Food additives fall into three basic categories and are used for a variety of different reasons. They are generally used as flavoring agents, enzymes, and for food safety and storage. For the most part, they improve the way foods smell and taste. However, the function and uses of food additives run the gamut from stabilizers to additives used to improve texture and freshness. It should be noted that food additives are closely monitored to ensure that they are safe, serve a technological need or function, and don't mislead customers, which results in the safe consumption of many foods.
Most food additives are used to improve smell and taste. There are many varieties of additives that fall into this category and are used in foods that run the gamut from soda to cereal and cake. There are also flavoring agents that mimic natural flavors but are derived from artificial sources. Flavoring agents can be derived from a variety of natural sources such as plants, nuts, vegetables, fruits, wine, animal sources, synthetic sources, and spice blends.
For example, carrageenan is a natural food additive derived from red seaweed. Seaweed is well known for its many health benefits. It is processed by boiling it in a non-acidic broth. The boiling process is used as a filter and the seaweed is milled into a silky powder which can be used in foods.
This natural food additive is safe and is used in a variety of different foods, including meats and desserts, to serve many different purposes. There has been confusion about the safety of this natural food additive because it was once confused with poligeenan. Poligeenan is an acidic substance not suitable for consumption. It is processed in harsh acids which is one of the reasons why it is unsafe to eat. It was once mixed up with the healthy food grade version, which created confusion and caused many to believe that the food grade version was unsafe, although it has always been. Additives are generally safe and ultimately serve a variety of different functions concerning food safety, freshness, flavor, aroma, contamination prevention, and stabilization.
Enzymes are used in food preparations but aren't necessarily part of the end result of a food product. They are proteins that serve as a catalyst for biochemical reactions. They have the ability to break large molecules into smaller molecules. They are extracted from bacteria, plants, and animals. They are the natural alternative to chemical-based technology. The core use of enzymes in food is usually to improve dough during the baking process, for better yields when manufacturing juice products, and to improve the fermentation process in winemaking and brewing. Enzymes are even used to improve curd formation during the cheese making process.
Food additives are also used to add color to food and preserve it. This often happens during the preparation process or even during the storage process. Additional additives can also be included in the packaging and transportation process. However, these food additives become a component of the food after they have been added.
These processes are completed to add a significant benefit to foods. Additives used during storage extend the shelf life of food and keep it from spoiling as a result of contamination. Furthermore, food additives that add color to foods are included when foods lose their color during processing. Plus, food additives that add sweetness to foods are usually used in lieu of sugar to decrease calories.
Food additives serve a wide variety of purposes. Many of them are to protect the safety and the integrity of different foods. Most additives are used to improve a food's flavor and smell. Many of the sources that these additives are derived from are natural, making them safe. However, even the synthetic versions are safe. Some additives have been confused with other harmful substances, but are actually safe, healthy, and suitable for consumption. They provide many benefits when it comes to improving food safety, flavor, and texture, as well as a variety of other things.