The manufacturing and industrial processes in the food and beverage industry are complex and delicate. Every step needs to be handled with care while prioritizing consumer safety.
The same applies to every single ingredient used in the process, down to the food additives that are used in minute quantities. No matter how small the amount of additives and preservatives you need in the production, the role these chemicals play is immensely important.
Before understanding the industrial significance of food additives, it makes sense to understand their history and evolution in the industrial context.
Food additives in history
Surprisingly, food additives aren’t a recent thing but date back to the early phases of human existence. People have been using it right from the time they started cultivating food.
The aim was to safeguard food from one harvest to the next, preserving its taste, appearance, and nutritional value. Gradually, the role of additives extended beyond preservation as people started using them to add distinct colors and flavors to food.
With the advent of industrial manufacturing, innovative chemicals came to the forefront, and their usage became a part of the industrial processes.
The innovations in food science and technology have led to a substantial increase in the range and use of food additives today. They facilitate large-scale production of a wide range of products of high quality that consumers can access at reasonable prices.
Overview of industrial food additives
Food additive, in the industrial context, is any substance used in the production, processing, packaging, transportation, and storage of food.
These are categorized and direct and indirect additives. Essentially, direct additives are the ones used for specific purposes, such as a sweetener. Manufacturers need to list these on the labels.
Conversely, indirect food additives are substances used in small quantities during packaging, storage, or transportation.
According to the norms of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, food manufacturers have to prove the safety of a substance before using it in contact with food. So it becomes vital to keep an eye on everything that comes under either of these categories.
From a consumer’s perspective, reading the additives on a food label is often bewildering because the list is long and unfamiliar. So both businesses and consumers need to understand the value of food additives and know the ones that are safe and permissible.
Advantages of food additives
When it comes to industrial manufacturing processes in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, one cannot overlook the role of food additives as an ingredient. Here are the advantages they serve.
Perhaps, the most important application of these substances is the enhancement of food flavors. For example, artificial sweeteners and sodium benzoate are used for adding flavor to carbonated drinks or juices.
Foaming agents add the zing and give them the rich foamy consistency that they are loved for. Similarly, mineral salts are used for adding texture and flavor to savory dishes.
Another reason why the F&B segment cannot manage without additives is that they prevent premature spoilage of perishable products.
Thankfully, there is a host of compounds that are capable of saving products from oxidizing or going rancid. The list is topped by sodium tripolyphosphate food grade, which is specifically useful for meat and marine products.
The potent compound ensures consumer safety by curbing mold and bacterial growth. At the same time, it increases the shelf life of the products and maintains the quality until they reach the consumers.
Better appearance and consistency
Food additives and preservatives can play a key role in maintaining the appealing appearance and consistency of the products. Flour treatment compounds improve baking quality, while anti-caking agents prevent lumps in the ingredients.
Glazing and gelling agents go beyond adding luster to the foods but also protect them. Some additives can even increase product volumes without altering its composition.
Improve and maintain nutritive value
Apart from preserving the taste, appearance, and shelf life of products, some additives can even improve and maintain their nutritive value.
Manufacturers add Vitamins A, C, D, E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, pyridoxine, calcium carbonate, folic acid, iron, and zinc oxide to foods like flour, breakfast cereals, bread, biscuits, iodized salt, pasta, milk, margarine and gelatin desserts.
Vitamin C is often listed as ascorbic acid on the labels, while alpha-tocopherol is an alternative name for vitamin E.
Colors are also additives
Compounds such as dyes and pigments are used commonly for food coloring and are technically regarded as additives. These are often used for enhancing color loss due to processing or prolonged storage.
While pigments from natural sources, such as minerals, vegetables, or animals do not require certification, artificial colors need testing by the manufacturer and the FDA to validate quality, purity, and safety.
Consumer safety matters the most
When it comes to the use of chemicals, including additives and preservatives, in the food and beverage industry, consumer safety matters the most.
While any business needs to do it to protect its reputation and goodwill, it is also regulatory compliance that they need to fulfill. Not doing so can get them penalized, even to the extent of putting the products off the shelf.
Going the extra mile with safety is important because modern consumers are far more conscious than they ever were and wouldn’t buy a product even when there is a shadow of doubt regarding safety.
Besides additive safety, transparency is a key aspect that businesses need to be aware of. It is important to ensure that every compound used in the products is thoroughly tested and clearly mentioned on the product labels. Not doing so only elevates the risk of losing one’s credibility and even encountering legal hassles if a consumer decides to bring up the concern.
Most importantly, business owners need to be very careful about every single ingredient they use and make sure that there isn’t even a minor risk involved. Choosing the right manufacturer for these additives and compounds can make all the difference because it decides the quality and integrity of these chemicals.
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