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17.7: Other Food Additives- Beneficial or Dangerous

  • Page ID
    153909
  • Learning Objective

    • Know the purpose of other ingredients added to food.

    For centuries, ingredients have served useful functions in a variety of foods. Our ancestors used salt to preserve meats and fish, added herbs and spices to improve the flavor of foods, preserved fruit with sugar, and pickled cucumbers in a vinegar solution. Today, consumers demand and enjoy a food supply that is flavorful, nutritious, safe, convenient, colorful and affordable. Food additives and advances in technology help make that possible.

    There are thousands of ingredients used to make foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of over 3000 ingredients in its data base "Everything Added to Food in the United States", many of which we use at home every day (e.g., sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla, yeast, spices and colors).

    Still, some consumers have concerns about additives because they may see the long, unfamiliar names and think of them as complex chemical compounds. In fact, every food we eat - whether a just-picked strawberry or a homemade cookie - is made up of chemical compounds that determine flavor, color, texture and nutrient value. All food additives are carefully regulated by federal authorities and various international organizations to ensure that foods are safe to eat and are accurately labeled.

    Additives perform a variety of useful functions in foods that consumers often take for granted. Some additives could be eliminated if we were willing to grow our own food, harvest and grind it, spend many hours cooking and canning, or accept increased risks of food spoilage. But most consumers today rely on the many technological, aesthetic and convenient benefits that additives provide.

    Following are some reasons why ingredients are added to foods:

    1. To Maintain or Improve Safety and Freshness: Preservatives slow product spoilage caused by mold, air, bacteria, fungi or yeast. In addition to maintaining the quality of the food, they help control contamination that can cause foodborne illness, including life-threatening botulism. One group of preservatives -- antioxidants -- prevents fats and oils and the foods containing them from becoming rancid or developing an off-flavor. They also prevent cut fresh fruits such as apples from turning brown when exposed to air.
    2. To Improve or Maintain Nutritional Value: Vitamins and minerals (and fiber) are added to many foods to make up for those lacking in a person's diet or lost in processing, or to enhance the nutritional quality of a food. Such fortification and enrichment has helped reduce malnutrition in the U.S. and worldwide. All products containing added nutrients must be appropriately labeled.
    3. Improve Taste, Texture and Appearance: Spices, natural and artificial flavors, and sweeteners are added to enhance the taste of food. Food colors maintain or improve appearance. Emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners give foods the texture and consistency consumers expect. Leavening agents allow baked goods to rise during baking. Some additives help control the acidity and alkalinity of foods, while other ingredients help maintain the taste and appeal of foods with reduced fat content.

    Types of Food Ingredients

    The following summary lists the types of common food ingredients, why they are used,
    and some examples of the names that can be found on product labels. Some additives are
    used for more than one purpose.

    Types of Ingredients What They Do Examples
    of Uses
    Names Found
    on Product Labels
    Preservatives Prevent food spoilage from bacteria, molds, fungi, or yeast (antimicrobials); slow or prevent changes in color, flavor, or texture and delay rancidity (antioxidants); maintain freshness Fruit sauces and jellies, beverages, baked goods, cured meats, oils and margarines, cereals, dressings, snack foods, fruits and vegetables Ascorbic acid, citric acid, sodium benzoate, calcium propionate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, calcium sorbate, potassium sorbate, BHA, BHT, EDTA, tocopherols (Vitamin E)
    Sweeteners Add sweetness with or without the extra calories Beverages, baked goods, confections, table-top sugar, substitutes, many processed foods Sucrose (sugar), glucose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K), neotame
    Color Additives Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; correct natural variations in color; enhance colors that occur naturally; provide color to colorless and "fun" foods Many processed foods, (candies, snack foods margarine, cheese, soft drinks, jams/jellies, gelatins, pudding and pie fillings) FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red Nos. 3 and 40, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, Orange B, Citrus Red No. 2, annatto extract, beta-carotene, grape skin extract, cochineal extract or carmine, paprika oleoresin, caramel color, fruit and vegetable juices, saffron (Note: Exempt color additives are not required to be declared by name on labels but may be declared simply as colorings or color added)
    Flavors and Spices Add specific flavors (natural and synthetic) Pudding and pie fillings, gelatin dessert mixes, cake mixes, salad dressings, candies, soft drinks, ice cream, BBQ sauce Natural flavoring, artificial flavor, and spices
    Flavor Enhancers Enhance flavors already present in foods (without providing their own separate flavor) Many processed foods Monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium guanylate or inosinate
    Fat Replacers (and components of formulations used to replace fats) Provide expected texture and a creamy "mouth-feel" in reduced-fat foods Baked goods, dressings, frozen desserts, confections, cake and dessert mixes, dairy products Olestra, cellulose gel, carrageenan, polydextrose, modified food starch, microparticulated egg white protein, guar gum, xanthan gum, whey protein concentrate
    Nutrients Replace vitamins and minerals lost in processing (enrichment), add nutrients that may be lacking in the diet (fortification) Flour, breads, cereals, rice, macaroni, margarine, salt, milk, fruit beverages, energy bars, instant breakfast drinks Thiamine hydrochloride, riboflavin (Vitamin B2), niacin, niacinamide, folate or folic acid, beta carotene, potassium iodide, iron or ferrous sulfate, alpha tocopherols, ascorbic acid, Vitamin D, amino acids (L-tryptophan, L-lysine, L-leucine, L-methionine)
    Emulsifiers Allow smooth mixing of ingredients, prevent separation

