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We often hear that additives are chemicals that will harm us, and they should be banned. But many food additives actually come from natural sources, such as the red colouring from beetroot plants (beet red) or the purple colour from grape skins (anthocyanins). It is also possible to manufacture additives found in nature, such as ascorbic acid or vitamin C. Other food additives are manufactured for a specific purpose, such as artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Are they safe?
To ensure they are safe, all food additives must go through a rigorous safety assessment process before being approved for use in food. This is done by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), and any new additive needs to gain approval from government ministers before being used as a food ingredient.
Most food additives are assigned to a class - colours, flavours, sweeteners, etc., and allocated an international code number. Some code numbers start with an ‘E’, which means the food has been labelled for the European market. Food additives are found within the list of ingredients on a food label. Each additive will be listed by its class name, followed by the additive’s name or code number in brackets. For example, Thickener (pectin) or Thickener (440).