What are the benefits of adding additives to food? | Classification of food additives and E numbers

What are the benefits of adding additives to food?

What are the benefits of adding additives to food? When considering that, people consume various food items according to their food choices nowadays. Also, there are various food processing methods and add various additives for various purposes like increasing the shelf life, improve nutritional value, for sensory purposes, and process facilitation like that. Here we consider about also, classification of food additives too.

Food additive means any safe substance, not normally consumed as the food itself. also, it is intentionally introduced into food in small quantities to achieve specific technological functions. There are intentional additives and incidental additives. When purposely add additives to food to perform a specific function, it is called intentional. As an example, we are adding vitamins and minerals for enrichment and fortification purposes. If substances present in foods in trace quantities as a result of production, processing, storage, and packaging, it is called incidental. Pesticides, sand, and pathogens are some examples.


  • Improve nutritional value. Additives compensate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. But it should be labeled in the product.
    • Ex: – Iron added to cereals. Calcium added to milk, iodine added to salt
  • Prolong shelf life. Preservatives protect foods from spoilage caused by molds, bacteria, and yeast.
    • Ex: – Antimicrobial agents, also, prevent oxidation of fat and oils. (Ex: – Antioxidants)
  • Functional property provision and improvement.
    • Ex: – leavening agents (Other additives which modify acidity and alkalinity.)
  • Enhance consumer acceptance. This can be accomplished by color improvement, taste enhancement, freshness preservation, and sensory pleasure.  
    • Ex: – Turmeric powder to the soup, orange color to Fanta
  • Process facilitation.
    • Ex: – Emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers, leavening agents, humectants, and anti-caking agents
  • Reduce wastage and make food more readily available.

Levels and safety

  • For the creation of the desired results, the quantity of the additive used shall be minimal.
  • Safety shall be established by testing the physiological, pharmacological, and biochemical behavior of animals.
  • The intake shall be substantially below harmful levels.

Undesirable uses of additives

  • To disguise the faulty and inferior process
  • Conceal spoilage or other inferiority
  • To deceive consumer

Desirable levels of food additives

  • Maximum permissible levels set by Food and Drug Authority
  • The information must be provided on the label
  • Prohibits the use of any additives including color, if it has been shown to induce cancer at any level in animal or man

What are the benefits of adding additives to food? After considering this briefly, now let’s discuss the classification of food additives. There are more benefits of additives according to their classification below.

Classification of food additives

  1. Sensory improvers
  2. Preservatives
  3. Shelf life extenders
  4. Process aids
  5. Nutritive

1.Sensory improvers

When considering sensory improvers, there are various types. Those are,


The flavor is the sensory impression of a food or other substance and is determined mainly by the chemical senses of smell and taste. They are capable of improving or enhancing the flavor of the food. There are natural flavors and artificial/synthetic flavors.

Natural flavors are vegetable and fruit extracts, spice and herb extracts, yeast extract, and essential oils.

  • Aromatic seeds – Nutmeg, Cumin
  • Fruits – Orange, Lemon
  • Vegetables – Onions, Garlic

Synthetic substances are which are not identical in a natural aromatic raw material, but those are formulations.

  • Ethyl vanillin

Coloring substances

These are food additives that add or restore color to food. Colorings are added to food to make food look more attractive, more visually appealing, or to replace colors lost during preparation.

  • Red
    • Carmoisine     
    • Erythrosine     
  • Yellow
    • Sunset yellow 
    • Tartrazine      
  • Blue
    • Indigo Carmine          
  • Green
    • Green FCF      

There are some non-permitted coloring substances in foods. examples are,

  • Rhodamine B – red color
  • Metanil yellow – yellow color


Acidulants control or alters the acidity or alkalinity of a food.

  • Citric acid       
  • Tartaric acid   
  • Malic acid      
  • Fumaric acid  


These are permitted in desserts, fizzy drinks, and confectionaries. Also, use in energy-reduced products and should declare on the label.

  • Sorbitol           
  • Mannitol        
  • Isomalt           
  • Xylitol                   
  • Sucralose        
  • Saccharin       
  • Aspartame

Flavor enhances

This means any substance that when added to food, is capable of enhancing or improving the flavor of that food. Flavor enhancers use in Chinese food, dry mixes, stock cubes, canned, processed, and frozen meats.

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)         

MSG means monosodium glutamate (also known as sodium glutamate). It is a common food ingredient that is a pure form of glutamate, the most common amino acid in our diets. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The tongue has taste receptors for glutamate, just as it does for sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes. Glutamate is the purest taste of umami. When MSG is added to foods, it enhances and enriches their savory (umami) and rich flavors.


This means any substance which is capable of inhibiting, retarding, or arresting the growth of microorganisms or any deterioration of food due to microorganisms. This is a better definition for preservatives related to “What are the benefits of adding additives to food?” Preservatives are specific to food and the maximum permissible levels are well defined for each food. When the combination of two or more preservatives is present in the same food, the total % contribution of each shall not exceed 100.

