Reading the label: classification of food additives. Part 2


This is the second part of an overview about the main types of nutritional supplements and their areas of application.

gelling agent

Seaweed agar and carob seed powder are natural gelling agents. They are added to the jelly of cookies soaked in wine and filled with whipped cream, as well as to some types of ice cream.


The glaze makes the surface of the products shiny and glossy, they look more attractive and look more appetizing. Sometimes glaze can be used not only to give the food product a beautiful appearance, but also for protective purposes.


Helps absorb moisture in foods and inhibit mold growth. Moisture removers such as molasses, honey, sorbitol are added, for example, to ready-made cakes and similar products, and glycerin, a moisture remover, can be found in «royal icing».

modified starch

A product obtained from natural starch by processing it and modified to give it certain properties necessary for the production of a particular food product is called «modified starch». It is found in many foods and drinks. To reduce the stickiness of the paste, which is used, for example, in the manufacture of chewing sweets or marmalade lozenges, sometimes even the purity of the starch is changed or dissolved in acid.

Protective gases

Protective gases are used to replace air in the packaging of foodstuffs such as cooked lettuce to protect them from oxidative deterioration.


Food spoils because microorganisms begin to grow and develop in them: bacteria and fungi. Food also spoils when exposed to oxygen, a process called oxidation. That is why a bitten apple turns brown in the air. In addition, the natural enzymes they contain can cause food spoilage. Preservatives, on the other hand, protect food from spoilage. In ancient times, food was preserved by salting, smoking, drying and marinating. Nowadays, freezing, canning in sealed containers, as well as modern technological processes are used to preserve food products. There are 30 preservatives allowed in our food products. So, with the help of sulfur dioxide, the process of reproduction of bacteria in dried fruits from apricots is stopped. Other chemicals used as preservatives include benzoic acid, which is added to beer and fruit juices, fruit yogurts, and dessert sauces. Natural preservatives include salt, sugar, and vinegar.

Propellants (propellants)

Some products are sold in cans (such as whipped cream), and to push them out, the cans must be filled with a special propellant. Propellants are gases, or volatile liquids, that come out when you press the button on the can.

Baking powder

In home baking and food production, probably the most famous baking powder that helps the dough rise is baking soda. When the baking powder is wet or heated, carbon dioxide is released from it, and it rises the dough. A typical example of a product containing baking powder is tortillas.


Traces of metals such as iron and copper occur naturally in foods. They contribute to the oxidation of products and lead to their premature spoilage. Sequestrants bind metals in foods and render them inactive.


Emulsifiers and thickeners such as agar or locust bean gum can also be used as stabilizers and are added to meringues, marshmallows, and even bread to stabilize these foods and maintain their consistency.

Sugar substitutes

Sugar substitutes may be added to foods. So, for example, saccharin and aspartame are added to small almonds. This sugar substitute is calorie-free and has an intensely sweet taste. The category of sugar substitutes includes sorbitol and isomalt; they are used to replace sugar in foods such as hard candy and chewing gum.


Their effect is similar to the flour that you add to sauces or gravy at home, in the kitchen in order to make them thicker. Most often they are of plant origin. An industrial thickener, guar gum, which is derived from the legume plant Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, is added to foods such as ice cream and milkshakes, as well as horseradish and cream sauces.

Reading the label: classification of food additives. Part 1

Source: Adapted from How to Read Labels by Amanda Ursell

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