Additives and Preservatives are substances added to food. They can be broadly grouped
by their functions as follows:
Food Additives by Numbers
The Food Standards code requires food labels to list all ingredients in descending
order of proportion by weight, except for water, which can be listed last.
The labelling required by law is there to inform consumers about the presence of
additives in foods.
Additives are required to be identified by their code number. The numbers used are
based on an international system used to identify food additives.
The code numbering system replaces long names on labels but still
provides consumers with adequate information about the presence of food additives.
This means, for example, that the substance known as brilliant blue cannot be listed
simply as colouring. The manufacturer of food containing a colouring
must use not only the class name colouring but also the specific name
of the additive: for example Colouring (Brilliant blue FCF). To simplify
the label, the number for this additive may be used instead of the specific name:
for example colouring (133)
Food labelling allows you to identify the presence of additives in packaged food
and to make an informed choice about the foods you buy.
Food additives by alphabet
Food additive by numerical order
What is the E prefix?
Some food labels may list additives with the prefix letter E. If a food
additive number has the prefix letter E, the European Community has
approved it. The additive must still be approved in Food Standards Code to be permitted
for use in Australia.
Who Controls the Food Additives?
The use of food additive in foods is regulated by Food Standards Code and enforced
in Australia under State and Territory food laws. Foods made in New Zealand may
also comply with the provisions of the Food Standards Code.
The Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) is responsible for developing,
varying and reviewing food standards for foods available in Australia and New Zealand
and for a range of other functions including coordinating national food surveillance
and recalls systems, conducting research, assessing policies about imported foods
and developing codes of practice with industry
ANZFA is responsible for the development of, or variation to, food standards in
the Food Standards Code. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZFSC),
made up of State, Territory, Commonwealth and New Zealand Health Ministers, makes
the final decision.
Before ANZFA recommends to ANZFSC the use of any new additive in a particular food,
it asks these questions:
Is the additive safe to eat (at the requested level in that particular food)?
Are there good technological reasons for the use of the additive?
Will consumers be clearly informed about its presence?
When satisfied with these points ANZFA recommends a maximum level of additive permitted
in particular foods, based on technological need and providing it is well within
Are Additives Safe?
An additive is authorised for use by ANZFA only if it can be demonstrated that no
harmful effects are expected to result from the requested use. This involves an
evaluation of data obtained through extensive testing of the additive. A decision
on food additive safety is based on acceptable daily intake (ADI), which is the
amount of a food additive that can be eaten every day for an entire lifetime without
Adverse Reactions (Intolerance) to Food Additives
Food additives do not cause allergic reactions. Since the reactions are non IgE-mediated
they are called food intolerance. Therefore, skin prick test and blood (RAST) is
unhelpful in diagnosing these reactions. Like all food intolerances, the only way
of diagnosing adverse reactions to food additive is to do Elimination Diets followed
by Double-blind Placebo-controlled Food Challenges (DBPCFC).
The lack of agreement about the role of food additives in childhood allergies is
fuelled by the paucity of valid objective data. These food additives are the ones
most often blamed:
In conclusion, sulphites are fairly common potential triggers in
asthma. The Azo dyes tartrazine and ponceau, the non-Azo dye erythrosine, the benzoate
preservatives and MSG are rare potential triggers.
It is important to note that intolerance to additive does not depend on whether
the food additive is derived from natural or synthetic source. Far more people are
allergic to "natural" foods like peanuts, milk & eggs than to artificial
The labelling of food products helps people who are
sensitive to some food additives to avoid them.