  • Benzoic acid and its derivatives
    • Good inhibition against yeast and molds. But less activity against bacteria. Example food items are pickles, fruit juices, jam, and carbonated drinks. Also, there are some adverse effects of benzoic acid and salts. It may cause gastric irritation. Also, people who suffer from asthma are likely to be sensitive.
  • Sulfur dioxide
    • Example food items are fruit juices, jam, pickles, and sauces. However, there are some adverse effects of Sulfur dioxide. It causes gastric irritation, may be dangerous to asthmatics, destroy vitamin E, reduce thiamin, and irritation in the alimentary canal are some of them.
  • Propionic acid and its salts
    • There is high activity against molds and few bacteria but no effect against yeast.
  • Nitrites and nitrates
    • These are used to preserve meat for a long time. Example food items are bacon, sausages, and ham. When considering adverse effects, destroy red blood corpuscles, affect the oxygen-carrying capacity, and the possibility to get asthma are some of them.
  • Sorbic acid and its salts
    • Inhibit mold and yeast growth. Example food items are cheese, fruit juices, wine, pickles, and tomato products. Possible skin irritation may be a health hazard of sorbic acid.

3.Shelf life extenders

When considering the classification of food additives, this is one of the classes of additives.

  • Antioxidants
    • These are used to protect unsaturated constituents of foods, mainly oils and fats, and lipid-based foods. They delay or retard the onset of oxidative rancidity which is the main cause of spoilage in oils and fats. Antioxidants can occur naturally or intentionally added during the processing. 
      • Propyl gallate               
      • Dodecyl gallate
  • Humectants
    • These are the compounds used to maintain certain foodstuffs in moist conditions. All humectants are hygroscopic in nature.
      • Glycerol
      • Sorbitol
      • Mannitol
  • Emulsifiers
    • This means any substance which is capable of aiding the formation of a stable mixture of two otherwise immiscible substances. Example food items are margarine, chocolates, and mayonnaise.
  • Stabilizers
    • Stabilizers are any substances that help to maintain an emulsion.
      • Guar gum
      • Locust bean gum
      • Xanthan gum
  • Sequestrants
    • These form chelate complexes with polyvalent metal ions, especially copper, iron, and nickel, which serve as catalysts in the oxidation of the fats in the food.

4.Process aids

This means any substance or material, not including apparatus or utensils, and not consumed as a food ingredient by itself. Also, intentionally used in the processing of raw material, foods, or its ingredient to fulfill a certain technological purpose during treatment or processing. That may result in the non-intentional but unavoidable presence of residues or derivatives in the final products.

  • Enzymes
    • A substance produced by a living organism that acts as a catalyst to produce a particular biochemical reaction. Also, use to produce clean food labels.
  • Solvents
    • Solvents are any substance for dissolving a foodstuff or any component present in or on the foodstuff. These use to extract the essential oils and flavors from nuts, seeds, and other raw materials. Also, use in the liquid formulations of flavorings and essences.
      • Ethanol
      • Heptane
      • Methanol
      • Pentane
  • Dough conditioners
    • This is an ingredient added to bread dough to strengthen its texture or improve it in some way. It includes enzymes, yeast nutrients, mineral salts, oxidants, and emulsifiers. Dough conditioners help to improve the crust development and color, strengthen the gluten structure, increase the gas production of yeast and gas retention, and create a better crumb texture and chewy texture.
  • pH regulators
    • These food additives add to change or maintain pH.
      • Acetic acid
      • Tartaric acid
      • Calcium lactate
  • Bleaching agents
    • These agents allow the lightening of food color. Mainly used in dairy, bakery, and oil manufacturing.
      • Calcium peroxide
      • Chlorine
      • Chlorine dioxide
  • Anticaking agents
    • These agents prevent the formation of lumps making. These goods can be handled for packaging, transport, and end-consumer use.
  • Antifoaming agents
    • Antifoaming agents reduce or prevent foaming in foods. Example food items are potato chips, and fried snack foods.

E numbers

When considering food additives under the main topic of “What are the benefits of adding additives to food?” it is important to know about E numbers. E numbers are simply a systemic form in which various food additives may be identified. It must first be cleared by the European Food Safety Authority before a food additive is given an E number (EFSA).

  • E100-E199       Colors
  • E200-E299       Preservatives
  • E300-E399       Antioxidants and acidity regulators
  • E400-E499       Thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers
  • E500-E599       Acidity regulators and anti-caking agents
  • E600-E699       Flavor enhancers
  • E700-E799       Antibiotics
  • E900-E999       Glazing agents and sweeteners
  • E1000-E1599   Additional chemicals

Now you have a better idea about the classification of food additives and E numbers. Also, there are valuable facts on “What are the benefits of adding additives to food?” levels and safety, undesirable uses of additives, and desirable levels of additives. Now you can get an idea about food additives while buying food items.

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