IFAC Statement Regarding the Study “High-Phosphate Diet Induces Exercise Intolerance and Impairs Fatty Acid Metabolism in Mice”

In January 2019, an article titled High-Phosphate Diet Induces Exercise Intolerance and Impairs Fatty Acid Metabolism in Mice” was published in the journal Circulation. The authors suggest dietary phosphorus is over consumed and found a link between higher phosphate consumption to exercise intolerance and less time spent exercising on a treadmill using mice models. As these findings were based on observational studies in mice and the researchers’ opinion of what “excess” means, they should be interpreted cautiously. Studies linking mice models to human health outcomes have many limitations, and multiple factors contribute to a person’s desire and ability to exercise, many of which should not be attributed to a slightly higher phosphate intake and the duration spent exercising.

The study was conducted to determine the association between inorganic phosphate, a food additive, with physical activity in humans. The authors suggest phosphate is “used in excess” as a preservative and flavor enhancer in foods, citing between 40 and 70 percent of common selling grocery items as containing phosphate additives. The researchers go on to report up to 25 percent of American adults have three or four times higher intakes of the recommended daily allowance of phosphorus.

In order to determine the “direct effects” of dietary phosphate on exercise capacity and other biochemical markers, a treadmill exercise test was conducted on mice fed either a normal phosphate diet (n=15-18; 0.6% of diet) or a high phosphate diet (n=4-7; 2.0% of diet) for 12 weeks. The researchers found that a high phosphate diet appeared to decrease time spent on a treadmill as compared to the normal phosphate diet. However, there was no effect on body weight and there were no significant differences in the biochemical markers of mice fed either diet. The researchers also studied phosphate levels in human blood/serum, and found higher phosphate levels appeared to “decrease physical activity independently of renal [kidney] function and body mass index.” As it relates to oxidation in skeletal muscle during exercise, the researchers made a determination on muscle strength in the human study after only one single bout of muscle contraction; daily physical activity ability was not determined. The researchers conclude the high phosphate diet in mice induces disruption in skeletal muscle metabolism and the study results may have a broader public health implication to the general population.

IFAC has numerous concerns with this study. First, it should be noted that many authoritative scientific and regulatory bodies have not provided tolerable upper intake levels for dietary phosphorus due to inadequate scientific evidence. The outcome of a 2017 research review indicated “available data were not sufficient to establish a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for phosphorus.” Therefore, in this study, the authors’ perception of “excess” intake should not be used to draw conclusions about excessive intake. IFAC believes another fault in the study includes a small sample size of mice which was only 4-7 mice in the high phosphate diet group and 15-18 mice in the normal phosphate diet group. The researchers attempt to correlate a higher phosphorus diet in only 4-7 mice with decreased time spent doing physical activity is not supported by strong evidence and, in this case, might simply be a matter of desire or interest of the mice participants. Regarding physical activity in humans, IFAC and the researchers can agree with findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 80% of American adults do not meet the recommended “physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle strengthening.” However, IFAC believes multiple factors contribute to muscle strength, endurance, and overall exercise ability and no single dietary mineral can be attributed to physical stamina—especially if most people are not normally physically active and in the study “daily physical activity ability was not determined.”

IFAC Statement on UN State of Food Security and Nutrition Report

In September 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its second annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. The report serves to monitor progress made towards achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition, within the context of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainability Development Goals.

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) endorses the multisectoral approach suggested by FAO, which states that, “Actions need to be accelerated and scaled up to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems, people’s livelihoods, and nutrition…” IFAC acknowledges that the food industry alone cannot deliver solutions that address the main drivers of hunger and malnutrition; however, there is a critically important role industry can play to help alleviate this global crisis.

In 2017, a staggering 821 million people were reported to be suffering from hunger. This corresponds to nearly 11 percent of the world’s population. Discouragingly, between 2014 and 2017, rather than seeing a decrease in the total number of people suffering from hunger, the numbers increased by 37.3 million people. While most hungry people live in lower-to-middle-income countries, hunger and lack of reliable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food are complex global problems. The UN report stresses that climate change and political conflicts are the key drivers behind the 2014 reversal in the progress made during the second half of the twentieth century towards reducing hunger and malnutrition.

