Making Sure Your Grocery List Fits Your Resources

Learn how you can make sure your grocery list fits your resources with this guide on food additives & colorants.

Making Sure Your Grocery List Fits Your Resources

The .gov means it's official: federal government websites usually end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site. Also available in printable PDF brochure format (330 kb) For centuries, ingredients have played a useful role in a variety of foods. Our ancestors used salt to preserve meat and fish, added herbs and spices to improve the taste of food, and preserved fruit with sugar and cucumbers pickled in a vinegar solution.

Today, consumers demand and enjoy a food supply that is tasty, nutritious, safe, practical, colorful, and affordable. Food additives and advances in technology help make this possible. There are thousands of ingredients used to make food. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of more than 3,000 ingredients in its database. Everything that is added to foods in the United States, many of which we use at home every day (e.g., baking powder, corn syrup).

However, some consumers are concerned about additives because they can see long, unfamiliar names and think of them as complex chemical compounds. In fact, all the foods we eat, whether it's a freshly picked strawberry or a homemade cookie, are chemical compounds that determine flavor, color, texture, and nutritional value. All food additives are carefully regulated by federal authorities and several international organizations to ensure that foods are safe to eat and are accurately labeled. Additives play a variety of useful roles in foods that consumers often take for granted. Some additives could be eliminated if we were willing to grow our own food, harvest and grind it, spend long hours cooking and canning, or accept a greater risk of food spoiling. However, most consumers today are confident in the many technological, aesthetic, and practical benefits offered by additives. In its broadest sense, a food additive is any substance added to food.

Legally speaking, the term refers to any substance whose intended use results in or can reasonably be expected to result directly or indirectly in becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food. This definition includes any substance used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation or storage of food. However, the purpose of the legal definition is to impose a pre-marketing approval requirement. Therefore, this definition excludes ingredients whose use is generally recognized as safe (when government approval is not needed), ingredients approved for use by the FDA or the U. S.

Department of Agriculture before legal provisions on food additives were enacted, and coloring additives and pesticides when other legal pre-marketing approval requirements apply. Direct food additives are those that are added to a food for a specific purpose in that food. For example, xanthan gum which is used in salad dressings, chocolate milk, bakery fillings, puddings and other foods to add texture is a direct additive. Most direct additives are identified on the food ingredient label. Indirect food additives are those that become part of food in small quantities due to packaging, storage or other handling. For example small amounts of packaging substances can reach food during storage.

Food packaging manufacturers must demonstrate to the U. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that all materials that come into contact with food are safe before they are allowed to be used in that way. A coloring additive is any colorant pigment or substance that when added or applied to a food medicine or cosmetic or to the human body is capable (alone or through reactions with other substances) of imparting color. The FDA is responsible for regulating all coloring additives to ensure that foods containing coloring additives are safe to eat contain only approved ingredients and are accurately labeled. The colors allowed by the FDA are classified as subject to certification or exempt from certification both being subject to rigorous safety regulations prior to approval and inclusion in the list for use in food. Today food additives and colorants are more strictly studied regulated and controlled than at any other time in history. The FDA has the primary legal responsibility for determining its safe use.

To market a new food additive or colorant (or before using an additive already approved for use that is not yet approved) the manufacturer or other sponsor must first apply to the FDA for approval. These requests must provide evidence that the substance is safe for the ways in which it will be used. As a result of recent legislation since 1999 indirect additives have been approved through a pre-marketing notification process that requires the same data that was previously required by a request. Under the amendment on food additives two groups of ingredients were exempted from the regulatory process: Group I (Previously Sanctioned Substances) are substances that the FDA or USDA had determined were safe for use in food before the 1958 amendment examples include sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite which are used to preserve sausages; Group II (GRAS) ingredients (generally recognized as safe) are those that experts generally recognize as safe based on their extensive history of use in foods before 1958 or based on published scientific evidence among the several hundred substances in GRAS are salt sugar spices vitamins and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Manufacturers can also request that the FDA review the industry's determination of GRAS status. Because of the inherent limitations of science the FDA can never be absolutely certain of the absence of any risk from the use of any substance therefore the FDA must determine based on the best available scientific data if there is reasonable certainty that there is no harm to consumers when an additive is used as proposed. If an additive is approved the FDA issues regulations that may include types of foods in which it can be used maximum amounts that should be used how it should be identified on food labels In 1999 procedures changed so now FDA is consulting with USDA during review process of ingredients proposed for use in meat poultry products. Federal officials then...

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