What are palatability factors of food

Additives in food are viewed critically by the consumer. According to surveys, the majority of consumers want food without such additives. But the reality is different: the sales of convenience food alone, i.e. ready-to-eat meals, amounted to around 5.6 million euros in 2018. Such products usually cannot do without E numbers. But are additives safe? When and what are they used for? And what are the health risks associated with it?

Definitions and classes of additives

Many products that are available in the supermarket would probably not be bought without additives. The consumer has become too used to "Perfect" foods in appearance, shape, color, consistency and taste. Even the shelf life of products that is common today can only be achieved to a limited extent with natural preservation methods. Many of the substances used are harmless. Others are suspected of triggering or exacerbating certain symptoms or promoting diseases.

Food law defines additives “as substances that are intended to be used in food Influencing their nature or to Achieving certain properties or effects to be added. ”Accordingly, these substances treated foods be assigned.

Good to know: Untreated foods According to the legislature, “foodstuffs that have not undergone any manufacture or treatment that leads to a substantial change in the original condition of the foodstuffs; In particular, there is no substantial change if the food has been divided, released, separated, boned, finely chopped, peeled, peeled, ground, cut, cleaned, garnished, frozen, frozen, chilled, ground or peeled, packed or unpacked. "

Currently are around 320 Food additives approved. Depending on the main purpose, these can be divided into different Classes organize. For example, there are antioxidants that prevent cut surfaces on fruit from turning brown quickly. Or they are preservatives that prevent the rapid spoilage caused by bacteria and molds. Such additives are not always necessary in the amount and frequency used; but pursue at least one for the consumer understandable purpose.

On the other hand, there are fillers and thickeners that increase the volume of products or create a creamy mouthfeel without, for example, containing fat. Colorings often make food look livelier and fresher, or simulate ingredients that are minimal but give their name. To what extent the use of these substances is really necessary remains questionable. Because in principle, additives may only be used if the food requires it (see also prohibition principle).

Besides quite a few man-made and synthetic compounds are also natural or naturally occurring substanceslike vitamins C and E or beta-carotene approved as additives. Many of the substances can now be produced using genetic engineering or have been genetically modified. On the other hand, only a fraction of the substances are approved for organic food. There are also some differences between the individual organic associations.

Admission requirements and procedures

This applies to food additives Prohibition principle with reservation of permission (source). The substances may only be used if this has been expressly permitted by a statutory order. The legislature thus determines which substances are approved for which foods under which conditions.

The law on additives is pan-European organized. The admission requirements apply to the entire European Union. Both approvals and bans are directly binding for all member states. International committees of experts check whether they are harmless before approval. These bodies include the JECFA (Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives), a joint expert committee of the WHO and FAO and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).

As part of the admission procedure, applicants must provide three pieces of evidence:

  1. The substance must be harmless to health.
  2. The substance must be technologically necessary.
  3. The consumer must not be deceived or misled.

Some of the substances are approved for all foods, others only for certain product groups or individual foods. For many substances, quantity limits and / or a so-called ADI value set.

The ADI value (Acceptable Daily Intake) quantifies the acceptable daily intake of an additive in milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which a person can consume every day for life without harming health. The basis for determining an ADI value are usually feeding experiments with rats or mice. Substances that do not show toxicity are assigned an unlimited ADI value. These are mainly additives that are natural metabolic products of the human organism. But: The ADI value does not take into account the consumption of additives in children and adolescents, whose acceptable daily dose is often lower due to their height and weight. In addition, neither the actual consumption, the combined consumption nor the simultaneous intake of several additives (for example with a similar effect) is included. Further information is available online under Additives.


Additives must be in the ingredient list are listed. There are classes that combine additives with the same or a similar effect. These are with the Class names as well as the Sales description or the E number perform.

Class name

Describes the technological purpose of an additive such as a stabilizer, emulsifier, dye or gelling agent.

Sales description

Is the general or chemical name of an additive such as xanthan or sodium nitrite.

E number

Every additive approved in the EU has an E number. This is the same in all member countries.

At loose or unpackaged goods the additives used must be clearly legible on a sign next to the goods, on a notice, in an accompanying brochure or something similar. Are additives for food without restriction (quantum satis, qs), these may only be used in accordance with good manufacturing practice in the amount necessary to achieve the desired effect. Here, too, the prerequisite is that the consumer is not misled.