A lack of access to adequate food and nutrition is caused by an array of factors, some of which can be addressed through food industry efforts. As an association representing companies who produce and use food ingredients, one of IFAC’s main objectives is to unite and cultivate a responsible and sustainable global food environment. IFAC members utilize both traditional and innovative technologies, as well as modern food science, to help support sustainable food strategies and minimize food waste.

For example, one IFAC member has developed a plant-derived invisible, edible coating that slows the rate by which fresh produce typically degrades, thereby increasing the shelf life and protecting the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. This product has shown tremendous potential to provide populations in isolated geographies and developing countries with access to fresh produce without reliance on cost-prohibitive or infrastructure-intensive food preservation technologies such as refrigeration. Another IFAC member utilizes microbial food cultures found commonly in cheese and other foods for “bioprotection,” in which the cultures are used to keep products such as yogurt fresh longer. Using microbial cultures in this way not only helps prevent waste, but also helps protect and increase yields in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, several other members produce stabilizing ingredients that help formulate foods that are shelf-stable under ambient conditions and extend the shelf-life of products traditionally in need of refrigeration. This not only helps ensure nutritious products can be transported to remote areas more easily, but also enables equity in the food system by providing equal access to the same health benefits afforded by nutritious yet perishable products.

The FAO report determines that, “The signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning of the urgent need for considerable additional work to ensure we ‘leave no one behind’ on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and nutrition.” IFAC supports FAO’s efforts to monitor and communicate progress towards eradicating world hunger and stands by its member companies whose products are contributing to this goal.


IFAC Statement on Nanotechnology

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is a global association representing manufacturers and users of food ingredients. IFAC is committed to ensuring the safety of its members’ products as well as communicating technical information about ingredients in foods.

A term that is sometimes linked to food is nanotechnology, and is often accompanied by words such as “nanoparticles” or just “nano”. Nanotechnology refers to the study and control of matter at an incredibly small scale, generally between 1 and 100 nanometers, and is not well understood by consumers. Although particle size is not commonly considered in the context of food, many foods, beverages and even water are naturally comprised of nanoscale particles. For example, milk is an emulsion of nanoscale fat droplets. While nanoscale particles have always been present in foods and beverages, food scientists have developed technologies to engineer nanomaterials in order to support improvements in the food and beverage industry. Nanotechnology has allowed for advancements such as more protective food packaging materials and increased availability of beneficial nutrients in foods.

As with any new technology, questions have been raised about the need to assess the potential impact of nanoparticles on health, safety and the environment. Global scientific and regulatory agencies are therefore reviewing information and data on nanotechnology and several guidance documents have already been published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

IFAC strongly believes that the safety of food ingredients depends on the specific substance in question, and should not be determined based solely on its particle size. In addition, industry’s innovative use of nanotechnology should not impact the credibility of safety assessments for ingredients already on the market, which have a significant history of safe use. To ensure transparency and prevent confusion among consumers and other audiences, it is important to distinguish products with a history of safe use from new ingredients or applications utilizing nanotechnology which have not undergone the same level of safety testing. IFAC believes that clearly defining nanotechnology for industry and consumers is a first step in doing so. Therefore, IFAC urges regulators and scientific communicators to clearly specify that nanotechnology refers to the human engineering of particles in order to create matter smaller than 100 nanometers. As the European Union (EU) describes in Article 3(2) of Regulation (EU) No 2015/2283, engineered nanomaterials are defined as “any intentionally produced material that has one or more dimensions of the order of 100 nm or less or that is composed of discrete functional parts, either internally or at the surface…” Nanotechnology should not be used interchangeably with nanoparticles or the generic term “nano,” which includes particles of nanoscale dimensions that occur naturally and/or are not necessarily produced through new forms of nanotechnology.  In addition, it is important that government labeling and industry sourcing policies serve to address newly engineered nanomaterials, so as not to proliferate irrational fear amongst consumers concerning the foods and beverages they have historically consumed.

