It is essential for us as consumers to be aware of what we put into our bodies. Although the majority of us are aware of the advantages of fresh vegetables and fruits, we may not always take into account the safety of the processed foods we consume. Understanding the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of food additives is one way to ensure that processed foods are safe.
Food additives are substances that are added to food during processing to improve flavor, texture, or appearance, or to extend shelf life.
While many of these additives are harmless, others can cause adverse reactions in some people. It is essential to comprehend what these substances are and how they impact our health because the FDA has established regulations to guarantee their safety.
What are the most commonly used types of food additives?
- Artificial colors: These are synthetic dyes that are added to food to enhance its color. Some of the most common artificial colors include Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #1. While these colors are generally safe, they have been linked to hyperactivity in children and some allergic reactions.
- Artificial flavors: These are substances that are incorporated into food to impart a particular flavor or aroma. The flavors chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry are examples of artificial flavors. Despite the fact that these additives are generally safe, some individuals might be allergic to them.
- Preservatives: These are substances that are added to food to prevent spoilage and extend shelf life. Some common preservatives include sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and BHA/BHT. While these additives are generally safe, they have been linked to some allergic reactions and have been shown to cause cancer in some animal studies.
- Sweeteners: These are ingredients that are added to food to mimic the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Sweeteners include saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame. Although these additives are generally safe, some allergic reactions have been linked to them, and some animal studies have shown that they can cause cancer.
- Emulsifiers: These are substances that are added to food to improve its texture or consistency. Examples of emulsifiers include lecithin and mono- and diglycerides. While these additives are generally safe, they have been linked to some allergic reactions and have been shown to cause cancer in some animal studies.
It is essential to keep in mind that although the FDA regulates these substances to guarantee their safety, some individuals may still experience adverse effects. It is best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you are concerned about food additives.
A comprehensive list of the most common food additives regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Acacia Gum (E414) – Thickening agent, stabilizer, and emulsifier; Also known as Gum Arabic
Acetic Acid (E260) – Acidity regulator and flavoring; Also known as Glacial Acetic Acid
Acetone Peroxide – Bleaching agent and flour improver
Adipic Acid (E355) – Acidity regulator and flavor enhancer
Agar (E406) – Thickening agent and gelling agent; Derived from seaweed
Albumin – Emulsifier and thickener; Derived from egg whites and blood plasma
Alginic Acid (E400) – Thickening agent and stabilizer; Derived from seaweed
Allura Red AC (E129) – Red food coloring
Aluminum Ammonium Sulfate – Firming agent
Aluminum Calcium Silicate – Anti-caking agent
Aluminum Hydroxide (E173) – Coloring agent and acidity regulator
Aluminum Potassium Sulfate – Firming agent and emulsifier
Aluminum Sodium Sulfate – Anti-caking agent
Aluminum Sulfate – Firming agent
Ammonium Alginate (E403) – Thickening agent and stabilizer
Ammonium Bicarbonate – Leavening agent
Ammonium Carbonate – Leavening agent and acidity regulator
Ammonium Chloride (E510) – Yeast food, acidity regulator, and flavor enhancer
Ammonium Hydroxide (E527) – Neutralizing agent and leavening agent
Ammonium Phosphate (E342) – Emulsifier, leavening agent, and nutrient
Amylase – Enzyme used as a flour improver and in the production of syrups
Annatto (E160b) – Orange-red food coloring; Also known as Bixin or Norbixin
Antifoaming Agents – Used to prevent foaming in food production; Examples include Dimethylpolysiloxane (E900) and Polyglycerol Esters (E475)
Antimicrobial Agents – Used to inhibit the growth of microorganisms in food; Examples include Natamycin (E235) and Nisin (E234)
Antioxidants – Used to prevent the oxidation of food; Examples include Ascorbic Acid (E300) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Ascorbic Acid (E300) – Antioxidant and preservative; Also known as Vitamin C
Aspartame (E951) – Artificial sweetener
Astaxanthin (E161j) – Red food coloring; Derived from algae and seafood
Autolyzed Yeast Extract – Flavor enhancer; Also known as Yeast Extract
Azodicarbonamide (E927a) – Bleaching agent and flour improver; Also known as ADA
Beeswax (E901) – Glazing agent and stabilizer
Benzoic Acid (E210) – Preservative and flavor enhancer
Beta-Carotene (E160a) – Orange food coloring and nutrient
BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) (E320) – Antioxidant and preservative
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) (E321) – Antioxidant and preservative
Guar gum – Thickener and stabilizer, also used as a laxative. Alternative names: Guaran, Goma Guar.
