They integrate with the food item to become a component, thereby improving its quality.
Food additives are used during production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage of food.
The exact history of food additives is not known, but research indicates the existence of food additives to date back to the prehistoric man who added certain chemicals to smoked meat. Later methods like salting fish and meat to improve its shelf life, adding spices and indigenous herbs to food to improve its taste and pickling fruits using salt and vinegar, came into practice.
The use of food additives was minimum in the past when food was mostly prepared at home from fresh raw ingredients. Food items were seasonal and seldom available off season. Today we find most food being made available all round the year, enabling the urban population to enjoy food in great varieties.
Food is also made available in places where it is not produced (e.g. fish in non-coastal region), due to the usage of food additives. The present day food industry has grown and flourished due to the liberal use of food additives. These additives have also led to the extensive production and marketing of 'easy-to-prepare' convenience foods.