IFAC strongly believes it is critical that all food ingredients and food contact materials undergo extensive safety testing prior to entering the food supply. IFAC supports the existing FDA regulatory framework for determining the safety of food additives, GRAS substances and food contact materials, as well as the European Commission’s food additive re-evaluation mandate. Such regulatory requirements ensure all foods and beverages on the market, including those manufactured using nanotechnology, are safe. In addition, while IFAC firmly supports clear, fact-based communications regarding nanotechnology, we also believe that the freedom to innovate through the use of advanced technologies is essential to respond to consumer demand, improve products and processes, and ultimately feed the growing global population.

The ability to innovate while continuing to comply with new and existing strict safety requirements is in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approach to be “adaptive and flexible and to take into consideration the specific characteristics and the effects of nanomaterials in the particular biological context of each product and its intended use.” Therefore, as innovative processes allow for the engineering of food ingredients and materials reduced to nanoscale, potential safety issues need to be assessed on a case by case basis. FDA has provided specific guidance to industry on the potential impact of significant manufacturing process changes involving nanotechnology on the safety and regulatory status of food substances.

IFAC believes it is the responsibility of both industry and regulators to develop responsible policies and guidance around the definition, labeling requirements, and industry use of nanotechnology. As with all novel ingredients, approvals and opinions intended to inform new standards or regulations should be based on the unbiased assessment of strong peer-reviewed research and stakeholder input.


IFAC Commends USDA for Upholding Organic Principles and Maintaining Carrageenan in Organic Food

On April 4, 2018 the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced carrageenan will continue to be allowed in organic foods and beverages, thus rejecting a recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to remove the substance based on a claim it is not essential to organic production. This decision turns back a potentially precedent-setting proposal that would have permitted an advisory board to discontinue the use of a substance based on inaccurate information and was not in line with organic principles.

Carrageenan has been permitted in organic food production since 2003, and was relisted based on recommendations from the NOSB in 2007 and 2011. While NOSB members raised questions in recent years about carrageenan safety, its November 2016 vote to remove carrageenan was based not on safety concerns, but on a perceived lack of essentiality in organic production. This, despite clear and substantive examples provided by the organic food industry that removing carrageenan would have significant impacts on the organic market and result in products that are less nutritious, less appealing, and more expensive, and in some cases removal of some products from the market altogether.

The AMS decision to keep carrageenan in organic food is not only good news for formulators and consumers, it represents sound scientific policy and demonstrates USDA’s commitment to making organic decisions based on science and technical evidence rather than manipulative opinions and misperceptions. Carrageenan has long been an additive of interest, despite its history of use in foods and repeated positive safety determinations by regulatory authorities worldwide. Upholding the NOSB’s vote and removing carrageenan from organic foods based on flawed arguments would have set a bad precedent for reviews of future organic materials and could have led to a drastic reduction in the options organic formulators have to make innovative products that meet consumer expectations and continue to grow the organic market.

IFAC strongly supports USDA’s sound, science-based decision to keep carrageenan in organic foods and, by doing so, avoid setting a dangerous precedent of delisting additives based on a perceived lack of essentiality. IFAC and its members will continue to work with regulators and the food industry to provide accurate and high quality scientific evidence to support the use of ingredients in organic food.

About IFAC
The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is a global association representing manufacturers of food ingredients. Founded in 1980, IFAC strives to promote science-based regulation and the global harmonization of food ingredient standards and specifications.

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IFAC Statement on European Commission’s Market Study on Date Marking and Other Information Provided on Food Labels and Food Waste Prevention

In February 2018, the European Commission (EC) released a study investigating the relationship between date marking on food labels and food waste. The overall objective of the study was to help inform the European Union (EU) of actions it can take to help mitigate food waste, which is substantial in the EU and globally. It took a closer look at how date labeling practices are used by food businesses and authorities, and how they are interpreted by consumers and potentially lead to food waste.

