Being an Informed Consumer

Did you know that a food labeled “clean” has no U.S. regulatory or legal definition to support that claim?  

Or that organic foods can contain food additives?  

It’s easy to see how consumers may be confused about exactly what is in their foods. This is why transparency in food labeling is so important.  

The U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires that food labels contain information that is truthful and not misleading. U.S. regulations also require that all food products include an ingredient list that contains all of the ingredients that have been intentionally added to the product to ensure transparency.  

Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions around food labeling. 

“If You Can’t Say It, Don’t Eat It” 

A food label may have ingredients with unfamiliar or scientific names. Yet all food, including food ingredients, is made up of chemicals. As noted by the FDA “Every food we eat – whether a just-picked strawberry or a homemade cookie – is made up of chemical compounds that determine flavor, color, texture and nutrient value.”  Though some names may be hard to pronounce or scientific sounding, all food ingredients on a label must be proven safe before they can be added to foods.  

“You Should Avoid Products that Contain More than Five Ingredients” 

There is no need to avoid foods due to a fear of ingredient lists. When food products have long lists containing numerous food ingredients and/or additives, it represents nothing about the health or safety of the food, but rather shows how structurally complex it is. Each of these food additives is added to perform a desired function in the food product – e.g., enhance texture, provide nutrients, mitigate microbiological contamination, etc.  

“Foods With a ‘Clean’ Label are Safer” 

The use of “clean” in food labeling isn’t actually regulated in the U.S., thus it doesn’t reflect the science or safety of a food product. While consumers attribute a “health halo” to this trend, the perception that a particular food with “clean label” is good for you has little or no evidence to confirm this is true. The presence or absence of food additives does not make the product any more or less “natural”, “artificial”, healthy, or “clean”. 

Learn More About Understanding Food Labels

A ‘How To’ Guide to the Ingredient List (IFAC) 

Food Safety: Labelling and Nutrition (European Commission) 

How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label (FDA) 

Take a look at our infographic for a quick overview of the importance of transparency in labeling. Here’s a version for industry professionals.

Even Food Ingredients Can Play a Part in a Plant-Based Diet

It’s no secret that plant-based diets have become more popular, and with an increased focus on sustainability and the environment, the attention on this type of diet will only continue to grow. Consumers are increasingly shifting toward “flexitarian” lifestyles, which include a diet that is mostly plant-based with occasional consumption of animal products. According to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence, plant-based food sales are expected to see a fivefold increase by 2030. What does this mean for the food ingredient industry? 

A common misconception is that all plant-based foods are labeled “organic” or “all-natural” and consist of mostly vegetables and seeds. The truth is, many plant-based foods contain food additives, many of which are found in nature and provide technical as well as functional benefits.  

Food ingredients, including food additives, are as varied in their origin as they are in function. Some food additives come from minerals, while others are derived from plant sources like seaweed, trees, and fruit. Regardless of source, all food ingredients serve a purpose.  

So, what type of plant-based ingredients should you look for on the ingredient lists of your favorite foods?  

In place of animal-derived gelatins, many food manufacturers use a substance called carrageenan, which is an essential component of many nut milks, popsicles, pizza and infant formula. Derived from red seaweed, this substance is grown sustainably and harvested from oceans around the world. Carrageenan is a plant-based ingredient that may be used in foods labeled vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, and organic. In addition, carrageenan as a food ingredient is often used to replace sodium, fats and sugars – three nutrients that, when consumed in excess, have proven to be detrimental to heart health

Guar gum is another example of a plant-based ingredient that can be used to enhance foods. This thickening agent is derived from guar beans and is used to keep fats and oils from separating in foods like soups, stews and yogurts. Additionally, studies have shown that guar gum, when consumed in moderation, can act as a prebiotic, blood sugar regulator and weight loss aid. Locust bean gum, also referred to as carob bean gum, closely resembles guar gum and is also used as a plant-based thickening agent. This ingredient is a major source of dietary fiber and can be found in desserts, ice cream, dressings and sauces. 

