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Food additives are chemicals that are used to enhance the flavour or appearance of the food product.  Some people may be sensitive or have allergies to some additives. An additive, preservative or allergen, must be listed no matter how small the amount is.

Preservatives are a chemical that can be either synthetic or natural based.  They are used in order to preserve the food and give it a longer shelf life.

All preservatives and additives have a specific number or chemical name that they are listed as and must be approved by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

Why do we need them?

For centuries, we have been using ingredients in our food to help preserve it as well as improve the
Some of the roles of food additives include:

  • adding or restoring colour to foods (artificial colours have code numbers in 100s)
  • preventing food from going rancid (preservatives have code numbers in 200s)
  • slowing or preventing the oxidative decline of foods (antioxidants have code numbers in 300s)
  • Refining the flavour of food (food enhancers have code numbers in the 600s).

The different types of food additive and their uses include:1

  • Anti-caking agents – stop ingredients from becoming lumpy.
  • Antioxidants – prevent foods from oxidising, or going rancid.
  • Artificial sweeteners – increase the sweetness.
  • Emulsifiers – stop fats from clotting together.
  • Food acids – maintain the right acid level.
  • Colours – enhance or add colour.
  • Humectants – keep foods moist.
  • Flavours – add flavour.
  • Flavour enhancers – increase the power of a flavour.
  • Foaming agents – maintain uniform aeration of gases in foods.
  • Mineral salts – enhance texture and flavour.
  • Preservatives – stop microbes from multiplying and spoiling the food.
  • Thickeners and vegetable gums – enhance texture and consistency.
  • Stabilisers and firming agents – maintain even food dispersion.
  • Flour treatment – improves baking quality.
  • Glazing agent – improves appearance and can protect food.
  • Gelling agents – alter the texture of foods through gel formation.
  • Propellants – help propel food from a container.
  • Raising agents – increase the volume of food through the use of gases.
  • Bulking agents – increase the volume of food without major changes to its available energy.

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