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Acceptability of UK permitted food additives for special and religious diets
Project Code: A01040
Leatherhead Food International
Gibbons, M ; Angus, F
The European Union (EU) defines a food additive as ‘any substance not normally
consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of
food whether or not it has nutritive value, the intentional addition of which to food for
a technological purpose in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment,
packaging, transport or storage of such food results, or may be reasonably expected
to result, in it or its by-products becoming directly or indirectly a component of such
Food Additive Categories:
Colours, acidity regulators, humectants, antioxidants, anti-caking agents, firming agents,
preservatives, modified starch, sequesterants,emulsifiers, sweeteners, bulking agents,
emulsifying salts, raising agents, propellants, thickeners, anti-foaming agents, packaging gases
gelling agents, glazing agents, carriers / carrier solvents, stabilisers, acids, flavour enhancers, flour treatment agents.
Prior to the mid 1980s, additives used in foods could be labelled generically. These
generic terms included ‘emulsifiers’, ‘colours’ and ‘preservatives’. In 1986, labelling
legislation was introduced so that each individual additive had to be labelled in full in
the ingredients list on most prepared products.
The system of E-numbers was introduced in the 1980s, which served two main
purposes. Firstly, this meant that the chemical names could be shortened. For
instance, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose could now be labelled as E464. Secondly,
the use of an E number indicated that the additive had been evaluated by the
Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) and approved for use in foods in the UK and the
rest of the European Union (2).
On a food label, an additive can be referred to by its E number or its name. For
instance Curcumin can be labelled as ‘Curcumin’ or by ‘E100’.
In addition, the primary function of each additive used in a food must be indicated, for
instance E162 (Beetroot Red) is a colour and E483 (Stearyl tartrate) is an emulsifier.
The source of additives is not clear to the consumer from the E number or additive
name. This makes it very difficult for consumers with special dietary needs to identify
whether additives are suitable in their diet or not. There is therefore a need to
determine which additives are acceptable for certain diets and which additives are
In addition, additives can be from a variety of sources, both naturally occurring and
synthetically manufactured. In some cases, the same additive can be made using
different raw materials depending on the manufacturer. Because of this it is difficult
to determine if an additive is acceptable or not for various special diets. For instance,
one manufacturer might make an additive using a plant-based ingredient and one
manufacturer might make the same additive using an animal based ingredient. In this
case, the same additive could either be acceptable or unacceptable for vegans
depending on the manufacturing process involved.
The information contained within this document is based on UK permitted additives.
Different countries permit the use of different additives in foods and beverages.
The aim of this project (A01040) was to try to determine the acceptability of UK
permitted additives for special and religious diets. Reasons for the acceptability or
unacceptability of each additive are given, so that ultimately, the consumer will be
able to make an informed choice as to whether to consume the additive or not.
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