Controls on chemicals in food

Food additives

Food additives are intentionally added to food for a technological purpose during its manufacture and processing. Additives in food may include:

  • antioxidants - used in food prepared with fats or oils to protect them against deterioration caused by rancidity
  • colours - used to make food look more attractive or to replace colours which have been lost during processing
  • emulsifiers, stabilisers, gelling agents and thickeners - used to help mix ingredients together that would usually separate, eg oils and water
  • flavour enhancers - used to bring out the flavour of food without adding a flavour of their own
  • preservatives - used to keep food safe for longer
  • sweeteners - used to replace sugar in certain foods, eg energy reduced products

Food additives and EU legislation

Only food additives listed on the European Union (EU) approved list may be used in food.  Most additives are restricted to certain foods at maximum specified levels. EU law states that additives used in foods must be labelled clearly in the list of ingredients, either by name or by an E number. If an additive has an E number, it means it has passed EU safety tests.

You must ensure that any additives you use in your food have been approved for use, and that you comply with relevant legislation about the levels of additives and the foods in which they are used.

Labelling and food additives

Labelling and allergens rules state you must also ensure that any prepacked food you supply to caterers or consumers is clearly labelled with a list of the ingredients used, including any additives.