Additionally, without food ingredients, you may not have access to some of your favorite plant-based products. Some plant-based meat products contain an ingredient called methylcellulose, which acts as an emulsifier by binding the ingredients of the patty together. Without this key ingredient, the burgers would fall apart. 

Food ingredients even play a role in the produce at your local grocery store. Mono and diglycerides (typically categorized as emulsifiers) are ingredients often found in frozen foods, chocolate and infant formula. However, these ingredients may also be used as edible coatings applied directly to the surface of fresh fruits and vegetables. This prevents the produce from spoiling and decaying too quickly.  

These are just a few of many food ingredients derived from plants or that may be found in plant-based foods. To learn more about different sources of food ingredients, click here

Take a look at our infographic for a quick overview of food ingredients in a plant-based diet. Here’s a version for industry professionals.

“Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month” – Five Food Ingredients That Reduce Waste

Each year, around one-third of the global food supply is wasted due to confusing labeling, spoilage and expired product. To put it in perspective, that is almost 1.3 billion tons of food worldwide. Despite upward trends in sustainability practices over the last decade, food waste remains a major problem for countries at all levels of economic development.  

To bring awareness to food waste trends and encourage consumers and companies to practice sustainability, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have designated April as “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month.” Though a U.S.-established holiday, these federal agencies are encouraging public, private, and nonprofit sector partners worldwide to collaborate on ways to create positive change and help meet the shared objective of reducing food loss and waste by 50% by 2030

One way to achieve this goals is by promoting the value of food ingredients that help prevent spoilage and increase shelf-life. Let’s take a look at five types of food ingredients and how their usage can help support a more sustainable food supply worldwide. 


“No added preservatives” has become a common phrase used to position foods in a positive light. However, many preservatives do not deserve the bad reputation they have been given. In fact, preservatives are critical in preventing spoilage and delaying the growth of bacteria in foods. Types of preservatives include salt, sugar, vinegar, phosphates, and nisin. Without preservatives, we would not have access to kitchen staples like peanut butter, sliced fruits, cheese, baked goods, jellies and more. 


Antioxidants are another type of food ingredient that can prevent food waste. By slowing down the lipid oxidation process, antioxidants help prolong the shelf-life of foods and improve flavor. Ingredients like citric acid, lecithin, and phosphoric acid are some of the more common antioxidants that are added to everyday products like soft drinks, teas, juices, canned foods, cottage cheese, and cereal bars.  


A food stabilizer is an ingredient used to help maintain the physical and chemical characteristics of a food product. To support quality and longevity throughout a product’s shelf life, food manufacturers utilize stabilizers to help prevent foods from losing their original structure. Common stabilizers include ingredients like guar gum, xanthan gum, carob bean gum and pectin.  

Firming Agents 

Preventing food waste does not just apply to enhancing the shelf-life of the end product. Many added ingredients can help preserve the integrity of foods throughout the manufacturing process. Firming agents, for example, help strengthen the structure of certain foods and can prevent them from breaking down during production. Firming agents like sodium citrate and cellulose gum are commonly used in ice creams, pickles, relishes, and baked goods to enhance thickness and increase overall freshness. 


Like firming agents, emulsifiers can help enhance the texture and stability of foods. Emulsifiers form or maintain an emulsion in a food product, which prevent fat separation and can help reduce food waste. Foods like coffee creamers and cakes contain monoglycerides and diglycerides of fatty acids which contribute to a more economical production process and, overall, more consistent food quality.  

These are just a few of the many ingredients and additives that help maintain food freshness and quality and can help achieve food waste reduction goals. Download our infographic (this one is for industry). Learn more about how food ingredients contribute to a more sustainable food supply or discover more information about the different types of food ingredients by browsing our website.  

