Reading the label: classification of food additives. Part 1


Food additives are divided into several main types, each of which performs its specific functions.

Types of Food Additives

Acidity regulators

Added to regulate the acidity level of foods or drinks, such as lemonade, so that it has a certain sour taste.

clumping inhibitor

Add to dry powder mixes for cakes and pastries to keep these mixtures from sticking together into lumps. foam inhibitor

In order for beer and some other drinks to be tasty, they must be foamy, but not too foamy. Foam inhibitors prevent the beer from turning into solid foam. And other foam inhibitors, for example, from silica gel (silicic acid gel), are added to the jam.


Food products rich in animal fats (sausages) or vegetable origin quickly become rotten if the appropriate measures are not taken. Antioxidants slow down this process. The most effective antioxidant is vitamin E. It is added to various food products, including margarine.

Filling agent

Found in all foods from ice cream and milkshakes to frozen mousses, homemade cheeses, sauces and spreadable foods. Filling agents increase the volume of foods without increasing their calorie content. A good example of a bulking agent is an indigestible fiber, cellulose.

Food colorings

There are three types of food coloring. Natural ones, such as bright orange beta-carotene, extracted from carrots, or red dye — cochineal, extracted from dried female aphids Coccus cacti, living on the cactus Opuntia coccinellifera. There are so-called «inorganic pigments» — metals, for example, silver. Finally, there are synthetic azo dyes such as quinoline yellow. Azo dyes used to be made from coal tar but are now synthesized by chemical methods. The prefix «azo» means that they include elements that include nitrogen.


Emulsifiers are added to oils that normally do not mix with water to mix with it. When making mayonnaise, chefs bind the oil and the watery part of the vinegar with an egg. Eggs contain lecithin, a substance that has the ability to bind these two ingredients, turning them into an emulsion. Along with lecithin, other emulsifiers are used in the food industry: egg white and agar obtained from seaweed. Emulsifiers are found in foods such as margarine and ice cream, salad dressings, and mayonnaise. They are also added to some baked goods, such as muffins.

salt emulsifier

Emulsifying salts are added to food products such as unsweetened condensed milk, milk powder, and processed cheese to be stable and keep their ingredients together.

Food hardeners

Garden strawberries and fruits contain a natural jelly-like fiber called pectin, which makes them firm and plump. In industry, food hardeners are used to ensure that products retain their hardness or elasticity, and have the appearance of freshly cooked. Hardeners are added to canned red beans and pickled red cabbage to keep them crunchy.

Types of Food Additives

Flavor enhancers

True to their name, these additives enhance the flavor of other substances in foods and beverages without having their own taste. The most famous flavor enhancer is monosodium glutamate. It can be found in salted pretzels, pork pies, bagged soups, and many other foods.


More than 4,000 flavors are used in the food industry, but when using them, the manufacturer is required to write only one word “flavor” on the product label and should not give us a specific chemical name. In most European countries, four main types of flavors are allowed: natural, blended (a mixture of natural flavors with synthetic flavors), smoke extracts, and synthetic flavors that do not exist in nature.

Flour improvers

In order for the flour to remain white, looser and more suitable for baking muffins rather than bread, substances such as sulfur dioxide, vitamin C or nitrogen dioxide are added to it.

blowing agent

These additives have the opposite effect of foam inhibitors and promote foam formation in foods and beverages.

Reading the label: classification of food additives. Part 2

Source: Adapted from How to Read Labels by Amanda Ursell

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