Food Additives: Why Do Food Manufacturers Use Them?

Food Additives: why food manufacturers use them

Welcome to my blog, and thank you for stopping by! In this blog, I will look at the various types of food additives and why manufacturers use them. 

If you’ve ever eaten convenience or processed foods from the grocery store, you’ve most likely consumed a food additive.

Unfortunately, food additives have earned a bad reputation over the years. Many people believe that some food additives may be harmful to consumers’ health.  

However, for decades, food manufacturers have included them in their products for a variety of reasons.

They are primarily used as a food preservation method to extend the shelf life of food and ensure its safety for consumption. 

Some food additives also serve as emulsifiers, thickeners, and aid in the even distribution of ingredients throughout the food. These are just a few of the many roles they play in the food industry.

WHAT ARE FOOD ADDITIVES?

Food additives are substances added to food by manufacturers to improve its flavor, color, texture, and to preserve it.

They are added either during or after the food production process. There are several types of food additives; here is a list of them:

(a) Artificial flavors and colors: These are added to food to improve its taste and appearance.
Preservatives are used to keep food from spoiling and to extend its shelf life.

  Sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and calcium propionate are a few examples. You will commonly find these additives in food products such as sauces, and some juices.

Food Additives: why food manufacturers use them

WHAT ABOUT COLOR ADDITIVES?

Color additives, according to the (Food and Drug Administration) FDA, are an important component of the processed foods we all enjoy eating. Food companies use them to add color to bland foods or to promote color uniformity.

These additives can be natural or synthetic. However, without them, margarine or butter would not have their yellow color, Coca-Cola would not be dark brown, and certain snacks would lack the fun, vibrant colors that make them more appealing and attractive.

Starbucks And The Bug Additives

Starbucks made headlines several years ago when it was revealed that their Strawberry Frappuccino and other products they sold contained dye derived from crushed bugs. 

Later, CBS News reported that Starbucks’ President promised their customers that the popular coffee company would switch to lycopene, a natural food coloring extract of the tomato fruit.

(b) Emulsifiers:  are substances that aid in the mixing of ingredients that would not normally mix, such as oil and water. Lecithin and mono- and diglycerides are two examples.

Food Additives: why food manufacturers use them

(c) Sweeteners: These are substances that are used to make food sweeter. 

Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin are some additives you will often see added to many juices, gummy vitamins, and chewing gums.

Food Additives: why food manufacturers use them

 

(d) Antioxidants: are used to keep food fresh by slowing the oxidation process. Vitamin E and BHA are two examples you will find in many foods such as popcorn and fruit juices.

Food Additives: why do food manufacturers use them?

 

(e) Thickening agents: Many food companies use these to increase the viscosity of liquids and make them thicker. Xanthan gum and carrageenan are two popular additives. 

If you use coffee creamers as frequently as I do, these additives are more than likely to be listed as ingredients.

Food Additives: why food manufacturers use them

WHAT ARE CARRAGEENAN ADDITIVES?

Carrageenans have been the subject of much debate in the last five to ten years. Some animal studies indicate that it may be carcinogenic or cancer-causing, as well as inflammatory. 

While this has never been proven in humans, many people still believe that frequent consumption is harmful to their health.

Moreover, Carrageenan is a natural additive derived from red seaweed that is commonly used as a thickener and emulsifier in a variety of food products. 

If you want to learn more about the potential effects of Carrageenan on one’s health, visit Healthline’s blog: “Should You Remove Carrageenan From Your Diet?”

Food Additives: why do food manufacturers use them?

So, the next time you pour creamer into your coffee or salad dressing on your salad, keep in mind that the thick viscous pour is primarily due to the additives of either carrageenan or xanthan gum.

(f) pH regulators: are chemicals that are used to adjust the acidity or basicity of food. 

Citric acid and sodium hydroxide are two examples of pH regulators that are commonly found in many juices and sauces in grocery stores.

 

ARE FOOD ADDITIVES REGULATED?

