Food Safety Basics


What is food additives?

For centuries, ingredients have served useful functions in a variety of foods. There is the historical footprint of their application in our ancestors time for example use of salt to preserve meats and fish, added herbs and spices to improve the flavor of foods, preserved fruit with sugar, and pickled cucumbers in a vinegar solution. Today, these components are commonly known as food additives. As the day pass by, there is increased in consumer demand to enjoy a food that is flavorful, nutritious, safe, convenient, colorful, and of course affordable. In order to meet consumer demand, invention/ technology advances in food additives evolved over the period of time. As per Food safety act -2006 chapter -1 sections 3K- the term food additive means “any substance not normally consumed as a food by itself or used as a typical ingredient of the food, whether or not it has nutritive value, the intentional addition of which to food for a technological (including organoleptic) purpose in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, packaging, transport or holding of such food results, or may be reasonably expected to result (directly or indirectly), in it or its by-products becoming a component of or otherwise affecting the characteristics of such food but does not include “contaminants” or substances added to food for maintaining or improving nutritional qualities” . Today’s date, Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) approved a list of over 500 ingredients. Some of the additives are manufactured from the natural sources such as corn, beets, and soybean, while some are artificial, man-made additives.  There are few myths among consumers about food additives application because they may see the long, unfamiliar names and think of them as complex & unsafe chemical compounds. In fact, every food we eat — whether a just pickled strawberry or a homemade cookie or noodle— is made up of chemical compounds that determine flavor, color, texture and nutrient value. All food additives are carefully regulated by food authorities in India and periodically check to review details are accurately labeled on food products. The purpose of this article is to provide basic information about food additives: Classification, importance and how they are regulated for safe use.

Classification of Food Additives:

Depends on the functionality of additive it is broadly classified as antimicrobial agents, preservative, antioxidants, artificial colors, artificial flavors enhancers, chelating agents, thickening agents, stylizing agents and much more.  In figure -1, depicted various kind of food additives.


Figure: 1

 The importance of food additive: 

Though there are lots of controversy about the application of food additives, still food additives remain one of the indispensable components in our food products. Today’s date there are thousands of studies conducted throughout the world (JECFA, FDA, FSSAI and etc.,) and attested the overall safety of various additives. It is important to one should understand the use of additives within permissible levels of regulatory norms not going to cause a harmful effect.  As matter of fact, anything consumed in excessive amounts will be toxins, even if the substances are most familiar and in daily contact. Some of the major importance are a) maintain product quality and freshness b) provide nutrition c) aid in the processing and preparation of foods d) make foods appealing.

Regulation on food additives:

Safety Standard Authority of India has the regulatory norms for food additives, including monitoring of their safe use. Under Food Safety Standard authority of India – Product approval cell must review the safety of food additives before manufacturers and distributors can market them. FSSAI maintain a list of more than 500 ingredients, and many of these are found in our kitchen shelves (such as salts, sugar, baking soda, monosodium glutamate, and etc.).  Needless to say, food manufacturers must remain compliant with Food Safety Packing and labeling regulation and any deviation considers as an offense under the rules and regulation made thereunder.


As stated earlier food additives have been used for centuries to preserve food, improve its taste and appearance, and provide a better mouth feel.  Recently, FSSAI encouraging a step to curb malnutrition through fortification, here once again the use of food additives have been extensively used. Today, food additives are strictly controlled by FSSAI in India for safety and are approved only after thorough testing and evaluation. FSSAI work closely with food industry peers and international regulatory agencies to ensure that substances added to food are safe for human consumption.