Add Holiday Cheer to Your Favorite Holiday Meals with Food Additives

Nothing says it’s the holiday season like the arrival of all the delicious foods, treats, and beverages that go along with it. Whether it’s savory ham or turkey, sweet holiday favorites like candy canes or chocolates, or the universally loved eggnog, these foods and beverages help make the holidays merry and bright! However, more goes into each of these items than you might realize. More than butter and seasoning, your favorite holiday treat would not be complete without the help of food additives. Check out just a sampling of what you can expect to see during this year’s holiday festivities below! 

Meat Tenderizers 

The main course at any holiday feast often comes down to a delicious plate of ham or turkey. Nothing is better on a cold, snowy evening than a flavorful, tender cut of meat shared around a table filled with friends and family. That tender flavor is brought to life with the help of additives that act as tenderizers. For example, ficin is an enzyme that is derived from fig trees, while Bromelin is an enzyme that comes from pineapple fruit and leaves. These additives can help dissolve or degrade proteins to soften meat and poultry tissue.  

Food Colors 

You might be shocked, but candy canes don’t just come with that classic red stripe included – it has to be added! Thanks to the help of certified colors, that stripe is made possible. Certified color additives, like the ones used to create the classic bright red stripes on candy canes, have been used in foods for over 50 years. They are also often used to balance and enhance colors that already occur naturally in foods. Certified colors are synthetically produced under strict safety conditions and help deliver bright, consistent color to your favorite holiday treats. 


The holiday season couldn’t be complete without another delicious candy and dessert ingredient – chocolate, of course! From chocolate bars to chocolate truffles, if you check the ingredient list, you’re likely going to see soy lecithin included. Lecithin is a type of fat typically derived from soybeans or eggs and is used to improve the texture and mouthfeel of chocolate, allowing for the smooth, rich experience that consumers expect of the final product. In the case of soy lecithin, once soybeans are harvested, they are crushed to produce a variety of products, including oil. Soy lecithin is produced by mixing soybean oil with hot water and centrifuging the mixture to separate the lecithin. Over the holidays, soy lecithin helps your molded chocolates keep their shape and sheen and ensures bell-shaped peanut butter cups have a substantial chocolate coating. 


Beyond the main course and the desserts, we certainly can’t forget the classic holiday beverages that stock our  local grocery store refrigerators this time of year. Eggnog is a time-old tradition during the holidays, and it is through the help of food additives that it maintains its sweet and creamy texture. Carrageenan is a versatile food additive that helps stabilize and thicken foods or beverages.  

Have more questions about food additives? Learn more here.

What Are Upcycled Foods?

An estimated 30% of the global food supply is thrown away annually. Not only is this wasteful, it’s neither sustainable nor good for the environment. As a result, many food and beverage stakeholders are taking steps to support a more sustainable and less wasteful food supply.  

This means you may have begun to see phrases like “upcycled foods” more when reading online or while shopping at grocery stores. But what does “upcycled” mean? According to the Upcycled Food Association (UFA), “upcycled food is about reducing food waste by creating high quality, nutritious food products out of the nutrients that slip through the cracks of our food system.”  

Taking it a step further, the Upcycled Foods Definition Task Force published a summary paper in the Spring of 2020 further defining the phrase:  

“Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains and have a positive impact on the environment.”  

Upcycled Foods Definition Task Force

This means that upcycled foods are:

  1. Made from by-products or ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. 
  1. Value-added products. 
  1. Safe for human consumption, but can also be used in animal feed, pet food, and cosmetics. 
  1. Have an auditable supply chain that ensures they are truly helping to reduce waste without putting added stress on the environment. 
How does this apply to food additives? 

Believe it or not, some additives that are commonly found in food and beverages are already upcycled ingredients. Take pectin for instance. The main sources of pectins are the rinds of citrus fruit, apple pomace (the main by-product of the apple juice industry) and sugar beet pulp. These otherwise wasted food processing components are used to help improve the texture of jams and jellies. 

Another example is glycerol ester of wood rosin (GEWR). GEWR is harvested from the stumps of pine trees cut down for other uses such as papermaking or as building lumber. GEWR is used as a stabilizer in fruit-based beverages and chewing gum. 