Gum Arabic – Thickener and stabilizer. Alternative names: Acacia gum, E414.
Inositol – Nutrient supplement, used as a bulking agent in foods. Alternative names: Vitamin B8, myo-inositol.
Invertase – Used to convert sucrose into glucose and fructose. Alternative names: beta-fructofuranosidase, sucrase.
Iron oxides – Used as a colorant in food products. Alternative names: Iron oxide red, yellow or black.
Lactic acid – Used as a flavoring agent, preservative, and pH regulator. Alternative names: 2-hydroxypropanoic acid.
Lactitol – Sweetener and sugar substitute. Alternative names: 4-O-β-D-galactopyranosyl-D-glucitol.
Lecithin – Used as an emulsifier and stabilizer. Alternative names: E322, soy lecithin.
Locust bean gum – Thickener and stabilizer. Alternative names: Carob gum, E410.
Magnesium carbonate – Used as an anticaking agent and colorant. Alternative names: Magnesite, carbonate of magnesia.
Magnesium chloride – Used as a firming agent and mineral supplement. Alternative names: E511.
Magnesium hydroxide – Used as an acidity regulator and laxative. Alternative names: Milk of magnesia.
Magnesium stearate – Used as a lubricant and anti-adherent. Alternative names: E572.
Malic acid – Used as a flavoring agent and preservative. Alternative names: E296.
Maltodextrin – Used as a sweetener, thickener, and binder. Alternative names: Glucose polymer, maltose syrup.
Maltol – Used as a flavor enhancer and sweetener. Alternative names: 3-hydroxy-2-methyl-4-pyrone.
Mannitol – Sweetener and sugar substitute. Alternative names: E421.
Methylcellulose – Used as a thickener and stabilizer. Alternative names: E461.
Microcrystalline cellulose – Used as a bulking agent and stabilizer. Alternative names: E460i.
Mono- and diglycerides – Used as an emulsifier and stabilizer. Alternative names: E471.
Nisin – Preservative used in dairy products and canned foods. Alternative names: E234.
Nutmeg butter – Used as a flavoring agent. Alternative names: Myristica fragrans.
Oleoresin paprika – Used as a colorant and flavoring agent. Alternative names: E160c.
Oxidized starch – Used as a thickener and stabilizer. Alternative names: E1404.
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – Used as a fat substitute and stabilizer. Alternative names: Trans fats.
Pectin – Used as a thickener and stabilizer. Alternative names: E440.
Polydextrose – Used as a bulking agent and sugar substitute. Alternative names: E1200.
Polysorbate 80 – Used as an emulsifier and stabilizer. Alternative names: E433.
Potassium benzoate – Preservative. Alternative names: E212.
Saccharin (E954) – Sweet ‘N Low, Sugar Twin, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet, Sodium Saccharin
Salt (Sodium Chloride) (E508) – Table Salt, Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, Celtic Sea Salt
Sodium Benzoate (E211) – Used as Preservative, Benzoic Acid, Benzoate of Soda, Sodium Salt, Benzoate
Sorbic Acid (E200) – Sorbistat, Sorbistat K, Sorbistat Potassium, Potassium Sorbate
Soy Lecithin (E322) -Used as Emulsifier Lecithin, Soybean Lecithin, Soy Phospholipid
Spirulina Extract (E3) – Blue-Green Algae, Arthrospira Platensis, Algae Extract
Stevia (E960) – Natural Sweetener, Rebiana, Rebaudioside A, Steviol Glycosides,
Sucralose (E955) – Splenda, Altern, SucraPlus, Candys, Trichlorosucrose
Tartaric acid – Acidity regulator – alternative names: dihydroxysuccinic acid, threaric acid, 2,3-dihydroxybutanedioic acid
TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone) – Antioxidant – alternative names: tert-butyl-1,4-benzenediol, TBHQ-G, 2-tert-Butylhydroquinone, 2-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-1,4-benzenediol
Titanium dioxide – Colorant – alternative names: E171, CI 77891
Tocopherols – Antioxidant – alternative names: vitamin E
Xanthan gum – Thickener, stabilizer – alternative names: E415, corn sugar gum
Yeast extract – Flavor enhancer – alternative names: autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast autolysate
Zinc oxide – Colorant – alternative names: E172, zinc white
NOTE: We are updating this list and the food additives articles on a weekly basis, depending on the new info we find about them. Bookmark the page and keep yourself updated
In conclusion, understanding the list of food additives that are regulated by the FDA is an important step in making informed decisions about the food we eat. By knowing what these additives are and how they affect our health, we can make better choices for ourselves and our families.