Seven additives you don’t need to worry about

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 13 January 2009.

Seven additives you don’t need to worry about

If you are serious about a healthy diet then you probably check your food labels for additives or code number as well as the list of ingredients. So here are seven that are harmless or even good for you. Surprised? Read on ...

1.  Lecithin code number 322

Lecithin is a natural substance found in soy beans and egg yolks. It's used as an emulsifier (binding agent) in foods such as margarine, chocolate, muesli bars and packet cakes.

2.  Acetic acid 260

A weak food acid found in vinegar, wine and apples, acetic acid is added to foods to give a sour taste or to correct the flavour balance.

3.  Antioxidant 300 Ascorbic acid and 301 Sodium ascorbate

This is the same molecule as vitamin C which is used as an antioxidant to delay spoilage and prevent randicity in many foods such as cured meats and muesli bars.

4.  Maltodextrin

A starch that's derived from wheat or maize starch but then treated so it can thicken soups and sauces without making them too thick and gluggy. It is very rapidly digested and absorbed which is not ideal; however it's only present in small quantities. However, anyone with coeliac disease should avoid maltodextrin - unless it tells you it's made from maize (which is gluten-free) on the label.

5.  Xanthan gum 415

A natural gum which is synthesised by a bacteria on an industrial scale and used to give "body" to food. A bit like gelatine that makes jelly set. Like other forms of soluble fibre, it is broken down by bacteria in our large intestine.

6.  Natural colour beta-carotene 160a

An orange-yellow food colour called beta-carotene derived from plant pigments. You're already eating it in pumpkin, carrots, mango and apricots. It functions as an antioxidant and is converted to vitamin A in the body.

7.  Thickeners 1400 to 1405

Any of a number of starches made from maize, potato or wheat used to thicken foods like sauces, soups, stock and custard. Yes they are highly refined and high GI so think of white flour and all its negatives - but they do not trigger allergic reactions. However if you have coeliac disease check carefully - look for thickeners made from potato, maize or tapioca which are usually declared as such on the label.