A food ingredient is any substance that is added to a food to achieve a desired effect. The term “food ingredient” includes food additives, which are substances added to foods for specific technical and/or functional purposes during processing, storage or packaging.
There are two types of food additives—direct and indirect. Direct food additives are used in foods to impart specific technological or functional qualities. For example, stabilizers are used to help prevent separation of nutrients in fortified milk products, while phosphates are used as a leavening agent in baked goods. Indirect additives are not intentionally added to food, but may be present in trace amounts as a result of processing, packaging, shipping or storage.
Both direct and indirect food additives are controlled by national regulatory authorities, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Any food ingredient must be proven safe to be used in foods.