Supermarket shelves are teeming with products and often shoppers can be misguided through their quest to find real, healthy and natural ingredients. Many packaged foods have additives that are either naturally or chemically derived, with some ingredients more harmful than others. When it comes to health foods it is essential to know the product and what to look out for so you can make informed choices for both you and your customers.
Follow our guide to help understand the most common food additives and which ones that should be avoided.
WHAT ARE FOOD ADDITIVES?
Food additives are used to add to foods to ensure that freshness, texture, colours and other characteristics are maintained up to consumer standards. Not all additives are synthetic - some are found naturally such as the antioxidant vitamin C or ascorbic acid (300) in fruit (BetterHealth, 2012) and can have multiple uses.
Some common additives are listed below:
WHAT STANDARDS ARE THERE AROUND ADDITIVES?
In Australia, all food additives are subject to safety standards and assessment which involves thorough testing through Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). The approved additives are tested in complete isolation, however what we do not know are the long-term effects or consequences of consuming these additives together (FSANZ, 2016).
Product ingredient lists are written in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount listed first and down to the least. The additives must be listed according to their functional class name or number, which describes what the additive is and its purpose. i.e: food acid might be shown as acidity regulator (260); cochineal might be shown as Colouring (120); sodium sulphite might be listed as Preservative (221) (BetterHealth, 2012).
HARMFUL ADDITIVES AND THEIR EFFECTS
Some sensitivities or adverse reactions that stem from synthetic or natural food additives (or as a result of a combination of additives) include:
- digestive upsets
- skin reactions (such as hives, rashes etc)
- respiratory reactions (such as breathing difficulties)
Food additives that are consumed day-in, day-out can be naturally occurring such as MSG, which is often used to enhance flavour. MSG can be naturally found in foods such as potato chips & other salty snacks, as well as sauces like tomato or soy.
It is important to not only notice if a reaction occurs to packaged food that contains food additives, but potentially their natural ‘whole food’ derivatives. If abnormal reactions are noticed after consuming a certain food it is best to consult a health professional to further investigate (BetterHealth, 2012).
TIP: avoid numbers and long complicated words – if an ingredient is unrecognisable, it may be best to avoid it altogether.
HOW TO AVOID ADDITIVES
TOP TIPS TO REMEMBER:
- Fewer ingredients are beneficial – the best quality, healthiest products are made from fewer and real whole foods.
- Remember to recognise and identify real ingredients in the list – eg. if you're shopping for strawberry yoghurt, try to find a percentage of actual strawberries in the ingredient list.
- The ingredients list is represented in descending order – with the ingredients used in the greatest amount listed first and down to the least. If sugar is at the beginning, then the greatest portion of the product contains sugar.
- Identify sneaky unnatural sugars in the ingredients list by looking words that end in "ose." i.e. Sucrose (table sugar), fructose, dextrose, and maltose.
- Avoid numbers and long words that are difficult to pronounce, as well as nasty additives that do not belong. Remember: we know the safety of additives when tested in isolation, but the safety of several additives used in conjunction is unknown.
To ensure you are equipped and ranged with the best possible products that are good for you and your customers it really comes down to sourcing high quality, certified organic or natural products that contain NO NASTIES ADDED.
Honest to Goodness is proud to offer a range of products that contain NO artificial preservatives, colours, flavours or sweeteners as well as NO added sulphur or hydrgenated fats. We call this 'HONEST' food that is nutritious, wholesome and full of 'GOODNESS' - you can always feel confident knowing that you are shopping Real Food That Loves You Back.
Additives (Food Standards Australia & New Zealand May 2016, Retrieved March 19 2019
Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia - Food additives September 2012. Retrieved March 19 2019,
Food Standards Code. (Food Standards Australia & New Zealand, 2019) Retrieved March 19 2019,