Food Additives: Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

Food additives are the chemical substance which are added to the foods to produce specific desirable effects. Throughout the beginning of time, meals have been preserved and made more appetizing by the addition of ingredients like salt, spices, and sulfites. Food additives needed to be used more often and new kinds of additives had to be created as a result of the 20th century’s increased food processing. Without food additives, many contemporary items, including low-calorie, snack, and ready-to-eat convenience foods, would not be possible.

Food additives should only be used when they are technologically necessary, do not mislead customers, and perform a specific technological purpose, such as maintaining food’s nutritional value or improving food stability. Food additives can be made synthetically or from plants, animals, minerals, or a combination of these. They are purposefully introduced to food to carry out certain technical functions that customers usually take for granted. There are thousands of food additives in use, and each one is intended to serve a specific purpose in enhancing the safety or attractiveness of food.

Food Additives

There are some types of food additives mention below:

  1. Preservatives
  2. Stabilizers
  3. Sweetners
  4. Food colours

1. Preservatives:  

Food is preserved by the use of preservatives, which delay or stop the growth of microbes so that it may be maintained for extended periods of time. Food preservatives are classified into two main groups:

  • Antioxidant: Antioxidants are substances that delay or stop the oxidative reactions that cause foods to deteriorate.Antioxidants act as oxygen scavengers as the presence of oxygen in the food helps the bacteria to grow that ultimately harm the food.

Some examples of antioxidant:

Antioxidant Example Function 
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
MargarineTo retard rancidity in oils.
Alpha tocopherol (Vitamin E)Vegetable oilsTo retard rancidity in oils.
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)Fruits juiceTo preserve the colour of fruit juices.
Sodium citrateCooked cured meatTo stop fat from turning rancid.
  • Antimicrobial: Antimicrobials are most frequently used together with other preservation methods, such refrigeration, to stop the growth of harmful and spoilage bacteria. Sodium chloride (NaCl), or common salt, is probably the oldest known antimicrobial agent. In products with a low pH, organic acids such as acetic, benzoic, propionic, and sorbic acids are used to fight microbes. Nitrate and nitrites are used to inhibit the bacteria Clostridium botulinum in cured meat products (e.g., ham and bacon). Sulfur dioxide and sulfites are used to inhibit the development of spoilage bacteria in dried fruits, fruit juices, and wines.
  • Flavoring agents: Food flavorings are used to enhance and help restore flavor from processing. The most important food additives are flavorings, which may be found naturally in hundreds of different types of fruit, nuts, seafood, spice mixes, vegetables, and wine. In addition to natural flavors, artificial flavors also imitate natural flavors. Chemical flavoring agents include alcohols, which have a bitter, medicinal taste; esters, which have a fruity flavor; ketones, which give caramel its flavor; phenolics, which have a smoky flavor; and terpenoids, which have a citrus or pine flavor.

Some examples of flavoring agents

Flavoring AgentsExample Function 
Monosodium glutamate (MSG):
It may not be included in any food intended for use by infants
less than 12 months. MSG is prohibited in a wide variety of foods.
Frozen food, spice mixes, canned and dry soups and meat or fish products.Help enhance the flavor of a variety of foods.
is a non sugar sweeteners approximately 200 times sweetners than sugar.
Aspartame is stable when dry or frozen, but when kept in liquids at temperatures over 30 °C, it degrades and gradually loses its sweetness.
Diet drinks, low- calorie frozen desserts and some soft drinksTo sweeten food.
Synthetic essences Pentyl 
contains compounds belonging to the homologous series of esters.
Pentyl ethanoate (banana flavour), ethyl butanoate (pineapple flavour), methyl butanoate (apple flavour) and octyl ethanoate (orange flavour)To create flavorings that are artificial but resemble natural flavors.
Flavoring Agents

2. Stabilizers: 

A food ingredient known as a stabilizer helps in maintaining the structure of the food. Common applications include preventing ice crystals from developing in frozen food like ice cream, keeping fruit from settling in goods like jam, yogurt, and jellies, and preventing oil, water emulsions from separating in products like salad dressing. Stabilizers are compounds that help foods remain in an emulsion and preserve their physical properties, increasing stability and thickness. Stabilizers are required for ingredients like oil and water that don’t often combine.Many low-fat foods are dependent on stabilizers.

3. Sweeteners: 

Table sugar serves as the standard for comparing the relative sweetness of all other sweeteners. Sucrose is considered as a nutritive sweetener since it offers energy in the form of carbohydrates. Glucose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and sugar alcohols are additional nutritional sweeteners (e.g., sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol).

4. Food colour:

 Food coloring is any dye, pigments or material that gives food or beverages color when added is referred to as a food colorant or color additive. They are available in a variety of forms, including pastes, gels, powders, and liquids. Food coloring is used in both home cooking and professional food production. Food colorants are also utilized in many non-food applications, such as cosmetics, medications, DIY crafts, and medical equipment.

Advantages of food additives

  • The quality, texture, consistency, appearance, and other technical requirements of the food item are all improved by food additives.
  • Food additives are added to foods to extend their shelf life or for cosmetic reasons.
  • To extend the shelf life of the stored food, antioxidants, preservatives, fat emulsifiers, stabilizing agents, and taste enhancers are employed. Colorants, tastes, and sweeteners enhance its aesthetic value.
  • Nutritional supplements including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which are used as food additives, offer special health advantages.
  • Seasonal harvests and fruits are available throughout the year due to food preservatives.

Disadvantage of food additives

  • Several additives have been related to allergic responses, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, rashes, asthma, nausea, respiratory irritation, increased risk of cancer, and more.
  • When food additives take the place of actual components, they can sometimes deprive foods of their vitamins.
  • The nutritious value of the food may be lost during preservation.
  • It may lead to hyperactivity and affect the nervous system.


Sarmila K C

Welcome to The Science Notes! I'm Sarmila K C, a science writer with a background in Food Technology. My mission is to simplify complex scientific topics and make them accessible to everyone. I cover the various topics of science and explain them with clear, accurate information.

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