For some additives there are also special markings:

  • So food carries the note "with nitrite curing salt"If it contains sodium or potassium nitrite.
  • The hint "with nitrate“Applies to foods containing sodium or potassium nitrate.
  • If a food contains more than 10 milligrams of sulfur dioxide per kilogram or liter, it must contain the note "sulphurized" wear.
  • Olives with a content of iron (II) gluconate (E 579) or iron (II) lactate (E 585) are labeled "blackened".
  • Fresh citrus fruits, melons, apples and pears, on which the additives E 901 to E 904, E 912 or E 914 are used for surface treatment, are labeled "waxed„.
  • Meat products with a content of additives of the numbers E 338 to E 341, E 450 to E 452 are labeled with “with phosphate”.
  • Table sweets and other foods that contain aspartame or aspartame-acesulfame may only be placed on the market if the notice "contains phenylalanine“Is specified.
  • Table sweets with a content of additives of the numbers E 420, E 421, E 953, E 965 to E 967 and other foods with a content of these additives of more than 100 grams in one kilogram or one liter may only be placed on the market, if the note "can have a laxative effect if consumed to excess“Is specified.

Potential Risks

In addition to the extensive and clear labeling requirements, there are also some Labeling gapsthat can mislead or even harm the consumer. So must Additives in ingredients are not declared insofar as they have no technological effect there. If the margarine product contains emulsifiers or colorings as additives, these must be declared. However, if a product contains precisely this margarine as an ingredient (e.g. in a ready-made meal), the emulsifiers and coloring agents do not have to be labeled, although these are contained in the product. In this way, there may be numerous additives in the end product without being visible on the packaging. This is particularly problematic for allergy sufferers and people with a tendency to pseudo-allergies.

Furthermore, so-called functional additives be problematic. The term came up in the course of clean labeling and mostly summarizes artificially produced ingredients that replace additives in the end product that consumers see rather critically. For example, extracts such as whey or wheat protein are used as flavor enhancers. Yeast extract is also used in the list of ingredients as a typical substitute for the flavor enhancer glutamate and gives the end product a spicier and more intense taste. Products with yeast extract can, however, be advertised with the note "Without the additive flavor enhancer". According to the website of the additive museum, these are more or less “imitation additives”, for which there is usually no independent safety test and which can mislead the consumer.

Ultimately, the question of whether food additives safe and harmless to health are, neither affirm nor deny. In isolated cases, tests have shown negative effects on nutrient uptake, allergic reactions, intolerance reactions or an intensification of metabolic disorders. Changes in taste are also possible. The effects were mostly triggered by amounts of additives that are normally not achieved in practice.

Even if there are no known negative effects for most substances, there is always one Residual risk. Scientific tests are usually carried out with an additive, mostly on animals. These results can neither be transferred to humans nor applied to reality. Because we usually include a whole hodgepodge of additives, theirs Interactions have not been investigated. Stay too summing effects in this way undetected.

Additives are most likely to be of concern for Allergy sufferers (Soy protein, mold allergy sufferers) or people with Metabolic diseases. In addition, so-called Pseudo allergies occur. The symptoms are similar to those of an allergy, but are not life threatening. After consuming colorants, thickeners or preservatives (e.g. azo dyes, carrageenan, sorbic acid, benzoic acid) tingling in the mouth, skin rashes or slight breathing difficulties may occur. Real allergies against additives, however, are rare.

Possible risks from individual additives are listed in the Additives table tool. Here you can also find information on the production of additives using genetic engineering or the approval in organic foods.

[su_icon_panel shadow = “0px 1px 2px #eeeeee“ icon = “icon: hand-o-down“ icon_size = “26 ″]Lookup tip: Table tool food additives [/ su_icon_panel]

News: titanium dioxide as "not classified as safe"

In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority had no concerns about titanium dioxide and classified the additive approved as E171 as safe.

The authority sees this differently now. According to the evaluation of current studies, a carcinogenic effect of the dye can no longer be ruled out. According to their own information, the EU Commission and the Council of Member States were informed. It is now up to them to consider “appropriate measures to ensure consumer protection”.

Titanium dioxide is used in confectionery such as chewing gum, but also baked goods, soups and salad dressings. In France, the use of the substance in food is already banned.

It is not possible to know all of the almost 320 approved additives and their use in food. But that is not necessary either. There are some basic recommendations to deal with the potential risks to the best of your knowledge, even if there is not 100% certainty. Allergy sufferers and people with certain metabolic disorders are advised to be particularly careful with treated foods.