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Part 1 of this three-part series discussed the dilemma in which companies often find themselves when incorporating natural food additives into their food and beverage products. Part 2 will cover  why food additives are necessary for a sustainable and secure global food supply and the current and pending regulations to ensure public health safety and awareness.

What do Food Additives Do?

Nearly 3000 direct food additives are used in U.S. food manufacturing. Some of these additives are natural like salt, sugar, yeast, vanilla and fruit juice. Many are synthetic with ominous names like butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA) or cara geenan. All food additives, regardless of origin, serve a purpose such as prolonging shelf life, reducing spoilage, increasing flavor and color, improving consistency and mouth feel, and enhancing nutritional quality, all of which may be diminished or lost in processing. Ultimately, food additives increase availability, quality and safety of foods and beverages while maintaining a lower production cost. Additives allow foods to be shipped all over the world with decreased waste. Overall, additives increase the sustainability and stability of our food supply, but some have been proven detrimental to human health causing suspicion and concern regarding synthetic additives in general.

Several major trends drive the use of food additives–or the replacement of synthetic additives with natural additives:

  • Health and nutrition
  • Food safety
  • Desire for convenience
  • R&D costs
  • Regulatory compliance
  • New product development
  • Sustainability and ethical sourcing of raw materials

The FDA under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 and its subsequent amendments and clauses regulate additives. The United States Department of agriculture (USDA) also oversees additives used in meat and poultry products. Additives must serve a specific purpose and useful function. They cannot be used to deceive consumers by disguising damage or spoilage and they cannot be used if the manufacturer can produce the desired effect using normal manufacturing processes without additives. No additive that is known to cause cancer can be used in a U.S. product. Further, Europe has initiated a ‘clean label’ program that identifies synthetic additives and genetically modified ingredients on food and beverage labels. California is leading the U.S. charge for labeling foods containing GMOs with a bill on the November election docket. This could have significant ramifications for U.S. food and beverage producers. California is such a large consumer market it could drive the label changes across the nation.

Part 3 will discuss the advantages of a sustainable and traceable supply chain.

Image: Food Additives via Shutterstock