Food Additives: Pros, Cons, and Some Ideas for the Future Essay examples

2827 Words Nov 17th, 2009 12 Pages
Food Additives: Pros, Cons, and Some Ideas For The Future

America and indeed much of the world lives off of foodstuffs to which substances have been added to achieve some desired effect. In many ways it is the by-product of industrialization, rapidly expanding populations, technological advances, and changing consumer demand and expectations. It is now an undisputed fact that the foods which we eat on a daily basis are largely processed. By processed, in our contemporary day and age we refer not only to simple changes applied to the food with commonly found natural substances as in the pre-industrial era, but to more complexly engineered changes developed from the designs of food scientists in far-off labs. On the whole, there is
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Figure 1 below shows the large number different types of food additives that are known to scientists today and used in the processing and preparation of food before it reaches the consumer.
(Source: FDA - CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety) As can be seen in the chart, there quite a few effects which additives produce that that may not be familiar the casual reader. Many of these are commonly seen on food packaging by the average consumer, but most people are ignorant as to what these agents and their effects are. For example, anticaking agents have the effect of keeping powders such as milk powder from “caking” or sticking together. Similarly, antifoaming agents prevent foaming from occurring in foods. Antioxidants, a popular term in health food marketing these days for their beneficial health effect, are perhaps misunderstood. These are not merely enriching vitamins; rather, antioxidants act as preservatives when used as an additive. They do this by inhibiting the effects of oxygen on food. Emulsifiers are another seemingly foreign class, allow water and oils to remain mixed together in what is called an ‘emulsion’ – a semi-solid, semi liquid state. Stabilizers are used to help foods maintain a firm texture and prevent them from being too easily manipulated physically. Other additives are more intuitively explained, as in the case of thickeners, flavorings, sweeteners, and chemical preservatives, which do exactly as

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