The effects of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to present many global challenges. However, the International Food Additives Council wants to remind consumers that the safety and quality of the global food supply remains strong and that food additives continue to play an important role in maintaining the quality of foods in your pantry. Food additives help ensure food products remain shelf-stable, extend product shelf life, and allow consumers to stock up on food products without fear of immediate expiration. For more information on the different types of food ingredients and food additives, click here.
While there have been isolated reports of shortages of certain food products at retail, which are primarily due to transportation and restocking issues, it is important to note that COVID-19 has not made an impact on food safety. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission through food or food packaging, including imported goods such as food and drugs for animals and pets. There have also been no cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. associated with imported goods.
During this time, when consumers want to minimize their time in the store and may wish to stock up on food, packaged foods containing food additives are an excellent option. In addition to contributing to taste, texture, freshness, and appearance of food, food additives contribute to product stability and shelf life. Below are several important food additive classifications and how they contribute to product stability.
Preservatives help extend the life of foods and prevent spoilage. Preservatives also help foods maintain their appearance, taste, and texture. Preservatives are found in a variety of foods including jellies, cereals, oils, and baked goods.
Preservatives come in many forms. For example, sugar, salt, and vinegar are often used to delay the growth of bacteria in foods. Antioxidants help reduce oxidation in foods, increasing shelf life and preventing spoilage. And phosphates are used to help preserve processed meat and poultry products.
Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, and Thickeners
Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, and Thickeners are common food additives and help maintain the appearance of foods while preserving freshness and quality.
- Emulsifiers help to prevent oil and water mixtures from separating within a product and are found in a variety of foods, including margarine, ice cream, bread, chocolate, and some processed meats. Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids are a common example of an emulsifier that disperses fat in foods to allow it to become more water-soluble. They can also help reduce food waste by keeping foods mixed.
- Stabilizers help ingredients stay dispersed and suspended in a product solution. Stabilizers are commonly used in beverages – such as fruit and vegetable juices – as well as liquid infant formula. Some common stabilizers include gellan gum and carrageenan.
- Thickeners enhance the texture of foods and can give low fat or reduced calorie foods the texture of full fat/calorie options. Xanthan gum is a common thickener and can even be purchased in grocery stores.
Firming agents help foods maintain their crisp quality and strength. They are also commonly used to help prolong shelf life. Firming agents are used in a variety of foods including canned meats, pickles, fruits, and vegetables. Sodium citrate, also known as citric acid, is a common firming agent derived from citrus fruit.