Additives on Food Labels

In today's fast-paced world, processed foods have become a staple in many diets. While they offer convenience and long shelf life, they also come with additives that can be confusing to understand. This blog post aims to shed light on how these additives are indicated on labels and the requirements they must meet.

A Glimpse into Food Labels

Food labels are a treasure trove of information. They contain details about the ingredients, nutritional value, and, importantly, the additives used in the product. These additives are typically listed at the end of the ingredient list, reflecting their small quantities.

The order of ingredients is not random. It follows a descending order of quantity, with the ingredient present in the highest quantity listed first. Since additives are used in small amounts, they appear towards the end of the list.

Decoding Additives on Labels

Additives can be indicated on labels in two ways: by their name or by a European acronym. This acronym consists of a number preceded by a letter representing the category of the additive. For instance, ascorbic acid, a preservative, can be represented as E300. So, on the label, you might see either of the following:

  1. Preservative: E300
  2. Preservative: ascorbic acid

Both methods are correct, but they can be confusing for the average consumer. Understanding these codes and names can help you make more informed food choices.

Requirements for Food Additives

While it's advisable to limit the consumption of voluntary additives, there are times when their use is necessary. Here are some requirements that voluntary food additives must meet:

  1. Necessity: The additive must be necessary for the production of the food or to prevent significant waste. In some cases, the additive may temporarily replace a non-existent or unsatisfactory technology. Examples include the use of hydrogen peroxide for milk in hot areas where cooling is impractical, or sulfur dioxide in similar conditions to prevent unwanted fermentations in grape must.
  2. No Risk of Toxicity: The additive should not pose any risk of toxicity to humans, even with lifelong consumption. This toxicity must be evaluated both in the short and long term, including risks of cancer, mutagenesis, and teratogenesis, before it is authorized for use.
  3. No Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, or Mutagenic Risks: Any compound that poses risks of cancer, teratogenesis, or mutagenesis in any experimental animal or microorganism must be prohibited from food use.
  4. Established Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): Before an additive is authorized, its maximum acceptable dose per day (ADI) must be established.

In summary, understanding food labels and the additives they contain is crucial for making informed dietary choices. While additives can seem confusing, knowing how they are represented and the requirements they must meet can help demystify them.

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The Wellyme Team

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