    Keep emulsified products stable, reduce stickiness, control crystallization, keep ingredients dispersed, and to help products dissolve more easily
    Salad dressings, peanut butter, chocolate, margarine, frozen desserts Soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, egg yolks, polysorbates, sorbitan monostearate
    Stabilizers and Thickeners, Binders, Texturizers Produce uniform texture, improve "mouth-feel" Frozen desserts, dairy products, cakes, pudding and gelatin mixes, dressings, jams and jellies, sauces Gelatin, pectin, guar gum, carrageenan, xanthan gum, whey
    pH Control Agents and acidulants Control acidity and alkalinity, prevent spoilage Beverages, frozen desserts, chocolate, low acid canned foods, baking powder Lactic acid, citric acid, ammonium hydroxide, sodium carbonate
    Leavening Agents Promote rising of baked goods Breads and other baked goods Baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate
    Anti-caking agents Keep powdered foods free-flowing, prevent moisture absorption Salt, baking powder, confectioner's sugar Calcium silicate, iron ammonium citrate, silicon dioxide
    Humectants Retain moisture Shredded coconut, marshmallows, soft candies, confections Glycerin, sorbitol
    Yeast Nutrients Promote growth of yeast Breads and other baked goods Calcium sulfate, ammonium phosphate
    Dough Strengtheners and Conditioners Produce more stable dough Breads and other baked goods Ammonium sulfate, azodicarbonamide, L-cysteine
    Firming Agents Maintain crispness and firmness Processed fruits and vegetables Calcium chloride, calcium lactate
    Enzyme Preparations Modify proteins, polysaccharides and fats Cheese, dairy products, meat Enzymes, lactase, papain, rennet, chymosin
    Gases Serve as propellant, aerate, or create carbonation Oil cooking spray, whipped cream, carbonated beverages Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide

     

    Antioxidants: BHA and BHT

    Antioxidants are used as food additives to help guard against food deterioration. Exposure to oxygen and sunlight are the two main factors in the oxidation of food, so food is preserved by keeping in the dark and sealing it in containers or even coating it in wax, as with cucumbers. However, as oxygen is also important for plant respiration, storing plant materials in anaerobic conditions produces unpleasant flavors and unappealing colors.  Consequently, packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables contains an ~8% oxygen atmosphere. Antioxidants are an especially important class of preservatives as, unlike bacterial or fungal spoilage, oxidation reactions still occur relatively rapidly in frozen or refrigerated food.[162] These preservatives include natural antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (AA) and tocopherols , as well as synthetic antioxidants such as propyl gallatetertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)  and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

    1A3.jpg

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) Synthetic antioxidants. Source Wikipedia

    The most common molecules attacked by oxidation are unsaturated fats; oxidation causes them to turn rancid.  Since oxidized lipids are often discolored and usually have unpleasant tastes such as metallic or sulfurous flavors, it is important to avoid oxidation in fat-rich foods. Thus, these foods are rarely preserved by drying; instead, they are preserved by smokingsalting or fermenting. Even less fatty foods such as fruits are sprayed with sulfurous antioxidants prior to air drying. Oxidation is often catalyzed by metals, which is why fats such as butter should never be wrapped in aluminium foil or kept in metal containers. Some fatty foods such as olive oil are partially protected from oxidation by their natural content of antioxidants, but remain sensitive to photooxidation.

