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Additives present in trace amounts as a result of processing, packaging, shipping or storage
Thursday, 14 October, 2021, 14 : 00 PM [IST]
Joshna Joseph
According to the Codex Alimentarius, Food additives are defined as ‘Food additive means any substance which is not normally consumed as food by itself and not normally used as a typical ingredient of food, whether or not it has nutritive value. The intentional addition of food additives for technological purposes in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, packaging, transport or holding of such food may result or may be reasonably expected to result in it or its by-products becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of such foods’.

 The term does not include contaminants or substances used for improving and maintaining the nutritive value of food products.

Food additives are classified as follows:
  1. Colours
  2. Preservatives
  3. Acidity regulators
  4. Antioxidants
  5. Anticaking agents
  6. Antifoaming agents
  7. Artificial sweeteners
  8. Enzymes
  9. Emulsifiers
  10. Emulsifying agents
  11. Flavours
  12. Flavour enhancers
  13. Modified starches
  14. Phosphates
  15. Stabilisers
  16. Thickening and gelling agents
Additives present in the food due to processing:
Processing aids are substances used during processing of food for giving food a technical effect during processing without compromising any flavor or texture of the food product. Processing aids includes antifoaming agents, catalyst, clarifying and filtering agents, lubricants, release and anti stick agents, microbial control, microbial nutrients, microbial nutrient adjunct, solvent for extraction and processing, bleaching, washing, peeling and denuding agents, flocculating agents, contact freezing and cooling agents, desiccating agents or enzymes.

All these processing aids have acceptable residual values which have been provided by FSSAI, if these processing aids are found more than the residual value in the product then the product does not conform to the FSSAI standards and must not be consumed by the consumers. Another way of addition of additives in the food is through utensils or machineries used during processing which have not been properly cleaned.

Additives present in the food due to improper packaging:
Plastic consists of its polymer, plasticizers, antistatic agents, stabilizers and antioxidants, etc. which can migrate into the food. Most toxic components are vinyl chloride and styrene. These are mostly used in preparing plastic bottles for drinking water and cooking oils. These can leach into fat as well as water. Vinyl chloride is considered as a liver carcinogen in many researches conducted.

Effects of styrene include renal and hepatic damage, pulmonary edema, and cardiac arrhythmia. Metal packaging like cans, used for long term food storage, has the challenge of being susceptible to corrosion, especially from acidic foods, like tomatoes. This vulnerability requires the addition of a plastic coating, often epoxies containing bisphenols, most of which contain harmful chemicals If tins are not lacquered properly then it might leach out in the food.

Therefore it is necessary to use food grade packaging which contains food grade materials along with food grade ink. Overall migration tests are conducted in order to  make sure whether any metal ions are not leaching in the food product.

Additives present during shipping or storage:
When additives are added to the food during processing they may undergo some changes  in line with their intended actions. Examples are the reaction of nitrite with myoglobin to produce the reddish-pink color typical of cured meat and the reaction of sulfite with intermediates of the Maillard reaction and ascorbic acid oxidation to prevent non enzymatic browning. On the other hand, degradation of additives may occur, such as the degradation of carotenoids and citral, resulting in loss of color and flavor, respectively.

Additives may also undergo unintended interactions with other additives and food constituents, with desirable or undesirable consequences on food quality and human health. This type of information is important for the food industries, since it provides the necessary information so that beneficial changes can be improved  and detrimental effects minimises.

All food additives shall be used under conditions of good manufacturing practice (GMP), which include the following –the quantity of the additive added to food shall be limited to the lowest possible level necessary to accomplish its desired effect, the quantity of the additive that becomes a component of food as a result of its use in the manufacturing, processing or packaging of a food and which is not intended to accomplish any physical, or other technical effect in the food itself, is reduced to the extent reasonably possible; and the additive is prepared and handled in the same way as a food ingredient.

The additives in order to be approved by the FDA must undergo certain toxicological studies which involve clinical trials of the additive to be approved, if it has any toxic effects on humans. After the approval from the FDA the additive is classified accordingly.  If any banned additives are used in the food, the FDA has the authority to take actions. Care has to be taken by the food industries that toxic materials from utensils, machineries or packaging materials are not leached into the food products by conducting frequent tests to ensure food safety.

(The author is R&D manager, Soch Foods LLP)
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