Food Additives: Friends or Foes?

Image for food additive article Food additives are often vilified in the press. Some have been linked with allergies, behavior problems, and an increased risk of cancer. This has led many people to attempt to avoid them and seek additive-free food when possible. But do food additives really deserve all this bad press?

What Are Food Additives?

There are two types of food additives. Direct additives are added directly to food during its preparation. Indirect additives are substances that may slowly leach into food during its processing or packaging.Examples of Food Additives
Salt Sugar Gums
Vinegar Minerals Flavorings
Vitamins Variety of chemicals High fructose corn syrup
Synthetic and natural colorings Baking powder and soda Hydrogenated vegetable oil

Why Are These Added to Foods?

Food additives serve a wide variety of purposes, such as:
  • Providing flavoring and/or sweetness
  • Preserving foods
  • Slowing spoilage
  • Leavening baked goods
  • Preventing fats from separating
  • Preventing caking of powdered or granulated substances
  • Increasing the food’s nutritional value
  • Preventing fresh fruits from turning brown
  • Sharpening flavors or colors
  • Controlling the acidity or alkalinity of foods

So Food Additives Are Not All Bad?

No. Food additives are not all bad. The use of some additives can improve food safety and flavor, help make food quality more consistent, and add nutritional value.

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