Additives and Processing Aids


Acidity Regulators, Preservatives, and Antioxidants

Andelka Bacak

Department of Quality Assurance & Food Safety, Granarolo S.p.A., Bologna, Italy

Food additives are substances that are intentionally added to food either during the production process or at packaging with the purpose to increase food safety and durability, to improve or restore food organoleptic characteristics and attractiveness and, in some cases, to improve the technological performance during the transformation process. The European legislation defines an additive as “... any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of food, whether or not it has nutritive value...” (Reg. UE 1333/2008).

Food additives are substances that have an effect on the final product and remain subject to the general labeling obligations.

The consumption of processed food is more and more frequent for many reasons, among which is less available time for meals preparation at home. The way of purchasing food supplies is rapidly changing and foodstuffs are kept in refrigerators at home for longer times—not always at suitable temperatures. All types of foodstuffs are requested in any season, often coming from different continents with long transport time at temperatures sometimes unsuitable or even not well controlled—hence, the need of food products having longer and longer shelf lives while assuring the respect of high food safety standards.

In such cases, the simple compliance with keeping temperatures and good manufacturing practices may not be sufficient to guarantee the product stability or its attractive appearance. Although consumers are aware of the relationship between food and health and prefer foods with a short list of ingredients and labelled as “clean” as possible, the addition of additives is sometimes necessary to ensure food safety and to allow consumers to benefit from safer and more attractive foods, with longer shelf-lives and sold at a reasonable price.

However, additives should be used sparingly, and there must be a technological need and a benefit for consumer for their use. If used, additives must not mislead consumer about the nature, freshness, quality of the ingredients used, the product naturalness or the production process, or the nutritional quality of the product, including its fruit and vegetable content (Reg. UE 1333/2008).

In other cases, the technological advances in food industry, such as the application of new technological processes allowing food transformation process without significant damage to its structure and organoleptic characteristics, the use of new packaging

Advances in Dairy Products, First Edition.

Edited by Francesco Conto, Matteo A. Del Nobile, Michele Faccia, Angelo V. Zambrini, and Amalia Conte. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2018 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

materials and controlled atmospheres, and the possibility of keeping foodstuffs under strict cold chain for their entire shelf life are useful means to limit the use of additives to a minimum.

Processing aids are substances intentionally used in processing raw materials, foods, or their ingredients, to fulfil a specific technological purpose. Eventual residues in the final product shall neither have any functional effect on the final product nor constitute a health risk for the consumer or become a precursor to food alteration. Processing aids must have a high degree of purity.

Some substances, when used as processing aids, could have the identical chemical structure of the additives, but in specifically circumstances perform a different function. Label declaration of processing aids is not obligatory.

Functional classes of processing aids can be distinguished as follows:

  • • Solvents for oils and fats extraction
  • • Solvents for spices, drugs, and herbs vehiculation
  • • Organic and inorganic clarifying agents (food enzymes included)
  • • Ion exchange resins for drinking water and process water
  • • Deodorization and discoloration materials for oils and fats
  • • Filtration supports (tissues, diatomaceous earth, silica sand, vegetable, and synthetic fibers)
  • • Detergents and disinfectants
  • • Defoamer agents

Since additives are present in many foods, consumers are exposed to and ingest significant amounts of some of these substances during their life. For this reason, any additive must be evaluated for safety and approved by health authorities before use. In Europe, approved additives are included in a “positive list” of the European Commission with precise indications of purity, the food category in which each one is allowed and maximum dosage. Food additives may be reevaluated when necessary, in case of changes in use conditions or availability of new scientific information.

The European Union has commissioned the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to review the opinions of all currently approved additives in foods, defining a timetable in order to complete the review of all additives by 2020 and setting priorities. The first additive to be evaluated has been aspartame since some studies have questioned its safety.

To be approved, food additives must be safe when used, their use must be technologically justified, not misleading, and they must be beneficial to the consumer. At global level, additives' safety assessment is entrusted to the Scientific Committee of the Joint FAO / WHO (JECFA). The approval of food additives in the United States is entrusted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In the European Community, a request for approval for use of a new additive must be submitted by a single person or by one of the EU Member States to the EU Commission. For a brand new additive, the time required for its approval is about two years, whereas, in the case of extension of use of an already approved additive, is approximately one year (Testori Coggi, 2011).

Regulation EU n. 1331/2008 laid down a uniform procedure for the evaluation and authorization of food additives, food enzymes, and food flavorings. This procedure defines the steps to be followed when submitting the request for approval or reevaluation of a substance intended to be added to food. The application must be accompanied by all available data relevant for the risk assessment by the EFSA and the subsequent examination by the EU Commission. The content, methods of compilation and submission of the application are described in Reg. (EU) 234/2011.

Only food additives included in the Community list of Regulation EU 1129/2011 and Regulation EU 1131/2011 can be placed on the market as food additives and used in foods under the conditions of use specified therein. Only food additives included in Regulation EU 1130/2011 can be used in food additives, food flavorings, food enzymes, and nutrients under the conditions of use specified therein. Only food flavorings included in the positive list of Regulation EU 872/2012, Annex I Regulation EU 1334/2008 can be used in the European Union.

Regulation EU 1331/2008 harmonizes the use of food additives in foods, enzymes, and flavors in the European Community with the purpose to facilitate free movement of goods among member states ensuring a high level of human health and consumer protection. This regulation laid down general and specific conditions for the use of additives and the rules on their labeling and their purity grade. Annex I defined 26 functional categories of additives based on the technological function that a food additive provides to the foodstuff.

Specific indications are provided for sweeteners and for colors. According to these provisions, tabletop sweeteners must report the following warnings on their labels:

  • • Polyols “excessive consumption may produce laxative effects’.’
  • • Aspartame and / or aspartame-acesulfame “contains a source of phenylalanine’.’

Other warning may concern the label of some colors:

• May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.

Annexes II and III have been modified by the following regulations:

  • • Regulation (UE) 1129/2011 modified Annex II and established the Union list containing all authorized food additives. Additives are divided into groups and foodstuffs into macrocategories divided afterward into more specific subcategories. Part A laid down a set of general principles and clarifies also the carryover principle. According to the carryover principle a food additive can be present in a composed foodstuff provided it is allowed in one of its ingredients, or it works as processing aid and plays no technological function in the finished product, even if its intended purpose for this foodstuff is not provided in Annex II. The exclusions concern foods for infant food and food for special medical purposes regulated in Directive 89/398 / EU, except in cases specifically provided.
  • • Regulation EU 1130/2011, amendment of Annex III, establishes a list of food additives approved for use in food enzymes and food flavorings and nutrients.
  • • Regulation EU 1131/2011, amending Annex II, as regards the steviol glycosides.

The updated database is available on the website: The Regulation EU 1334/2008 harmonizes the use of flavorings and some food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods. Beyond the general rules for the use of flavorings, the requirements for labeling and maximum levels for substances that pose a risk to human health this regulation define also what is meant by: flavorings, flavoring substance, natural flavoring substance, flavoring preparation, thermal process flavoring, smoke flavoring, flavor precursor, other flavoring, food ingredient with flavoring properties, source material, and appropriate physical process.

The Regulation EU 872/2012 adopts the list of flavoring substances inserted in Annex I of Regulation EU 1334/2008.

The updated database is available on the website:

The Regulation EU 2065/2003 laid down the procedure for the approval of smoke flavorings and for the safety assessment. The procedure provides a list of primary smoke condensates and primary tar fractions the use of which is authorized with exclusion of all others smoke flavorings.

Regulation (EU) 1332/2008 laid down the rules for use of food enzymes.

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