How to check a product for additives

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 24 August 2010.
Tagged: additives, antioxidants, colours, food colours, food labels, food safety, health, label, oil, salad, technology, tips

How to check a product for additives
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Additives must be shown on the ingredient list by their functional name, for example, FOOD ACID, and this must be followed by either their chemical name, in this case (CITRIC ACID), or by their code number (330). This numbering system has been used in Europe for many years and you will see imported foods with the same code number preceded by the letter "E".

 All food additives must have a specific use and must have been assessed and approved by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). They must be used in the lowest possible quantity to achieve their purpose - consistent with good manufacturing practice.


Sample salad dressing example

Look at the ingredients from the Ingredient List of a typical salad dressing below. There are 4 additives listed on the label:

French salad dressing with garlic

List of ingredients from the label


Food acid (330)

This is citric acid which adds a pleasant tang. It's found naturally in lemon juice and all citrus fruit such as grapefruit and oranges.

Vegetable gum (415)

This is xanthan gum, a common gelling agent which is produced by the fermentation of glucose by a strain of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris hence the name. It is remarkably stable and thickens the dressing at a very low concentration of around 0.5 per cent. Like most gums, xanthan is very high in fibre.

Colour (102)

This is tartrazine, which gives a golden hue to the dressing. It's an artificial yellow colouring which can be a problem for those with food sensitivities. Most companies are phasing it out.

Antioxidant (320)

This is BHA (Butylated Hydroxy Anisole) which prevents the dressing from deteriorating (going off) before its Use-by-date. Remember, the dressing is not refrigerated so it needs something to stop it going off during its one year shelf life.