Food additives, used since primeval times, enhance and preserve the taste, texture, nutrition and appearance of food. The purpose of food additives and preservatives have expanded in recent times. They are being added to prevent food-borne illness, enable movement of food from one geographic location to another without spoilage and for the efficient manufacture of products to consistently meet the quality demands in every batch. Food color additives are also increasing used to attract people with their colorful nature and are disadvantageous when used in huge quantities. To know more on the disadvantages of food color additives, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com. Let us get a glimpse of a few categories and ingredients used commonly in the food supply and their main roles as an additive.
pH Control Agents
Ingredients responsible for maintaining or controlling the acidity or alkalinity of foods are called pH control agents. Citric acid, acetic acid and sodium citrate used in gelatin, jams, ice cream and candies, lactic acid (acidity regulator) used in cheese-making and adipic acid found in bottled fruit-flavored drinks are common pH agents.
Anti-caking agents are added to powdered or granulated ingredients — such as powdered milks, egg mixes, sugar products, flours and baking mixes — to prevent lumping, caking or sticking. You can choose between any of these agents like calcium phosphates, silicon dioxide, silicates (calcium, aluminum and tricalcium) and stearic acid.
Emulsifiers help to keep oil and water-based mixtures blended over the course of the food product’s shelf life. Our day-to-day foods like vinaigrette dressings, milk and mayonnaise are standing examples of emulsions. Food supply contains emulsifiers like lecithin from egg yolk and soybean. Diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides (DATEM) and sodium stearyl lactylate are commonly used emulsifiers in commercial bread doughs, artificial whipped creams and dried, liquid or frozen egg whites.
Retain the moistness in foods with humectants. Common humectants include glycerin, honey, sugar polyols (glycerol sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol) and propylene glycol found in candies, baked goods and salad dressings. Polyols also play the role of a low-calorie sweetening agent, particularly in chewing gums, candies and other low-calorie foods.
Stabilizers, Thickeners and Gelling Agents
These are widely used across many food product categories to increase viscosity and improve stability by preventing emulsions from separating, ice crystals from forming and ingredients from settling. Thickening agents can be starch-based agents like arrowroot, corn, potato and tapioca, or protein-based thickeners like collagen, egg whites and gelatin. Vegetable gums include guar, locust bean and xanthan gum. Alginic acid, alginates (sodium, potassium, calcium), agar-agar and carrageenan are polysaccharides derived from algae and seaweeds, while pectin is a polysaccharide originating from apple and citrus fruits.
Leavening agents, commonly used in sweets and savory products, are added to doughs and batters to increase the volume, shape and texture of baked goods. Common leavening agents include baking powder, beer, buttermilk, yeast, whey protein concentrate and yogurt which can be found in cakes, cookies, scones, muffles, biscuits, breads and soda breads.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.