Additives are substances that are intentionally added to food if there is a technological need. Technological needs are for example the need to preserve (preservatives), to coloor (food colourings), to sweeten (sweeteners), or to flavour (flavourings). The use of additives is very old, think for example of the preservation of meat by salting. The increased production of processed foods in the last decades also increased the number and the use levels of food additives.
Most countries do have legislation on the use of food additives. Codex aims to harmonize these food additive requirements. Additives for which the use is considered to be technologically justified are listed in the Codex Standard on Food Additives (GSFA, STAN 192-1995).
Prior to market access it will be assessed if the food additive can be used safely. As result of this safety assessment for most food additive Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs) are established. An ADI specifies the amount of an additive that can safely be ingested daily during a life time. Maximum use levels in commodities are determined in such a way that it is sure that the ADI is not exceeded. Or as one of the requirements in EU legislation states “they present no hazard to the health of the consumer”.
Besides the technological need and the requirement that no harm is done to the health in the consumer, an additional requirement in EU law is that the use of the additive should not mislead the consumer. EU summaries of food additives legislation are available at the EU website.