be complicated by some food additives being considered safe in some countries, but not in others. For example, potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide are permitted leavening agents in baked goods in the USA, but are banned as possible carcinogens by the EU. Similarly, some food colourants permitted in the USA are not allowed in foods in the EU. Indeed, the colours tartrazine (E102) and quinoline yellow (E104) are among six considered by the UK's Food Standards Agency to be linked to hyperactivity in children11. The possibility that the UK Government may abandon adherence to the EU's food standards in order to strike Brexit-related trade deals with the USA itself creates a variety of moral predicaments concerning food safety and food additives. The prospect exists that for political expediency, food considered unsuitable or even unfit for consumption by British citizens due to lack of compliance with once respected EU food standards, will be reclassified as suitable for consumption at the stroke of a pen. Clearly, this is philosophically and intellectually incoherent and the absence of independent scientific and moral appraisal as well as, conceivably, the subordination of consumers’ interests – particularly their health and well-being – to political objectives raises questions of human rights. Conclusions The Food Additives and Ingredients Assocation12 uses the phrase ‘Making Life Look and Taste Better’, an expression which captures succinctly the purpose of food additives. So many of the food products we enjoy today do indeed look and taste better because of them and we should not overlook the fact that some foodstuffs naturally contain compounds which, when isolated, are also used as food additives (Figure 1). This is not to say that food additives are necessary to every food product and certainly some food businesses have adopted ‘clean label’ strategies to reduce both ingredients and additives to enhance perceptions of wholesomeness. However, the food marketplace would be a very different place without food additives and our food choices would be very much poorer. Figure 1Open in figure viewerPowerPoint Some foodstuffs naturally contain compounds which are also food additives After illustration by Food Additives and Ingredients Association (faia.org.uk) Ralph Early, Independent Food Scientist and Food Ethicist Ralph Early, formerly Professor of Food Industry and head of the food department in Harper Adams, retired in December 2018 after 23 years at the university working to prepare graduates for careers in the food industry. Before transferring to academia in 1993 he spent 18 years in the food industry, including the positions as Quality Standards Manager and Head of Industrial Products Development with Dairy Crest. Email ralph@theethicalfoodie.co.uk REFERENCES 1Cheeseman, M. 2015. Global Regulation of Food Additives. In: Food Additives and Packaging. (Komolprasert, V., Turowski, P. eds). ACS symposium series: Volume 1162. Washington: American Chemical Society. 2 JEFCA. 2020. Food Safety. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). https://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/chemical-risks/jecfa/en/#:~:text=JECFA is an international scientific, of veterinary drugs in food. 3 FDA. 2020. US Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/home. 4 EFSA. 2020. European Food Safety Authority. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/. 5 FDA. 2020. Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). US Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/generally-recognized-safe-gras. 6EU. 2008. Regulation (EC) No 1331/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings. L354/1. Brussels: European Union. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32008R1331. 7Codex Alimentarius. 1989/2015. Class names and the international numbering system for food additives. CAC/GL 36-1989. Rome: FAO. 8Kurlanski, M. 2002. Salt. London: Jonathan Cape. 9Binkerd, E.F. and Kolari, O.E. The history and use of nitrate and nitrite in the curing of meat. Fd. Cosmet. Toxicol. 13, 655-661. 10Drummond, J.C., Wilbraham, A. 2017. The Englishman's Food: Five Centuries of English Diet. London: Pimlico. 11 Food Standards Agency. 2020. Food Colours and Hyperactivity. https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-additives#food-colours-and-hyperactivity. 12 FAIA. 2020. Making Life Look and Taste Better. https://www.faia.org.uk/. Citing Literature Volume34, Issue3September 2020Pages 52-55 FiguresReferencesRelatedInformation

Full Text

Published Version
Open DOI Link

Get access to 115M+ research papers

Discover from 40M+ Open access, 2M+ Pre-prints, 9.5M Topics and 32K+ Journals.

Sign Up Now! It's FREE

Talk to us

Join us for a 30 min session where you can share your feedback and ask us any queries you have

Schedule a call