In its broadest sense, a food additive is any substance added to food. Legally, the term refers to “any substance the intended to results or may reasonably be expected to result — directly or indirectly — in its 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. The purpose of the legal definition, however, is to impose a premarket approval requirement. Therefore, this definition excludes ingredients whose use is generally recognized as safe (where government approval is not needed), those ingredients approved for use by FDA, EFSA, ISO,  HALAL and KUSHAR prior to the food additives provisions of law, and color additives and pesticides where other legal premarket approval requirements on natural or natural indentical or synthetic apply.

Direct food additives are those that are added to a food for a specific purpose in that food. For example, Xanthan gum — 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 ingredient label of foods.

Indirect food additives are those that become part of the food in trace amounts due to its packaging, storage or other handling. For instance, minute amounts of packaging substances may find their way into foods during storage. Food packaging manufacturers must prove to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that all materials coming in contact with food are safe before they are permitted for use in such a manner.

Products What They DoApplicationsRemarks
Ascorbic acid

Citric acid anhydrous

bp/usp Citric acid momohydrate

bp/usp Tri-sodium citrate bp/usp

sodium benzoate

calcium propionate

sodium erythorbate

sodium nitrite,

sodium chloride bp

calcium sorbate

potassium sorbate,

potassium chloride bp

Tri- calcium phosphate

bp/usp BHA, BHT, EDTA,

tocopherols (Vitamin E)

Prevent food spoilage from bacteria, molds, fungi, or yeast (antimicrobials); slow or prevent changes in color, flavor, or texture and delay rancidity (antioxidants); maintain freshnessFruit sauces and jellies, beverages, baked goods, cured meats, oils and margarines, cereals, dressings, snack foods, fruits and vegetables
Sucrose (sugar)

Dextrose anhydrous bp

Dextrose Monohydrate bp




Corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup




Acesulfame potassium (Acesulfame-k), Neotame

Add sweetness with or without the extra caloriesBeverages, baked goods, confections, table-top sugar, substitutes, many processed foods
Natural Colors for Food and Pharmaceuticals

FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2

FD&C Green No. 3

FD&C Red Nos. 3 and 40

FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6

Orange B

Citrus Red No. 2

Annatto extract

Grape skin extract

Cochineal extract or carmine

Paprika oleoresin

Caramel color

Fruit and vegetable juices


Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; correct natural variations in color; enhance colors that occur naturally; provide color to colorless and “fun” foodsMany processed foods, (candies, snack foods margarine, cheese, soft drinks, jams/jellies, gelatins, pudding and pie fillings)
Flavors and SpicesWhat They DoApplicationsRemarks
Flavors and Spices
Natural flavoring,

Artificial flavor

And spices

Add specific flavors (natural and synthetic)Pudding and pie fillings, gelatin dessert mixes, cake mixes, salad dressings, candies, soft drinks, ice cream, BBQ sauce
Flavor Enhancers
Monosodium glutamate

(MSG) hydrolyzed soy protein

Autolyzed yeast extract

Disodium guanylate

Disodium inosinate

Enhance flavors already present in foods (without providing their own separate flavor)Many processed foods
Thiamine hydrochloride

Riboflavin (vitamin b2)



folate or folic acid

Beta carotene

Potassium iodide

Iron or ferrous sulfate

Alpha Tocopherols

Ascorbic acid

Vitamin D

Amino acids (l-tryptophan,




Replace vitamins and minerals lost in processing (enrichment), add nutrients that may be lacking in the diet (fortification)Flour, breads, cereals, rice, macaroni, margarine, salt, milk, fruit beverages, energy bars, instant breakfast drinks
Soy lecithin,

Mono- and diglycerides,

Egg yolks,


Sorbitan monostearate

Allow smooth mixing of ingredients, prevent separation

Keep emulsified products stable, reduce stickiness, control crystallization, keep ingredients dispersed, and to help products dissolve more easily

Salad dressings, peanut butter, chocolate, margarine, frozen desserts
Names Found on Product LabelsWhat They DoApplicationsRemarks
pH Control Agents and acidulants
Lactic acid

Citric acid

Ammonium hydroxide

Sodium carbonate

Control acidity and alkalinity, prevent spoilageBeverages, frozen desserts, chocolate, low acid canned foods, baking powder
Leavening Agents
Baking soda,Monocalcium phosphate

calcium carbonate

Promote rising of baked goodsBreads and other baked goods
Anti-caking agents
Calcium silicate

Iron ammonium citrate,

silicon dioxide

Keep powdered foods free-flowing, prevent moisture absorptionSalt, baking powder, confectioner’s sugar


Retain moistureShredded coconut, marshmallows, soft candies, confections
Yeast Nutrients
Calcium sulfate, ammonium phosphatePromote growth of yeastBreads and other baked goods
Ammonium sulfate,



Produce more stable doughBreads and other baked goods
Firming Agents
Calcium chloride

Cacium lactate

Maintain crispness and firmnessProcessed fruits and vegetables
Enzyme Preparations





Modify proteins, polysaccharides and fatsCheese, dairy products, meat
Carbon dioxide,

Nitrous oxide

Serve as propellant, aerate, or create carbonationOil cooking spray, whipped cream, carbonated beverages
Fat Replacers (and components of formulations used to replace fats)

Cellulose gel



modified food starch, microparticulated egg white protein,

Guar gum,

Xanthan gum,

Whey protein concentrate

Provide expected texture and a creamy “mouth-feel” in reduced-fat foodsBaked goods, dressings, frozen desserts, confections, cake and dessert mixes, dairy products
Stabilizers and Thickeners, Binders, Texturizers

Pectin, guar gum,


Xanthan gum


Produce uniform texture, improve “mouth-feel”Frozen desserts, dairy products, cakes, pudding and gelatin mixes, dressings, jams and jellies, sauces