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Knowing What’s In It – Food Additives Under The Microscope
Releasing agents, melting salt, propellant gas – what sounds like a whole chemistry lab is actually part of our food. Release agents can be found in gummy bears and coffee whiteners, for example, and propellants in cream cheese, cream, and ice cream. Didn’t know? Then take a look at the ingredients list of your food. There, you as a consumer will find all the ingredients of the product, including the so-called additives.
Additives are substances that are added to foods to influence their properties or give them certain characteristics. For example, to preserve, thicken, color, or improve the taste of products. They keep bread mold-free, make puddings firmer and margarine golden yellow. They are usually at the bottom of the list of ingredients in foods because they are only used in small quantities.
On Everyone’s Lips
In addition to colorful sweets, there are many additives, especially in low-calorie foods. There are several reasons for this: To ensure that a food with a reduced fat content still has a good consistency and a pleasant mouthfeel, more water is bound with the help of emulsifiers and thickeners. However, the higher water content also makes the product more susceptible to mold or drying out. Additional preservatives are therefore necessary. With a low-fat content, the flavor also decreases. A light product may therefore need additional spices and flavorings.
As a general rule, the higher the degree of processing (in the case of ready meals, bagged soups, frozen pizzas, etc.), the more likely it is that a large quantity of additives is contained.
Additives – Useful Or Harmful?
Did you know that additives are the most controlled ingredients in food? Extensive tests are conducted to determine the amount of an additive that has no effect on the human organism, even over a long period of time. Only one-hundredth of this value is subsequently released. In normal use, the substances are therefore not harmful to the human organism.
For some substances, such as sweeteners, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set a maximum daily amount that is considered harmless: the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake). The ADI refers to the amount that a person can consume daily for a lifetime without health concerns. But beware: In children, this maximum value is reached much faster than in adults due to their low body weight and higher metabolic activity. The Research Institute for Child Nutrition in Dortmund, therefore, advises that children and babies should generally not be given sweeteners.