A couple other examples include lecithin (often sourced as a by-product of vegetable oil production) and yeast extract (which can be produced using the by-products of corn, sugar beet and sugar cane used to make molasses). 

How do I know if the food I’m buying is upcycled? 

Foods that are upcycled will indicate so on their packaging. One way they may do so is using a new certification standard and label established by the UFA. The first iteration of this standard sets a framework for the certification of upcycled ingredients and products. 

Ultimately, by upcycling by-products that would have otherwise been thrown away, food & beverage manufacturers are aiding the environment by decreasing waste and creating a more sustainable food supply. 

The Role of Food Additives in Ensuring Healthy Meals

white food plate with fork and knife on blue background

In late 2020, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services published the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The DGAs are published every five years and contain science-based recommendations that help drive food and nutrition policy. This time around, they included recommendations for pregnant women, infants, and young children (the B-24 population), guidance on reducing sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake, and suggestions to incorporate more nutrient-dense foods into everyday diets.

With a hurting economy as a result of COVID-19, many families and individuals are experiencing challenges in meeting their daily nutritional needs. While food additives may be better known for enhancing the taste, texture, freshness, and appearance of foods – they are also critical in ensuring many food products meet federal nutrition recommendations for these same reasons – and at a more affordable cost. This is especially important in a time where many have limited access to grocery stores or markets, whether as a voluntary safety precaution or due to geographic location.

How do food additives help us meet nutrition recommendations?

COVID has not only affected our finances and how we shop, it’s also resulted in huge shifts in our eating habits – with 85% of all consumers reporting changes to how, and what, they eat since the pandemic began. One of the most prominent changes is a renewed focus on health and immunity, as many Americans are increasingly seeking healthier food choices – making the role of food additives even more valuable.

One way food additives can help improve nutrition is extending the shelf life of canned fruits and vegetables. Common ingredients such as salt and vinegar, as well as food additives like citric acid, are used to preserve canned foods, and as an added bonus these products are less expensive than fresh fruit and vegetables. Another food additive, mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, is used as a coating agent for fresh fruits and vegetables and preserves product quality during transportation and storage. Phosphates contain naturally occurring phosphorus, a mineral that is essential to bone development, and are used to help fortify and leaven bread and baked goods.

Do food additives make it affordable to eat healthy?

Harvard’s School of Public Health reports that eating a healthy diet is more expensive than an unhealthy one. While the absence or presence of food additives doesn’t necessarily make a food more or less healthy, the versatility of food additives contribute to improved shelf-life and stability while enhancing the nutrient profile and being more affordable.

Another important consideration is dietary restrictions and social/personal food decisions. Food ingredients such as konjac gum, a hydrocolloid used to help stabilize dairy products and prevent the development of ice crystals, is also a U.S> Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-recognized source of dietary fiber. This dietary fiber assists with satiety, intestinal health, and cholesterol levels, and may not be present in each consumer’s daily diet otherwise. Other examples include ascorbyl palmitate, which may be used as a source of vitamin C; and yeast extract, a source of vitamin B-12; which is important for those who are pregnant and can sometimes be lacking in plant-based foods.

The benefits of food additives to health and nutrition through food consumption are diverse. Several additives, including pectin or carob bean gum, are FDA approved as recognized sources of dietary fiber and can provide beneficial effects such as improved digestion and the feeling of satiety. Other ingredients, like carrageenan, can be used as replacement agents – replacing the sodium in lunch foods or fats, oils, and sugar in sweet treats, for example. Food additives like citric acid can also be used in products that revitalize skin, soothe sore throats, and curb nausea.

Food additives also contribute to consumer nutrition in how they accommodate diverse dietary preferences and needs. For example, xanthan gum and guar gum are used in gluten-free baking to help bind and thicken ingredients, making gluten-free foods more easily attainable for professional and at-home bakers. Plant-based products and diets, which have seen increased interest during COVID, are also aided by food additives such as yeast extract – which contribute to enhancing the flavors, texture and nutritional value of plant-based meat alternatives.