Researchers found that up to 10 percent of the 88 million tons of food waste generated by the EU annually is linked to date marking, presumably due to widespread confusion around how to interpret dates on food labels. Of avoidable food waste based on date labels, the study found that the top products wasted were yogurt (70 percent), eggs (59 percent), cooking sauces (59 percent), and cakes and desserts (28 percent).

Date marking practices were originally introduced by supermarkets to help ensure the freshness of foods and optimize stock control. Today, the intended audience has shifted to consumers, and, in accordance with European regulations[i], most packaged foods in the EU display a date and accompanying language to indicate whether the date represents a safety threshold (“use by”) or the point after which quality would likely be diminished (“best before”). However, there is flexibility in how a “best before” date is indicated depending on the length of the product’s shelf life.

The study found variations in how manufacturers made decisions to use certain language. For example, producers of products with longer shelf lives, such as ketchup, tended to use “best before” on the premise of “microbiological stability”, whereas manufacturers of foods with shorter shelf lives, such as dairy products, tended to employ “use by” dates based on food safety. In addition, the study notes that producers are influenced by common date marking practices used in national markets, and consumer preferences or expectations.

While manufacturers often rely on consumer preferences for date marking practices, there is significant evidence that many consumers fundamentally don’t understand how to interpret date marks. The study references a major survey previously commissioned by the EC which found that while a majority of EU consumers (58 percent) consider “use by” and “best before” dates when shopping and preparing meals, only 47 percent actually understand “best before” labelling and 40 percent understand “use by” labeling.  As a result, cautious consumer behavior due to a lack of understanding regarding the safety or quality of a product can lead to the disposal of products despite still being fit for consumption.

The study notes that a possible solution to reducing this problem is extending the product life of foods. While this can be done by revising existing expiration dates, shelf life can also be extended with ingredients, such as xanthan gum or sodium phosphate. For example, as shown in Table 4, extending product life by one extra day would save 16,000 tons (approximately 35,264,000 pounds) of bread annually.

Based on the study findings, the authors suggest food waste linked to date marking would be reduced if:

  • Date marks are present and legible, with clear meaning;
  • Consumers have a good understanding of date labelling (notably the distinction between “use by” – as an indicator of safety – and “best before” – as an indicator of quality);
  • “Use by” dates are used only where there is a safety-based rationale for doing so, consistent with the FIC Regulation;
  • The product life stated on the packaging is consistent with the findings of safety and quality tests; and/or
  • There is a level of consistency in storage of food at retail and guidance for consumers regarding the temperatures at which products should be stored in the home.

Misunderstandings regarding date labeling terminology and appropriate responses to date marks can lead to wasted food. Although this study is intended to inform actions of the EU, its findings and recommendations can be applied internationally to all consumers, retailers and manufacturers. The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) endorses the EU’s efforts to shed light on the global issue of food waste, and is committed to advocating for food practices and ingredients that can help the food manufacturing industry and consumers prevent it. IFAC supports continued cooperation and innovation amongst all those involved in the food supply chain in preventing food waste and its related impacts on human and environmental health.

Learn more about the types of food ingredients used to ensure the safety and sustainability of foods here.

[i] Official Journal of the European Union. (2011). Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on Food Information to Consumers.


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IFAC Agrees with EFSA Re-Affirming Safety of Cellulose

A recent scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the re-evaluation of celluloses as food additives confirmed previous conclusions that celluloses are safe, and that there are no concerns or issues at reported-use levels.

Cellulose is a non-digestible carbohydrate that is naturally present in many plant foods. Cellulose is also used to thicken and stabilize a variety of prepared foods. Celluloses have been approved for use in foods and beverages for decades and have recently been re-examined as part of the European Commission’s broader re-evaluation mandate.

