Eating fresh natural produce is nutritious and healthy but the challenge lies when we shop for packaged food in the supermarket. The fact is we all guzzle down juices in tetra-packs and munch on packets of chips without taking time to read and understand the preservatives present in them. Facts about Food Additives

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

The FSSAI is an autonomous body that comes under Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. Food Safety and Standard Act,2006 was established by FSSAI to monitor food safety regulation in India. FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health by regulating and supervising food safety

What are food Additives?

Food additives can either be from natural sources or made artificially. They are chemicals added to food and beverages to extend its shelf life, enhance the taste or retain the colour and nutrients of the product.

The FSSAI (2015) has approved about 11000 food additives, which can be used by the food industry.

Common Food additives and their uses
  • Artificial colours or dyes: To colour processed foods, beverages, and condiments.
  • High fructose corn syrup:
    • Made from corn.
    • Cheaper than sugar.
    • Used in sweets, processed foods and diet soft drinks.
  • Aspartame: Artificial sweetener.
  • Used as an additive for soft drinks, sugar-free desserts, chewing gum etc.,
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Sodium salt of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid.
    • Enhances flavour and gives a savoury taste. It is used in many foods.
  • Sodium Nitrite: Used for curing meat
    • Found in preserved meat products, like sausages and canned meats.
  • Trans fat: Trans fats are usually animal fat used in the food preparation process.
    • Also known as hydrogenated oils, they are used most often for deep-frying food, and in baked goods
  • Hydrogenated vegetable cooking oil or vanaspati helps to prolong the shelf-life of the food and maintain flavour stability.
    • Are sold directly as 'spreads' (margarine).
    • Used in the food industry to manufacture biscuits, cakes, etc.
Harmful Effect of Food Additives

Butylated Hydroxy Anisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): Mainly found in potato chips, crackers, preserved meat, bakery products, chewing gums etc., with added fats.

The US health authorities classifies this preservative as mildly carcinogenic.

Trans Fat: When used in large quantity, trans fat may cause heart disease.

Caffeine: Stimulant used in high energy drinks.

  • Too much consumption may lead to jitters and disturbed sleep.

Aspartame: May cause neurological problems like hallucinations. Longer periods of consumption may increase the risk of cancer.

Remember to always read labels before purchasing food products with additives.

Try to avoid the following food additives as much as possible:

  • Artificial Colours: Avoid colours with FD&C (e.g. FD&C Blue No. 1)
  • Chemical Preservatives: BHA, Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Benzoate
  • Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Saccharin
  • Added Sugar: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup etc
  • Added Salt: Check the sodium content and choose foods with low amounts of sodium.
Additives Banned In India
Potassium bromate (usually used in bread & bakery products) and Cyclamates (used in jams, jellies, marmalades, dairy-based drinks, confectionery etc.) are removed from the list of permissible additives and banned from use in any food product in India.