Food additive

Food additives are compounds which are added to foods in order to achieve chemical, physical or physiological effects. They are used to structure, flavor, color, chemical and microbiological shelf life of processed foods, so to regulate their use and nutritional value or to stabilize and ensure the trouble-free production of food. It can be both synthetic substances, some are also natural substances, which are added as an active ingredient. Additives may be used only with the express approval. An authorization shall be granted only if it is scientifically proven that there are no health risks exist, they are technologically necessary and not mislead the consumer. In addition, additives must be identified. For the European Union ( EU) assigns each permitted substance an E number, which are listed among the list of approved in the European Union food additives in detail.


The German food law defines food additives as substances which are added for technological reasons. You will not even eaten solely as food and they are not characteristic ingredient. Excluded are substances that are added mainly because the nutritional value, taste or smell and can be used as a stimulant. Similarly, no additives are pesticides, flavorings and harmless residues of processing aids. Minerals and vitamins A and D are again equated the additives.

Typical technological properties are maintaining or improving the baking quality (eg, baking soda), spreadability, flow properties (eg, anti-caking agents ) or equipment suitability (eg modified starches ), further inhibiting microbial growth ( decay ) or the oxidation of substances (eg rancidity in fats).

For food additives, there is a prohibition with the permission of title - which means all substances are banned automatically, as long as they are not explicitly permitted. In Germany, this is regulated by the LFGB. A positive list of permitted substances contains the German " Additive Approval Regulation - ZZulV ". Most additives are only permitted for certain foods and in limited quantities. If no limits are prescribed, the rules of Good Manufacturing Practice apply ( "Good Manufacturing Practice " GMP): " As much as necessary, as little as possible" ( " quantum satis ", " qs ").

But even then the addition of these materials is allowed only if they

Legal context of use

To sort the various additives in the European Union today, the E numbers were introduced, which apply in all countries of the European Union. (E stands for "Europe" but also for " edible" = engl. Edible. ) With their help it is possible that additives used to determine language-independent. Substances will receive an e - number once the interested companies may ask the European Food Safety Authority for a license and thereby provide scientific documents confirming the safety. The Allowable Daily Intake (ADI ) must not be exceeded. If these documents demonstrate that these substances do not endanger the health and can be considered safe, they received authorization. Altogether there are currently 316 authorized additives in the EU.

For the assessment shall have jurisdiction:

  • In Germany: Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
  • In the EU: the Scientific Committee on Food ( SCF)
  • For other countries: panel of experts of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO ) and the World Health Organization ( WHO), JECFA (Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives )

Outside the EU, the classification of e- numbers is also used in Australia and New Zealand and by the FAO. It is expected that this system will find application in other countries. For this reason, there are other additives with E numbers that are not approved in the EU. It is often omitted the E in the name ( such as " 1451 " instead of E 1451 ). In the FAO, the numbers are called INS numbers ( International Numbering System ) refers.

Food additives must be specified for the end user in the list of ingredients (consumer protection) - either their scientific or trivial name or E number.

For consumers, are food additives, in particular flavors or artificial additives produced, unpopular.

The European Commission has adopted two laws on safety and transparency in the use of food additives on November 14, 2011. The two additive regulations should make clear which additives are permitted exactly in food. With the two laws, two new lists will be established. The first applies to food additives. It applies since June 2013. About the new list to consumers, for example, can see that in some food categories, very few or no additives are permitted. The second list regards additives in materials that are added to foods, such as other additives, enzymes, flavorings and nutrients. It shall apply from the 20th day following its publication in the EU Official Journal.

History of legal regulation

Food additives were first regulated in 1974 in Germany in the food and consumer goods law, then initially under the designation "foreign substances". 1978, the impurity term was replaced by the term " food additives ".

Grouping class name and abbreviation

All food additives are allocated one or more of the following groups ( classes):


Enzymes are usually no additives, but processing aids ( engl. processing aids ) and need not be declared, if they have no effect in the final product or be removed beforehand. Are enzymes still present in the final product and exert a technological function, so they are also additives.

Health assessment

An approval as a food additive will be considered only if the toxicological safety is well founded and proven. It is determined the amount in which no attempt is a measurable effect occurs ( NOEL ). This value is divided by a safety factor (usually 100) and thus determines the allowable daily intake (ADI ). Do the additives an ADI, so long term usage of a health risk was found. The ADI values ​​are reviewed regularly by consulting the latest test methods. Statutory maximum values ​​are set so that a consumer under normal intake, ADI values ​​can not exceed.

For the first time confirmed a scientific study published by the British medical journal The Lancet that some additives have a negative impact on ADHD in children from the healthy population. This affects the dyes Sunset Yellow FCF ( E 110 ), quinoline yellow ( E 104 ), Azorubine ( E122 ) and Allura red AC ( E129 ) and the preservative sodium benzoate ( E211 ). According to authorities, the EFSA review currently all food colors on their compatibility. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment estimates the observed effects is low. An analysis of the study showed no clear evidence of correlations between the additive intake and hyperactivity.

On the Internet, anonymous lists of food additives with blank information, such as are circulating " questionable ", " dangerous" or " carcinogenic", which confuse the consumer. As alleged author applies the Villejuifer hospital research center in France. The Institute has clearly distanced themselves from this list. The hoax is circulating in this or similar form for almost 20 years.

Parathion (E 605)

Parathion, an insecticide and acaricide, which is also known as "E 605 ", is a toxic pesticide and carried this name long before there was the EU list of food additives. The "E " stood for development number, which were used in the chemical industry for reasons of language-independent classification. However, it is now illegal and a likelihood of confusion in any case, since there is no food additive with the identifier " E 605 ".