    Color Additives

    A color additive is any dye, pigment or substance which when added or applied to a food, drug or cosmetic, or to the human body, is capable (alone or through reactions with other substances) of imparting color. FDA is responsible for regulating all color additives to ensure that foods containing color additives are safe to eat, contain only approved ingredients and are accurately labeled.

    Color additives are used in foods for many reasons: 1) to offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; 2) to correct natural variations in color; 3) to enhance colors that occur naturally; and 4) to provide color to colorless and "fun" foods. Without color additives, colas wouldn't be brown, margarine wouldn't be yellow and mint ice cream wouldn't be green. Color additives are now recognized as an important part of practically all processed foods we eat.

     

    US FDA's permitted colors are classified as subject to certification or exempt from certification, both of which are subject to rigorous safety standards prior to their approval and listing for use in foods.

    • Certified colors are synthetically produced (or human made) and used widely because they impart an intense, uniform color, are less expensive, and blend more easily to create a variety of hues. There are nine certified color additives approved for use in the United States (e.g., FD&C Yellow No. 6. See chart for complete list.). Certified food colors generally do not add undesirable flavors to foods.
    • Colors that are exempt from certification include pigments derived from natural sources such as vegetables, minerals or animals. Nature derived color additives are typically more expensive than certified colors and may add unintended flavors to foods. Examples of exempt colors include annatto extract (yellow), dehydrated beets (bluish-red to brown), caramel (yellow to tan), beta-carotene (yellow to orange) and grape skin extract (red, green).
    • In the United States, FD&C numbers (which indicate that the FDA has approved the colorant for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics) are given to approved synthetic food dyes that do not exist in nature, while in the European Union, E numbers are used for all additives, both synthetic and natural, that are approved in food applications. 

    Artificial Food Colors

    In the US, the following seven artificial colorings are generally permitted in food (the most common in bold) as of 2016. The lakes of these colorings are also permitted except the lake of Red No. 3.[23]

    Two dyes are allowed by the FDA for limited applications:

    • Citrus Red 2 (orange shade) - allowed only to color orange peels.
    • Orange B (red shade) - allowed only for use in hot dog and sausage casings (not produced after 1978, but never delisted)

    1A4.jpg

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) Chemical Structures of representative colorants.  Source: Wikipedia.

    Natural food dyes

    Carotenoids , chlorophyllin , anthocyanins , and betanin comprise four main categories of plant pigments grown to color food products.[30] Other colorants or specialized derivatives of these core groups include:

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\) Natural food colors can make a variety of different hues. Source: Wikipedia

    Blue colors are especially rare.   One feasible blue dye currently in use is derived from spirulina. Some recent research has explored associating anthocyanins with other phenolics or aluminium ions to develop blue colours. However, the inherent problems posed by the nature of the food matrix, and the need for long‐term stability, makes this a very difficult objective. The pigment genipin, present in the fruit of Gardenia jasminoides, can be treated with amino acids to produce the blue pigment gardenia blue, which is approved for use in Japan but not the EU or the USA.[32]

    To ensure reproducibility, the colored components of these substances are often provided in highly purified form. For stability and convenience, they can be formulated in suitable carrier materials (solid and liquids). Hexaneacetone, and other solvents break down cell walls in the fruit and vegetables and allow for maximum extraction of the coloring. Traces of these may still remain in the finished colorant, but they do not need to be declared on the product label. These solvents are known as carry-over ingredients.

    Summary

    • Different ingredients are added to food in order to:

    1. maintain or improve safety and freshness,

    2. improve or maintain nutritional value, and

    3. improve taste, texture, and appearance.

    • Common antioxidants added to foods include, ascorbic acid, tocopherols, propyl gallate, BHA, BHT, & TBHQ.
    • There are seven artificial colorings that are generally permitted in the US.  The most common ones are FD&C Blue No.1, FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Yellow No.5, and FD&C Yellow No.6.

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