Written by Bina Naik | 
Medically Reviewed by dr. reeja tharu / dr. sunil shroff, MBBS, MS, FRCS (UK), D. Urol (Lond) on May 16, 2019

Common Food Additives

Food color: The turmeric grown at home and powdered, is not as visually appealing as its commercial counterpart and hence its contribution to flavoring the food is limited. Food color is added to it to improve its visual appeal. Natural or synthetic color can be added to provide attractive and appetizing qualities to food. Some natural colors include:


Cochineal, a natural color, is extracted from females of an insect called coccus cacti. Natural reds from cranberries, grapes, beets are also available.

Common synthetic colors include certified coal tar dye used in carbonated drinks bakery items and candies.

The synthetic colors have an edge over natural ones in that they provide greater color stability and uniformity and are cheaper compared to the natural ones. Further the desired hue of natural colors may not available.

Dietary sweeteners: Sweeteners are non-nutritive and do not add calories to the food. These are used by the weight-conscious and by patients with diabetes. Among the initial sweeteners were the cyclamates and saccharine. The former was banned in 1969 and the later was in use extensively till 1977. The common ones available today are aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame-K. Unlike aspartame, sucralose can be used while cooking. These artificial sweeteners are of great use in the preparation of low calorie or diabetic foods.

Flavoring agents: The need of flavoring agents is on the rise. This is because some flavor loss occurs either totally or partially during the steps involved in the processing of food such as heating, concentration or drying. Besides, variety being the spice of life, these flavoring agents helps in the preparation of different varieties of food. Flavoring agents is the largest group of food additive with 1200 varieties, comprising of both natural and synthetic flavors. Some natural flavors include herbs, spices and essential oils.

Synthetic flavoring agents include:

Amyl acetate for banana flavor
Benzaldehyde for cherry flavor
Ethyl butrate for pineapple flavor
Methyl anthranilate for grape flavor

Also included in this group are 'flavor enhancers' which by themselves do not have flavors but enhance the flavor when added to food. One such product is mono sodium glutamate or better known as 'ajinomoto' used, largely in Chinese cooking.

Anti-caking agents: These are used to keep the product from clumping together e.g. calcium phosphate used in salt, or magnesium carbonate used in icing sugar.


  1. Food Science: Third Addition - By Norman Potter
  2. Anticaking Agents - (http://www.foodadditivesworld.com/anticaking-agents.html)
  3. Hydrogenated Sperm Oil: Sec 173.275, of Ch 1 "Food and Drug Administration, Dept of Health and Human Services", Code of Federal Regulations.


belmarra Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thanks for such good post. Food additives is used in to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Food additives is to be divided into several groups all are acidic in nature .artificial food additives have been linked with cancer, digestive problems, neurological conditions.

srmcurology Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Centre for Science for the public Interest in the USA reports that - Hazards in food cause an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year, most of which are never reported to public health officials. These illnesses cost American taxpayers approximately $6.9 billion annually in medical costs, hospitalizations, and lost work time according to the Economic Research Service (USDA).

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