It is important that we all have access to nutritional, healthy foods without having to worry as much about cost, food spoilage, or availability. Food additives, through their versatility in purpose and function, make nutritional, affordable foods a reality – playing a vital role in helping us achieve healthier lifestyle through balanced, nutritional diets.

To learn about the different kinds of food ingredients, and how they bolster nutrition, the environment, the food supply, and more, visit our Types and Sources pages.

What Is “Processed” Food?‎

The phrase “processed food” is often mischaracterized as something people should avoid. This mischaracterization has unfortunately become too common and accepted by too many. When used to describe food, the word “processed” means a product that has been changed by being prepared, canned, frozen, packaged, or combined with other ingredients. Processed foods can undergo physical changes including chopping, mixing, baking, or frying, as well as chemical changes which can include fermentation, leavening, and preservation.

Examples of Processed Foods

Using this definition, “processed” describes many of the foods that help make up a balanced diet such as yogurt, sauces, low-fat cheese, and cut fruit. The food you cook from scratch can be described as processed.

Take a loaf of homemade sourdough bread for instance. To start, you need a sourdough starter, made by fermenting flour and water. From there you add more flour and some salt, followed by several rounds of proofing (leavening through fermentation), kneading, and folding. Before you even put the bread in the oven, you’ve made both chemical and physical changes to the ingredients that you started with – water, flour, and salt. By then, baking your dough in the oven you’ve once again changed your dough by adding heat.

But do you think of your fresh homemade sourdough as being processed? Likely not.

Or what about the dried pasta you may have stocked in your pantry at the onset of COVID-19? Similar to your homemade sourdough, the ingredients for the pasta – flour, salt, water, oil, and eggs – were mixed together in a large-scale mixer, pressed through a pasta dye, dried, and boxed so that you could buy it from your local store and keep it in your pantry until you need it.

The level of processing that a food product goes through isn’t always telling of nutrient levels and doesn’t have a direct association with the quality of a food product. Processed foods have gone through one or more changes before reaching the store shelf, and are typically designed to produce a food that is tasty, affordable, shelf-stable, and easy to access.

What Is the Role of Food Additives in Processed Foods?

Food additives are used in processed foods for many reasons, including to improve texture and stability, increase shelf-life, and enhance flavor. Food additives can be used for one or more reasons depending on the type of ingredient and the desired functionality in the processed food.

Food ingredients, including food additives, have been used in foods for hundreds of years for those same reasons. All ingredients listed on food labels are approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have been determined to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by qualified experts after a review of the scientific evidence supporting their safety and intended use in foods.

What Does This Mean About the Food I Eat?

At the end of the day, processed foods, whether packaged, canned, jarred, or frozen, are an important part of the American diet, allowing us to buy foods that are more affordable, have longer shelf lives, and reduce preparation time. Food additives also help make the wide selection of tasty organic, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and other diet-specific food options possible.

Processed foods are can be part of a balanced diet and shouldn’t be thought of as something to fear. When it comes to a balanced diet, it’s about eating nutritious foods, not necessarily monitoring the processing level of the foods you eat.

Shelf Stability: More Important Now Than Ever

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we shop for almost everything, but perhaps nothing more than the normal weekly or even daily trips to the grocery store. At the height of the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggested that all Americans purchase enough food to last for two weeks at a time in order to keep grocery stores from becoming packed, decrease risk of individual exposure, and to ensure an adequate food supply at home. It’s therefore no surprise that consumers have been stocking up on more packaged and shelf-stable food products to minimize trips to the grocery store.

Recently, 47% of consumers reported stocking up on essential items like food and water. As the pandemic continues into its eighth month, with many restrictions still in place, food conservation and shelf stability is even more important.

How Do Food Additives Help With Shelf-Stability?

Shelf-life, according to the Institute of Food Science and Technology, is “the period of time during which the food product will remain safe; be certain to retain its desired sensory, chemical, physical microbiological, and functional characteristics; where appropriate, comply with any label declaration of nutritional data, when stored under the recommended conditions.”

