6 Common Food Additives and Their Chemical Components


Food additives refer to chemically synthesized or natural substances added to food to improve the quality, color, aroma, and taste of food, as well as to meet the needs of preservation and processing technology. At present, there are about 2,000 kinds of food additives that can be approved for use in China. According to their functions, they can be divided into more than 20 categories. The common ones are preservatives, colorants, thickeners, emulsifiers, antioxidants, etc.

  1. Preservatives

Preservatives are additives that extend the shelf life of products, inhibit the growth and reproduction of microorganisms, and prevent product deterioration. Common preservatives include soda ash, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, nitrite and other chemical substances.

As time goes by, the nutrients in food will also disappear. Food additives can maintain or improve the nutritional value of food. In addition, when used properly, they can also increase the taste of food and prevent food from rotting. In other words, when used in appropriate amounts, food additives not only do not cause harm to the body, but are beneficial to our health. Imagine that without food additives, food would rot and lose nutrients during transportation, causing harm to our bodies.

  1. Sweeteners

Sweetener is an additive that can increase the sweetness of products. It can replace ordinary sugar in food and beverages, reducing calorie intake while maintaining the sweetness of the product. Common sweeteners include ammonium glycyrrhizate, monopotassium and tripotassium glycyrrhizinate, D-mannitol, cyclamate, maltitol, aspartame and other chemical substances.

  1. Food pigments

Food pigments can change the original color of food to a certain extent. Common ones include carotene, chlorophyll, carmine, lemon yellow, caramel pigments, etc. There is growing interest in natural and healthy alternatives to artificial food colorings and additives. For example, the natural food coloring blue spirulina, in addition to its eye-catching hue, also contains high amounts of phycocyanin, which contributes to its various health benefits. These include reducing inflammation, supporting immune function, and possibly even preventing some chronic diseases.

  1. Thickener

Thickeners are additives that increase the viscosity of food. They change the rheological properties of the product by absorbing water, swelling and forming colloids, making it thicker. There are many types of food thickeners. So far, there are more than 40 kinds of food thickeners used in the food industry in the world. According to their source classification, there are animal thickeners, plant thickeners, microbial thickeners and enzyme-based gels. Among food thickeners, those prepared from plants and seaweeds containing polysaccharides include pectin, starch, agar, and alginic acid; those prepared from protein-containing animal raw materials include gelatin, casein, etc. Among them, there are more than ten kinds including gelatin, agar, pectin, etc. that are included in China’s hygienic standards for the use of food additives.

  1. Emulsifier

Emulsifiers can be divided into two types: natural and synthetic. Common natural emulsifiers include lecithin and soy lecithin, while chemical synthetic emulsifiers include monoglycerides. As a surfactant, it can form special links with food ingredients such as lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, and has functions such as emulsification or demulsification, wetting or dewetting, foaming or defoaming, dispersion, solubilization, and lubrication.Therefore, emulsifiers can play a variety of roles in food processing. Emulsifiers can be used in almost all food processing – baked goods, margarine, cold drinks, dairy and imitation dairy products, meat products, soy products, candies , beverages, cans, cooking and other food products or auxiliary materials to improve quality, maintain flavor, extend shelf life and improve processing performance.

  1. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are additives that prevent products from oxidizing. In food, antioxidants can inhibit the oxidation reaction of oxygen on products and extend the shelf life of products. Common antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, etc.

Antioxidants are substances that block the harmful effects of oxygen. It is a type of substance that can help capture and neutralize free radicals, thereby eliminating the damage caused by free radicals to the human body. Antioxidants can prevent or delay food oxidation, improve food stability and extend storage period. The correct use of antioxidants can not only extend the storage period and shelf life of food, but also bring good economic benefits to producers and consumers, and bring better food safety for consumers.

Consumers can learn about the additive ingredients in food according to the ingredient list so that you can make choices based on your own needs. More and more chemical companies that produce food additives continue to carry out industry innovation and product research and development, and promote the application of green and sustainable additives.

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