It is important to note that all food additives must be approved by regulatory bodies such as the FDA to ensure their safety for human consumption. 

Many people, however, have lost trust in these and other food regulatory bodies, which may be one of the reasons why many consumers are skeptical about the safety of food additives.

 However, I hope my blog has provided you with a new perspective on why food additives are important in the food industry.

You may learn more about how food additives are approved by the FDA in their article entitled: “Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives and Colors”

MY FIRST HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE WITH FOOD ADDITIVES

One of the class projects in my  “Experimenting With Food” class in college was to create three different recipes using an underutilized food item.  

I chose dasheen (a root vegetable) because at the time it was not very popular. I created Dasheen Porridge, Dasheen Muffins, and Dasheen Chips recipes.

Jamaica Scientific Research Counsel (SRC)

The Scientific Research Council of Jamaica (SRC) is a government agency in Jamaica that promotes product development through science and technology. 

They were extremely helpful in assisting me with my dasheen recipe project.

The SRC exposed me to two sulfur compounds that are used as additives. I don’t recall the exact names. 

However, I recall one being used to improve the color of the dasheen chips and the other contributing to the crispy texture when fried.

These two sulfur compounds are commonly used in many fruit and vegetable chips on the market, such as banana and potato chips, to enhance their taste and appeal. 

I was able to produce, package, and label my crispy, delicious Dasheen Chips with their assistance.

Food Additives: why do food manufacturers use them?

ARE FOOD ADDITIVES BAD FOR YOU?

The majority of food additives are safe to consume. The FDA prohibits or regulates those that pose a health risk.

Processed foods that rely on food additives get a bad rap for their potential negative impact on population health. 

In my early days as a Nutrition student and Nutritionist, I praised the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables while condemning the consumption of their canned counterparts.

Half The World Would Starve Without Processed Foods

One of my college professors taught me the value of convenience or processed foods. 

She explained that half of the world would starve if foods were not preserved through canning and the use of additives. 

Even to this day, that class has influenced my attitude toward processed foods.

Moderation, in my opinion, is the key to living a healthy life. “No food is unhealthy until you overeat,” is my motto.

Some additives are considered extremely harmful when consumed in large quantities. Dr. Mercola explains why the following Top 10 Food Additives  should be avoided. To learn more, click HERE.

 

WHAT ARE ALTERNATIVES TO FOOD ADDITIVES?

It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate food additives from our diet in today’s world.

 However, by focusing on including more fresh, wholesome foods in our diet, we may be able to limit our consumption of processed foods and, as a result, food additives.

Growing your own food and preserving it for later use is a great way to limit the amount of additives in your diet. 

I’m fascinated by the homesteading lifestyle. These two hardworking homestead bloggers have taught me so much.

Katie and Patrick share a wealth of knowledge about food sustainability. Please take a look at their blog:

The Homesteading RD (Katie)

Southern Dream Homestead (Patrick)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Food manufacturers use food additives to enhance the taste, texture, appearance, and shelf-life of their products. 

Additives such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives help to improve the consistency and stability of certain processed foods. 

 Artificial colors and flavors, on the other hand, are used to make products more appealing to consumers.

These additives can also help to reduce production costs by reducing spoilage and extending the shelf-life of food products. 

Overall, food additives are an important tool for manufacturers to use in creating safe, high-quality, and appealing food products for consumers.

Here are two of my recipe blogs that I think you will enjoy.

 Vegan Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Jamaican Escovitch Spicy Pickled Vegetables Recipe.

 

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41 thoughts on “Food Additives: Why Do Food Manufacturers Use Them?”

  1. Great post! It’s really helpful to understand the different types of food additives and the reasons why manufacturers use them. I also appreciate your mention of the potential negative effects of certain additives, like carrageenan. Just a gentle note that having all of the text centered makes it hard to read, but overall, great job! Keep up the good work!

