Take a look at the ingredients label of just about any food in your kitchen and you are bound to find foods additives.

Food additives are used to enhance flavour, texture or appearance of foods, especially processed foods. Food additives in most packaged food must be listed in the ingredient list on the label. Most food additives must be listed by their class name followed by the name of the food additive or the food additive number, for example, Colour (150a). Food additives are often perceived to be unsafe and to be avoided. Some of these substances have been associated with adverse health effects, while others are deemed safe and can be consumed with minimal risk. The food manufacturing industry and regulators say there are good reasons to use additives, for example, to prevent food poisoning or to extend a food's shelf life. The safety of food additives remains controversial.

The different types of food additive and their uses include:

  • Anti-caking agents – stop ingredients from becoming lumpy.
  • Antioxidants – prevent foods from oxidising or going rancid.
  • Artificial sweeteners – increase the sweetness.
  • Emulsifiers – stop fats from clotting together.
  • Food acids – maintain the right acid level.
  • Colours – enhance or add colour.
  • Humectants – keep foods moist.
  • Flavours – add flavour.
  • Flavour enhancers – increase the power of a flavour.
  • Foaming agents – maintain uniform aeration of gases in foods.
  • Mineral salts – enhance texture and flavour.
  • Preservatives – stop microbes from multiplying and spoiling the food.
  • Thickeners and vegetable gums – enhance texture and consistency.
  • Stabilisers and firming agents – maintain even food dispersion.
  • Flour treatment – improves baking quality.
  • Glazing agent – improves appearance and can protect food.
  • Gelling agents – alter the texture of foods through gel formation.
  • Propellants – help propel food from a container.
  • Raising agents – increase the volume of food through the use of gases.
  • Bulking agents – increase the volume of food without major changes to its available energy.

For most people, additives are not a problem in the short term. However, some approved additives in Australia have been associated with adverse reactions in some people. Some food additives are more likely than others to cause reactions in sensitive people.​ ​ It is often the additives that are used to give a food an appealing quality, such as colour, that most commonly cause allergic reactions.

Some of these hypersensitive reactions include:

  • Digestive disorders – diarrhoea and colicky pains
  • Nervous disorders – hyperactivity, insomnia and irritability
  • Respiratory problems – asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis
  • Skin problems – hives, itching, rashes and swelling.
It is important to consult with your Doctor of Health Care Professional if you believe you may be sensitive to a particular food additive.

Some food additives that may cause problems for some people include:

  • Flavour enhancers – monosodium glutamate (MSG) 621
  • Food colourings – tartrazine 102; yellow 2G107; sunset yellow FCF110; cochineal 120
  • Preservatives – benzoates 210, 211, 212, 213; nitrates 249, 250, 251, 252;
    sulphites 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225 and 228
  • Artificial sweetener – aspartame 951.

The more highly processed foods you eat, the more additives you will consume. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid them is to eat fresh, wholefoods and only lightly processed foods, such as canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables.
You can also use our super food powder range to colour and add flavour to foods. Our pink pitaya is great for colouring cakes, icing, smoothies and gives a lovely fruit taste!

We’d love to see how you use our natural Being Co. superfood powders. Tags us with your creations on Instagram! @being_co 

Written by Emilee, Nutritionist (BHSc Nut Med)