Navigation path

Additional tools

Additives

What are food additives?

Additives are substances used for a variety of reasons - such as preservation, colouring, sweetening, etc.- during the preparation of food. The European Union legislation defines them 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".

Added to food for technological purposes in its manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage, food additives become a component of the food.

Additives can be used for various purposes. EU legislation defines 26 "technological purposes". Additives are used, among other things, as:

  • Colours– they are used to add or restore colour in a food

  • Preservatives– these are added to prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against micro-organisms

  • Antioxidants– substances which prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against oxidation (i.e. fat rancidity and colour changes)

  • Flour treatment agents – added to flour or to dough to improve its baking quality

Are food additives safe?

The safety of all food additives that are currently authorised has been assessed by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) and/or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Only additives for which the proposed uses were considered safe are on the EU list.

For more information, please consult the document Questions and Answers on Food Additives.