Food Additives: Classification

he very recent EU legislation on additives (Reg. 1333 of 2008) reformulated the categories of substances whose addition is allowed in foods, additives and food enzymes. There are 26 categories, which we propose below (also listed in Annex I of the following regulation) with the relative functional indications and the relative abbreviation on the label.

  • DYES: are substances that give a color to a food or restore its original color; they include natural components of foods and other elements of natural origin, normally not consumed as food or used as a typical food ingredient. According to this regulation, dyes are preparations obtained from foods and other basic edible materials, of natural origin, obtained by a physical and / or chemical process that involves the selective extraction of pigments in relation to their nutritional or aromatic components.
  • PRESERVATIVESare substances that extend the shelf life of foods by protecting them from deterioration caused by microorganisms and / or the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms.
  • THE Antioxidants: are substances that prolong the life of foods by protecting them against deterioration caused by oxidation, such ‘ fat rancidity and color changes.
  • ACIDITY REGULATORS: are substances that control and / or modify the acidity or alkalinity of a food product.
  • ACIDIFIERS: they are substances that increase the acidity of a food product and / or give it a sour taste.
  • ANTIAGGLOMERANTS: are substances that reduce the tendency of individual particles, present in a food product, to adhere to each other.
  • THE SWEETENERS: are substances used to impart a sweet taste to foods or in table top sweeteners.
  • SUPPORTS: are substances used to dissolve, dilute, disperse or otherwise physically modify a food additive, an aroma, a food enzyme, a nutrientand / or other substances added to foods for nutritional or physiological purposes, without altering their function (and without themselves have a technological effect) in order to facilitate their handling, application and use.
  • ANTIFOAMING AGENTS: these are substances that prevent or reduce the formation of foam.
  • FOAMING AGENTS: these are substances that make it possible to obtain a homogeneous dispersion of a gaseous phase in a liquid or solid food product.
  • THICKENERS are substances that increase the density and consistency of a food product
  • EMULSIFIERS: they are substances that make it possible to form or maintain a homogeneous mixture of one or two immiscible phases, such as oiland water, in a food product.
  • THE STABILIZERS: are substances that make it possible to maintain the physical-chemical state of a food product; stabilizers include substances that make it possible to maintain a homogeneous dispersion of one or more immiscible substances in a food product, substances that stabilize, retain or enhance the existing coloration of a food product, and substances that increase the capacity of food to form bonds, including the formation of the reconstituted food.
  • THE “LOADING AGENTS”: are substances that contribute to increasing the volume of a food product without significantly contributing to its available energy value.
  • RESISTANCE AGENTS: these are substances that make or keep the tissues of fruit or vegetablesfirm or crunchy , or that interact with gelling agents to produce or consolidate a gel.
  • THE FLAVOR ENHANCERS ‘: are substances which enhance the flavor and / or the existing fragrance of a food product. The most famous flavor enhancer, and also the most used, is monosodium glutamate .
  • GELIFYING AGENTS: are substances that give consistency to a food product through the formation of a gel.
  • MELTING SALTS: these are substances that disperse the proteinscontained in the cheese , thus achieving a homogeneous distribution of fats and other components. They are used for the production of melted cheeses such as slices , small cheeses, etc.
  • THE SEQUESTRATING AGENTS: they are substances that form chemical complexes with metal ions.
  • COATING AGENTS (including lubricating agents): these are substances which, when applied to the external surface of a food product, give it a shiny appearance, or give it a protective coating.
  • HUMIDIFYING AGENTS: these are substances that prevent food from drying out by counteracting the effect of low atmospheric humidity, or that promote the dissolution of a powder in an aqueous environment.
  • THE MODIFIED STARCHES: are substances obtained by one or more chemical treatments of edible starches, which may have undergone a physical or enzymatic treatment, and may be acid or alkali thinned or bleached.
  • PACKAGING GASES: these are gases, different from air, which are introduced into the container before, during or after introducing a food into the packaging.
  • PROPELLENTS: they are gases different from the air that expel a food product from a container.
  • LEAVENING AGENTS: they are substances, or combinations of substances, which release gas thus increasing the volume of a dough or batter.
  • FLOURTREATMENT AGENTS : excluding emulsifiers, these are substances that are added to the flour to improve its cooking quality.

The list does not include flavorings because they do not fall within the legislative definition of “additives”.




DYES from E100-199 100-109 – yellow
110-119 – orange
120-129 – red
130-139 – blue and violet
140-149 – green
150-159 – brown and black
160-199 – others
PRESERVATIVES from E200-299 200-209 – sorbates
210-219 – benzoates
220-229 – sulphides
230-239 – phenols and formates
240-259 – nitrates
260-269 – acetates
270-279 – lactates
280-289 – propionates
290-299 – others
ANTIOXIDANTS AND ACIDITY REGULATORS from E300-399 300-309 – ascorbates ( vitamin C )
310-319 – gallates and erythorbates
320-329 – lactates
330-339 – citrates and tartrates
340-349 – phosphates
350-359 – diseased and adipates
360-369 – succinates and fumarate
370-399 – others
THICKENERS, STABILIZERS, EMULSIFIERS from E 300-499 400-409 – alginates
410-419 – natural rubber
420-429 – other natural agents
430-439 – polyoxyethylene derivatives
440-449 – natural emulsifiers
450-459 – phosphates
460-469 – cellulose
derivatives 470-489 – acid derivatives fats
490-499 – others
ACIDITY AND ANTI-AGGLOMERANT REGULATORS from E500-599 500-509 – inorganic acids and bases
510-519 – chlorides and sulphates
520-529 – sulphates and hydroxides
530-549 – alkali metal salts
550-559 – silicates
570-579 – stearates and gluconates
580-599 – others
SAPIDITY ENHANCERS from E600-699 620-629 – glutamates
630-639 – inosinates
640-649 – others
VARIOUS from E900-999 900-909 – waxes
910-919 – glazes
920-929 – auxiliary agents
930-949 – gases for packaging
950-969 – sweeteners
990-999 – foaming agents


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