Food ingredients, including food additives, play key roles in increasing the shelf lives of many foods, making them even more important when stocking up on foods that will last during the pandemic. Many food additives help boost the stability and quality of food products, allowing us to store them in our homes and pantries for longer periods of time – which leads to fewer trips to the grocery store, improved cost, reduced food waste, and more.

What Types of Food Additives Help With Shelf-Stability?

One type of food additive that can improve shelf life is preservatives. Preservatives are added to foods to keep them fresh and safe for consumption – preventing spoilage or rotting. Common preservatives include salts, sugars, gelatin and vinegars; which are used to prevent bacteria growth. Additives, such as nisin and trisodium phosphate, may also be used to help preserve foods.

Another type of food additive that helps with shelf stability, antioxidants, help to decrease oxidation in foods. Citric acid and lecithin are common additives with an antioxidant function.

Emulsifiers, thickeners, firming agents, and stabilizers are used to help extend shelf life. These additives also improve the appearance, texture, and quality of products over time. Stabilizers, for example, help ingredients within a product to stay dispersed, maintaining the intended and desirable composition. Firming agents, on the other hand, help keep fruits and vegetables firm and crisp.

Food Additives + Shelf-Stability = Stronger Food Supply

All of these different types of additives help foster a safer, more sustainable, and more affordable food supply. Without them, we would have to make more frequent grocery trips, spend more money on food, and throw away food that would spoil too quickly. Shelf life is an important characteristic of healthy, affordable food products, and additives are an important part of making them so. Additives, and the effects they have on shelf life, are what make logistics of the current food supply possible.

While shelf life, and the role additives have in improving it, has always been important to our food supply – it is more important now than it ever has been. With COVID-related restrictions still in place around the world, and with a need to limit human contact as much as possible, it is important that we can purchase foods that will last longer.

Food Label Misconceptions

In the modern food supply, most products – including those that are vegan, organic, and pantry staples, have lists of ingredients on their labels. The purpose of these lists, which are required by law, is to provide consumers with information regarding the ingredients contained in the product. Although all food ingredients must be proven safe, some are hard to pronounce or sound weird which can seem confusing or even frightening to consumers. Especially if a product has a food label with a long list of ingredients that have unfamiliar or scientific names. It’s completely fine to dislike or to avoid any food product due to dietary needs or personal preference, however there’s no need to avoid foods due to a fear of ingredient lists.

Everything is a Chemical

The idea of food additives, which are also referred to as chemicals in food, may sound odd to some – however the truth is that, when it comes to food products, everything is a chemical. Water, air, and food, including food additives, are all made up of chemicals. Some chemicals in food are naturally-occurring while others are manmade. Chemicals are abundant even in simple, healthy, everyday foods like bananas – which contain over 50 chemical compounds. However, the presence or absence of chemicals in a food product does not make the product any more or less “natural”, “artificial”, healthy, or safe; and as a matter of fact, some natural foods are more chemically complicated than foods a consumer might view as manufactured or processed.

Ingredients added to food are regulated by national authorities, which study the science to ensure they are safe for their intended use. When food products have long lists containing numerous scientific ingredients and/or additives, it represents nothing about the health or safety of the food, but rather shows how structurally complex they are.

It is understandable that consumers may be confused or intimidated by long and chemical-sounding ingredient lists on food labels, but a little more info and insight can quickly help remove this confusion. For example, due to FDA regulation that requires ingredient lists to include all sub-ingredients, a commonly known ingredient like “baking powder” must legally be shown as “baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum sulfate, and cornstarch)”. Because of FDA regulations, and the inherent complexity of foods, labels are left packed with what can feel like dozens of scientific ingredient names; and consumers should know that there is no need to fear or avoid these products and ingredients. In fact, the inclusion of some food additives such as emulsifiers and humectants can help keep an ingredient list shorter in a food product.

Check out this 2-minute YouTube video, “Chemicals in Food,” that explains how everything, including the food we eat, is made up of chemicals.

