Food additives, enzymes and flavourings

Published 22.08.2013     Modified 27.08.2013

The Regulation 2008/1333 harmonises the use of food additives in the Community and EEA countries like Norway.  This Regulation replaces previous Directives and Decisions concerning food additives permitted for use in foods.

European Union (EU) legislation requires most additives used in foods to be labelled clearly in the list of ingredients, with their function, followed by either their name or E number. An E number means that it has passed safety tests and has been approved for use here and in the rest of the EU.

Food additives are grouped by what they do. The additives that you are most likely to come across on food labels are:

  • antioxidants (stop food becoming rancid or changing colour by reducing the chance of fats combining with oxygen)
  • colours
  • emulsifiers, stabilisers, gelling agents and thickeners (help to mix or thicken ingredients)
  • flavour enhancers (used to bring out the flavour of foods)
  • preservatives (used to keep food safer for longer)
  • sweeteners (intense sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar whereas bulk sweeteners have a similar sweetness to sugar

EU regulation:

Food Additives - New regulations on food additives, food enzymes and flavourings  

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