Food additives

A food additive is a substance that is added to food that is not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as an ingredient of food.Food additives perform various function with the aim of making food more attractive, improve keeping qualities or simply help improve performance, for example anti-caking and free flowing agents help to stop food from clumping together.

Food additives are referenced by name or number, for example Ascorbic Acid (300), is commonly known as Vitamin C.

A small proportion of people may suffer allergic reactions or an intolerance to certain food additives. To find out more, see the Food allergies and intolerances page.

Approve food additives

Food additives must be approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand website before they can be used.

For food additives to be approved, Food Standards Australia New Zealand website carries out safety assessments. These assessments look to see if the food additive is safe (at the level of use being proposed) and if there is a good reason for using the additive.

All approved food additives are listed in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Standard 1.3.1 (approved additives)

Food additives functions

Food additives may perform the following functions:

  • prevent the spoilage of food by microorganisms
  • adjust the acidity of food to improve safety and taste
  • improve the flavour of food
  • stop powders or crystals from caking
  • prevent rancidity in food
  • propel food from a can
  • help form emulsions
  • prevent food from drying out
  • improve or maintain the colour of the food
  • replace the sweetness normally provided by sugars in foods
  • improve texture of a food.

An example is acidity regulators. They help maintain a constant acid level in foods. Which can:

  • help prevent foods from spoiling
  • keep them safe
  • change the flavour of the food.