The Benefits of Food Science

Food additives, with their sometimes long scientific names and all, should be embraced by consumers because they play important roles in foods. Additives can help enhance a food’s nutritional value, improve texture and enhance shelf life, make foods more convenient, and help ensure a healthier, more sustainable, and more efficient food supply. Food additives contribute to everything that consumers love about food; taste, texture, appearance, health benefits, convenience, and more – and there is no reason to misunderstand or be afraid by ingredient names.

What are Clean Labels?

“Clean label” is a term made popular by consumers and refers to products that are made with as few ingredients as possible. In many cases, this is to dispel some of the previously mentioned misconceptions and fears about food additives. These are products that often use common, easily identified, and trustworthy ingredients in an effort to make consumers feel, whether justly or not, more comfortable with their foods.

The issue with “clean labels,” and the term, is that it doesn’t really speak to the science or safety of food products. The truth of the matter is that food labels, including those with long lists of scientific names, are clean and safe themselves; and to get rid of these naturally-occurring, supportive ingredients and additives only serves to reduce taste, convenience, shelf-life, and overall food efficiency.

To better understand food labels, ingredient lists, FDA regulations, and more, check out IFAC’s “Understanding Food Labels.”

Food Additives: Supporting Food Affordability

Food additives play a number of important roles in the production, distribution, storage, and availability of food and beverage products. Most food additives serve multiple functions, many of which help create a more efficient and streamlined food supply. For example, food gums are used to help stabilize and thicken food products, which in turn prevents spoilage and extends shelf-life, ultimately reducing food waste. But the benefits don’t stop there. Improved shelf-life also positively impacts the cost and convenience of food – for consumers and for the food industry.

Consumer Affordability & Convenience

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, the average American spends just under 10% of their disposable income on food. For those with lower income, food can represent up to 35% of their total pay. With those numbers in mind, it’s incredibly important that consumers get the most out of what they buy which means that much of the food they purchase needs to remain fresh as long as possible to avoid it from going bad before it is consumed. Foods with a longer shelf-life don’t need to be rushed to the store for immediate purchase and consumption, and many do not need to be refrigerated or frozen to stay fresh. As a result, these foods tend to be less expensive and consumers can spend less to get more and keep their pantry full. Food additives enable families to enjoy safe and nutritious diets while not being financially weighed down by food expenses.

Food additives also provide vitamins, essential nutrients, and more which helps consumers reach sufficient nutritional levels without having to spend extra money. For instance, carrageenan is used to stabilize liquid infant formula, preventing separation of important vitamins and minerals and ensuring consistent nutrient delivery. Monocalcium phosphate is a source of both calcium and phosphorus in baked goods, which helps strengthen bones and cells. Cellulose gum is considered a source of dietary fiber, which has been identified as a nutrient concern because it is underconsumed, so can be added to foods to help consumers improve their fiber intake and fill the “fiber gap”.

Affordability in the Supply Chain

On a national and global scale, additives make food more affordable to produce, and the production and distribution of food more efficient. Because they extend shelf-life, food manufacturers don’t have to take on a heavier burden of moving product as soon as it is produced or in some cases refrigerating product, which lowers production, storage, and transportation costs. Without food additives, the production and distribution of food would need to change to adjust to more limited shelf life. This would result in more costs to produce food, which would trickle down to the prices we pay at the store.

Not only do food additives improve the taste, quality and texture of our food and drinks, they also improve the cost of food by ensuring that products maintain their value for longer periods of time, benefitting producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers.

A More Sustainable, Affordable Food Market

Food additives make food products, and thus the food supply, safer, more sustainable, and more affordable. The qualities of various food additives help make dollars go farther by supporting and maintaining food value.

In addition, additives make the process of buying, selling, and storing food more convenient for all. Without them, families and individuals would be spending more time, and money, making frequent grocery store visits to avoid food spoilage. Aside from the convenience it provides to our wallets and routines, food additives also make sufficient dietary and nutritional intake more convenient in an affordable, reliable, and easy way.