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Food additives: legal obligations

By food additive is meant under Reg. 1333/2008 ” any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself and not used as a characteristic food ingredient, with or without nutritional value, whose intentional addition to food for a technological purpose in the manufacture , in the processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage thereof, have or may presumably have the effect that the substance or its by- products become, directly or indirectly, components of such food “.

Food additives are therefore substances that are intentionally added to the food in order to improve its technological characteristics (such as its organoleptic properties, or its shelf life). However, it is worth pointing out that despite the technological usefulness, a massive recourse to these chemicals is often a symptom of poor initial quality of the product and the need to mask or correct defects and anomalies. In this context there is no reference to the flavoring substances, on which there is a specific regulation and which are used instead to improve or “build” a specific flavor in the final product.

As established by European legislation, food additives must be authorized following an in-depth assessment of consumer health safety by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before they can be used in food. If successful, these substances are included in an EU list of permitted food additives ( Annex II of Reg. 1129/2011 ), which also defines their conditions of use. The additives must also comply with the purity requirements as established by the R EGULATION (Ue) n. 231/2012.  Then,for food preparations the operator must use only the additives included in the community positive lists and according to the procedures established by the legislation. In fact, in the regulations for each additive are specified: the denomination and number “E”; the conditions of employment; the foods to which it can be added.

In defining the conditions of use, the maximum quantity that can be added to the food is also specified. For some additives, typically those of “natural” origin, we will find the term ” quantum satis “, ie in this case there is no limit to the maximum quantity that can be used, but the additive can be used as much as necessary to obtain the effect desired technology in the final product .

In the labeling, food additives must obligatorily appear among the ingredients , specifying: the function (for example, preservative or dye); the code “E + the reference number” or the name (eg citric acid). If more than one additive belonging to the same category is used, the latter can only be reported once (for example colorants: E101, E102, E104). The additives must be mentioned in descending order with respect to the quantities present in the final product.

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