  2. Really informative breakdown. I always try to avoid processed foods and additives when possible but it’s interesting to see what their purpose is.
    One potential rabbit hole for this subject is what the FDA in the US approves of that other countries ban.
    Great article as always. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I agree with you, Kathleen. There are so many food and drugs that were approved by regulatory bodies here in the US that are banned in other countries. But the bottom line, unfortunately, is all about money and not necessarily about safety.

  3. This was so informative and unexpected, I don’t think I’ve ever really paid any attention to additives . I have heard people talk negatively about additives, artificial coloring & processed foods but I never looked in to it before. I completely agree with you though it’s a matter of focusing on fresh as much as possible.

  4. Great information. I must say you got my attention with the Starbucks portion – disturbing. Really makes me take pause and pay more attention to what I’m consuming.

    1. You are right Debbie. You will be surprised how many food products on the market are colored from dye extracted from bugs. They call it natural food coloring. At least Starbucks removed it from their products. Happy you found my blog useful.

  5. Great post! I agree as well— moderation is the key. Most commonly used additives are safe to consume. And if there a doubt—which is normal too— making the habit of reading the label and reading about the additives is a good way to ease the worry or make changes. Additives have a bad rep because usually only a one sided story is pushed on the social media. But we forget that it does play an important role in the food industry. This was an informative read. Thanks!

  6. This post is amazingly educational and informative! I learned a lot. Thank you for sharing. I didn’t know Starbucks had made headlines over using crushed bugs. We consume so much food without even dreaming (and sometimes caring about) what’s inside.

  7. This was really helpful and a real sign that there are so many things in our food that we just don’t know about. I try to buy food that has whole ingredients or at least ones I can identify easily (which has become harder and harder over time). One example is I use almond milk and only want brands that have three ingredients (almonds, water, salt) and the brand I used to rely on has been discontinued and almost every other type I’ve looked at has at least 15 ingredients. Your post was so useful; thank you for sharing!

    1. I understand the shopping struggle, Molly. It’s best you make your own almond milk. As I said in my blog, most nut milk on the market uses some form of additives that function as thickening and stabilizing agents. I appreciate your comment. All the best.

  8. I didn’t know much about food additives and why hey are used etc. So, this post was really interesting and informative. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren – bournemouthgirl

  9. I love reading about nutrition, especially straight from a nutritionist like you! Thank you for sharing all of this helpful information all in one place, Kevin. I agree, everything in moderation.

  10. This is very interesting, I always hear about additives, but your post makes it more clear to the every day person. Thanks so much for your clarification and information!

  11. You know what, this was a brilliant post Kevin! Your knowledge is second to none and it is very good to read such things as I had never really looked into food additives – even though i am a big foodie myself! Thankyou for sharing this, I am going to save it and re-read it every so often x

  12. Great article! I’m with you on the moderation. I’m aware that half of the stuff if not closer to all is not “real”. I used to only remember to say grace after I’ve already started eating (and thought it was too late) but lately I’ve relied on supernatural blessing of my food. Who knows what it is! 🤔🤦🏿‍♀️ And this is the 1st I’m hearing about the Starbucks bug story…good thing I only go there once in a blue moon! Hopefully they did make a change!

    1. Sandra, I can relate to saying a prayer before we eat; I typical Caribbean practice. lol. Starbucks did remove the dye additive from their menu, thankfully. Thanks for dropping by.

  13. A really interesting, informative and in a way horrifying post. We forget just how much goes into certain foods that must be harmful. Another reminder for me that I have to be better with my diet!
    Thanks for sharing!

  14. Ugh…our food industry need to do better. So many times I like a product at the grocery store but read the ingredients and out it back. So many additives that are not good!

    1. I agree with you to a point Vaishali. Because we do not grow our own food and have to rely on the food industry to process our food and include additives for longer shelf life.

  15. Not eating food pumped up with additives has been one upside of enjoying cuisine here in Crete, Kevin. Grown on farms in the village directly to the table; none of that additive stuff in the EU.

    Ryan

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