Food Additive

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A substance that is combined with food in order to improve food for a variety of needs. Food Additives are commonly introduced into the food in order to enhance the appearance or taste, to preserve or retain the freshness, to keep the product safe for consumption, to improve the nutritional value, to improve the appearance, taste or texture, or to assist with the processing and/or preparation.

In order to maintain freshness or to preserve the food and to keep it from spoiling, nitrites or sodium nitrates are often added. When food is exposured to air or to natural conditions that may be damaging, the formation of mold, fungi, bacteria, or yeast can occur, so Food Additives are combined with the food to keep it safe for consumption.

The nutritional value of food products is often improved by adding vitamins, minerals, fiber, and natural ingredients as a means to supplement those already existing or to add new and replace those lost as the food is processed. When a food product is labeled as being enriched it typically indicates that additives or nutritional supplements have been added to replace those lost in processing. Products such as grain, flour, juice, milk, margarine, and other food items are often improved with the addition of nutrients and other additives.

Appearance, taste or texture are often improved through the use of coloring agents, natural or synthetic flavors (such as MSG - monosodium glutamate), sweeteners, syrups, seasonings, and herbs. The texture may be improved with the addition of emulsifiers, thickeners or stabilizers, which all assist to improve the consistency or appearance of the product.

To assist with the processing or preparation of food products, a variety of ingredients are added such as yeast to help baked foods rise. Humecants are added to preserve moisture while acidity or alkalinity balancing agents are added to increase or reduce the acidic affect and flavor of some foods.

All Food Additives used in the manufacturing of foods are governed in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Agency (FDA). This government agency monitors, maintains and investigates the use of Food Additives in order to confirm there are no health risks associated with the use of the various Additives mixed into foods today. Although there will always be concerns regarding some Additives, the FDA works closely with staff and many different organizations such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) to jointly explore health risks and benefits associated with the use of Food Additives.

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