EFSA’s Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) conducted the re-evaluation on various forms of celluloses, which was last completed in 1989.  The ANS Panel evaluated the following forms of cellulose:

 Microcrystalline cellulose

  • Powdered cellulose
  • Methyl cellulose, ethyl cellulose
  • Hydroxypropyl cellulose
  • Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose
  • Ethyl methyl cellulose
  • Sodium carboxy methyl cellulose
  • Enzymatically hydrolysed carboxy methyl cellulose
  • Cross-linked carboxy methyl cellulose

 Due to the similarities in structural, physicochemical and biological properties, the Panel was able to determine all celluloses are safe based on the data submitted. According to EFSA’s opinion, research that included animal and human data confirmed there are no safety concerns at the current levels being consumed through celluloses that are naturally present and those that are modified for use in food applications. Additionally, the Panel concluded there was no need to set an acceptable daily intake level or ADI for cellulose, given there is no safety concern with the reported uses and use levels in food.

IFAC fully supports the conclusion found by the EFSA Panel and hopes this evaluation will provide more clarity to food manufacturers and consumers who may be concerned with various celluloses found in their food. Celluloses provide naturally-sourced benefits in foods like ice cream, dressings, sauces, some types of bread and processed meats.

Learn more about the functions and benefits of cellulose and cellulose gum in foods here.

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Dietary Phosphorous – Health, Nutrition, and Regulatory Aspects: IFAC Response

In September 2017, the book Dietary Phosphorous – Health, Nutrition, and Regulatory Aspects was published by CRC Press. Authors Mona Calvo and Jaime Uribarri review dietary intake levels of phosphorus and discuss health endpoints associated with phosphorus consumption. The authors argue that current intakes of phosphorus are higher than human physiological requirements, and assert higher serum phosphorus concentrations are shown to be significantly associated with a higher incidence of morbidity and mortality in North America and Europe.

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient that is required for human health. Published dietary reference intakes for phosphorus include estimates of average requirements and recommended dietary allowances. However, not all authoritative bodies have provided tolerable upper intake levels for dietary phosphorus due to inadequate scientific evidence.

Phosphates are common food additives used to leaven cakes, cookies, pancakes, waffles, and donuts; to maintain the structure and hydration of meat, poultry, and seafood products; to improve fluidity of evaporated milk; flavor or add minerals to beverages; and to maintain the structure of canned fruit and vegetable products. Often there are no alternatives that can be used in the same small quantities to accomplish these functions in foods. In addition, some food-additive phosphates contain other minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which are consumed by some populations in quantities below what is recommended. Therefore, consumption of these phosphates help assist with intake of such nutrients.

In addition to reviewing intake levels, the book authors discuss health endpoints associated with phosphorous intake that go beyond physiologic requirements such as progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD), mineral bone disease and calcification of soft tissue, cardiovascular disease, mortality, anemia, and cancer (strictly in-vitro studies). The authors suggest phosphorus intake is associated with each of these conditions, and present different levels of evidence for each endpoint. While phosphorus intake has been associated with certain endpoints in specific sub-populations, including those predisposed to such conditions, in 2017 an extensive research review identified only two primary research publications that focused on data specific to a direct association between a food-additive phosphate and clinical outcomes in the general population. Otherwise, the investigator in the review found that any associations between phosphorus intake and health endpoints are inconclusive.

The outcome of the 2017 research review is consistent with the National Academy of Medicine as well as the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) 2015 Scientific Opinion on dietary reference values for phosphorus, which stated “available data were not sufficient to establish a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for phosphorus.” Thus, future research on upper level intake is needed as the causality of any association between dietary phosphorous and clinical outcomes identified in studies could not be determined.

Difficulties in determining dietary phosphorus intake and, in particular, the intake of food-additive phosphate include: the inherent limitations of widely used dietary ascertainment methods, such as 24-hour dietary recalls and food frequency questionnaires (FFQs); likely inaccuracies in nutrient composition tables, as well as inherent difficulties in determining the quantity of phosphorus intake.

Though there is inadequate evidence currently available regarding dietary phosphorous intake, concerns related to health outcomes remain. Any policy or regulatory actions taken should be based in high quality evidence and align with recommendations made by authorities such as EFSA and the National Academy of Medicine.


