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Understanding Food Additives

A food additive is any chemical substance that is added to food during preparation or storage and either becomes a part of the food or affects its characteristics for the purpose of achieving a particular technical effect. Food Additives

In general, Food Additives are used in Food to:
  • maintain its nutritive quality
  • enhance its keeping quality
  • make it attractive
  • aid in its processing, packaging or storage

Examples of Food Additives include:

  • Colouring agents that give foods an appetizing appearance.
  • Preservatives that prevent or delay undesirable spoilage in food.
  • Certain sweeteners that are used to sweeten foods without adding to the caloric value of the foods.

Some examples include: sodium nitrate (a colouring, a flavouring, and a preservative), caffeine (a flavouring and a stimulant), acesulfame-potassium (an artificial sweetener), and artificial colourings (often found in products like candy and pop). Food Additives

Under the Food and Drug Regulations, Food Additives DO NOT include:

Food ingredients such as salt, sugar, starch, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, spices, seasonings, flavouring preparations, agricultural chemicals, food packaging materials

How are Food Additives Regulated?

Food additives are regulated in Canada under the Food and Drug Regulations. Food additives must be of suitable quality, must be effective for their intended purpose, and, when used according to the Regulations, must not pose a hazard to the health of the consumer. To learn about which additives are in the processed food you eat, check out the ingredient list for that food. These substances are usually added in small quantities, so they will appear towards the end of the list. Ref: Health Canada website, 2007