Types of Food Additives

What are food additives? And what are the types of food additives?

Food processors use extra ingredients, or food additives, to manufacture products that resemble perishable food but have long shelf lives. Virtually all processed food requires additives of some type.

Synthetic Food ColorsSynthetic colors derived from petroleum!

When cooking at home or in artisanal foodmaking, additives would be simple, natural, and few: yeast, spices, etc. Homemade bakery, for example, does not need preservatives, dough conditioners, flavor enhancers, synthetic nutrients, or fat replacers. The flour, eggs, butter, or other simple ingredients would supply all the flavor, nutrients, and necessary consistency.

Here's what the International Food Information Council, a non-profit group financed by the food, beverage, and agricultural industries, describes as types of ingredients used in processed food:

  • Preservatives
  • Sweeteners
  • Color additives
  • Flavors and spices
  • Flavor enhancers
  • Fat replacers (and components of formulations used to replace fats)
  • Nutrients
  • Emulsifiers
  • Stabilizers and thickeners, binders, texturizers
  • pH control agents and acidulants
  • Leavening agents
  • Anti-caking agents
  • Humectants
  • Yeast nutrients
  • Dough strengtheners and conditioners
  • Firming agents
  • Enzyme preparations
  • Gases

Many additives are not food but are synthetic; and in many cases additives have drug-like effects.

Some of the most harmful additives include:

Artificial sweeteners, including aspartame
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and yeast extract
Trans fats: partially hydrogenated oils
Nitrites and other additives to processed meat
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)