Food additives are substances added to some foods for different and specific reasons.
Food additives can be natural or artificial. An example of a natural food additive would be beetroot juice used as a natural colour. An example of an artificial food additive would be potassium sorbate (E202), a synthetic preservative used to stop bacteria growing.
Why do we use them?
Food additives are used for many reasons, including to:
- preserve food and keep it safe, for example potassium sorbate which is used to stop bacterial growth
- improve product stability and quality, for example carob gum which is used to improve product texture
- improve food appearance and its taste, for example curcumin, a colour that comes from turmeric, which is used as a food colouring.
How are food additives labelled?
Most food additives are listed on the food label along with other ingredients. A food additive may be listed in 3 different ways using either:
- the additive's full name (for example Calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate)
- a shortened form of its name (for example, Calcium disodium EDTA)
- additive numbers (for example E385).
Regulation of food additives
All food additives are first required to be assessed, then approved by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. They are approved to be used in the lowest amount required to achieve the desired outcome.
Visit the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website (external site) to find out more about additives and get an alphabetical or numerical list of approved additives.
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.