IFAC Publishes White Paper on Dietary Phosphorus

WASHINGTON, DC (October 11, 2017) – A new publication from the International Food Additives Council (IFAC) summarizes scientific literature on the consumption of dietary phosphorus and phosphates in consumer foods and potential impacts on human health. It finds insufficient evidence to support claims that the consumption of phosphates in food causes negative effects in humans.

The publication, titled “Dietary Food-Additive Phosphate and Human Health Outcomes,” was prepared by Cato Research and appears in the September issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. Researchers reviewed 110 primary research articles spanning 20 years that studied relationships of dietary phosphorus and food-additive phosphate intake with potential impacts on human health. While a small number of these studies raised concern for high intakes of dietary phosphorous, other studies found potentially beneficial effects in humans. Based on the review, the researchers determined no firm conclusions can be drawn on the possible risks of food-additive phosphate consumption in the general population.

“As a leader in the food additives industry, we wanted to address claims that the consumption of phosphates could impact human health,” said Robert Rankin, IFAC executive director. “After careful consideration and research into the available scientific literature, it was determined that food phosphate consumption does not present a risk to the general population. Consumers should have no concerns about the presence of phosphates in their favorite foods.”

Dietary phosphorus, like calcium, benefits the growth, maintenance and repair of body tissues. Phosphates are formed from mined phosphate rock, which is refined and purified to isolate phosphorus and reacts with alkaline salts to produce purified phosphate salts. Food-grade phosphates must meet strict manufacturing and quality standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies around the world. Food-grade phosphates can be found in finished foods such as baked goods, meat, poultry, seafood products, beverages and dairy products.

To view the publication, click here.

About IFAC

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is a global association representing manufacturers of food ingredients. Founded in 1980, IFAC strives to promote science-based regulation and the global harmonization of food ingredient standards and specifications.



Randy Spoon



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IFAC Statement on NOSB Decision to Remove Carrageenan from the National List

On November 17, 2016, the U.S. National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) members voted to remove carrageenan from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, a decision that, if implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will force many organic food producers to reformulate or consider taking products of the market entirely. The use of alternative ingredients, which do not possess the same functionality as carrageenan, may negatively impact the quality of many organic foods and beverages and may reduce organic options.

Throughout the NOSB meeting, public commenters representing carrageenan producers, organic food manufacturers, farmers and other interested parties presented evidence demonstrating carrageenan is a safe and essential organic food ingredient. Although the NOSB ultimately recommended that USDA remove carrageenan from organic foods, they were clear in their discussion that carrageenan is safe for consumption and that their decision was not based on safety concerns.

Carrageenan’s use in food is supported by decades of research and approvals by every food regulatory body in the world, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Carrageenan is unmatched in its ability to bind protein and water to create desirable textures, prevent ingredient separation, reduce fat and extend shelf-life in meat and dairy products. It is also extremely important as a stabilizer in liquid infant formula, ensuring that critical nutrients remain in suspension and promoting optimal infant nutrition. Removal of carrageenan from organic foods and beverages will result in products that are less nutritious, less appealing, less enjoyable and more expensive.

The NOSB decision to remove carrageenan when there are no wholly organic alternatives sets a concerning precedent and raises questions about the weight of objective scientific research when applied to food ingredients. It also means that larger amounts or multiple non-organic ingredients will be needed to replace the small amounts of carrageenan. At a time when the organic industry wants to continue to grow and deliver more options to consumers, the removal of carrageenan will ultimately reduce the number of organic foods and beverages.

IFAC will continue provide accurate and high quality scientific evidence to support the safety and essentiality of carrageenan and other ingredients in organic food. We will also continue working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FDA to ensure that major food regulatory decisions are based on sound science.

About IFAC

The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is a global association representing manufacturers of food ingredients. Founded in 1980, IFAC strives to promote science-based regulation and the global harmonization of food ingredient standards and specifications.


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