Food Additives Slowly Being Phased Out by the Industry

Food additives have been used for centuries to improve and maintain the taste, texture and nutrition of food. They continue to be used in today’s food supply to prevent foodborne illness, enable transportation, and to meet the established quality standards. Over the past couple years, additives have been put under the microscope to determine the potential health risks.  The food industry is working continuously towards cleaner ingredient labels, meaning reducing and eliminating numerous additives while achieving the same flavor and nutrient preservation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the evaluation of food additives and determines how they may be used in the food supply. If an additive is approved, the FDA issues restrictions that may include what foods it can be used in, the maximum amounts to be used, and how it should be labeled for customers.

Currently the FDA maintains a database of nearly 4,000 ingredients, entitled “Substances Added to Food.” Here’s a peek at a few categories and ingredients commonly used in the food supply and what they do:

pH Control Agents

What they do: maintain or control the acidity or alkalinity of foods are known as pH control agents

Common Ingredients: citric acid, acetic acid, lactic acid, adipic acid, and sodium citrate

Common Food Items: gelatins, jams, ice cream, candies, cheese and bottled fruit-flavored drinks


Anti-caking Agents

What they do: prevent lumping, caking or sticking in powdered or granulated ingredients

Common Ingredients: calcium phosphates, silicon dioxide, silicates (calcium, aluminum and tricalcium), and stearic acid

Common Food Items: powdered milks, egg mixes, sugar products, flours and baking mixes


What they do: added to oil and water-based mixtures so they stay blended through their shelf life

Common Ingredients: Lecithin from egg yolk, soybean, diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides (DATEM), and sodium stearyl lactylate

Common Food Items: vinaigrette dressings, milk, bread dough, whipped creams, liquid or frozen egg whites, and mayonnaise



What they do: keep foods moist

Common Ingredients: glycerin, honey, sugar polyols (glycerol, sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol) and propylene glycol

Common Food Items: candy, baked goods, salad dressings, and  low-calorie sweetening option such as sugar-free chewing gums, candies and other low-calorie foods.


Stabilizers, Thickeners and Gelling Agents

What they do: increase thickness and prevent mixtures from separating, ice crystals from forming and ingredients from settling.

Common Ingredients: The starch-based thickeners includes arrowroot, corn, potato and tapioca. Vegetable gums include guar, locust bean and xanthan gum. Common protein-based thickeners include collagen, egg whites and gelatin. Alginic acid, alginates (sodium, potassium, calcium), agar-agar and carrageenan are polysaccharides derived from algae and seaweeds, while pectin is a polysaccharide originating from apple and citrus fruits.

Common Food Items: frozen dairy desserts, dressings, jelly, yogurt, soups and sauces

 Leavening Agents

What they do: in doughs and batters to increase the volume, shape and texture of baked goods

Common Ingredients: baking powder, beer, buttermilk, yeast, whey protein concentrate and yogurt

Common Food Items: a wide variety of sweet and savory products including cakes, cookies, breads, biscuits, scones, muffins and soda bread.


Artificial Coloring

What they do: chemical dyes used to color food and drinks

Common Ingredients: Blue No. 1 (brilliant blue FCF), Blue No. 2 (indigotine), Green No. 3 (fast green FCF), Red No. 40 (allura red AC), Red No. 3 (erythrosine), Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine), Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow), and Orange B

Common Food Items: a large variety of processed foods, beverages, and condiments

 Being an educated consumer starts with understanding what the additive are in foods you choose at the grocery store, and understanding what purpose they are there for. 

Check out our Balsamic Chicken & Veggies Recipe for this month.