Safety and regulation

Safety and regulation

    Safety and regulation
    • Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels and tolerable concentrations of contaminants in individual foods are determined on the basis of the "No Observed Adverse Effect Level" (NOAEL) in animal experiments, by using a safety factor (usually 100). The maximum concentrations of contaminants allowed by legislation are often well below toxicological tolerance levels, because such levels can often be reasonably achieved by using good agricultural and manufacturing practices.The establishment of ADIs for certain emerging food contaminants is currently an active area of research and regulatory debate.A preservative is a natural or synthetic chemical that is added to products such as foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, biological samples, wood, etc. to prevent decomposition by microbial growth or by undesirable chemical changes.

    Preservatives in foods

    • Preservative food additives can be used alone or in conjunction with other methods of food preservation. Preservatives may be antimicrobial preservatives, which inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi and mold growth, or antioxidants such as oxygen absorbers, which inhibit the oxidation of food constituents. Common antimicrobial preservatives include calcium propionate, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium hydrogen sulfite, etc.) and disodium EDTA. Antioxidants include BHA and BHT. Other preservatives include formaldehyde (usually in solution), glutaraldehyde (kills insects), ethanol and methylchloroisothiazolinone. The benefits and safety of many artificial food additives (including preservatives) are the subject of debate among academics and regulators specializing in food science and toxicology, and of course biology.

    Natural food preservation

    • Natural substances such as salt, sugar, vinegar, and diatomaceous earth are also used as traditional preservatives. Certain processes such as freezing, pickling, smoking and salting can also be used to preserve food. Another group of preservatives targets enzymes in fruits and vegetables that continue to metabolize after they are cut. For instance, citric and ascorbic acids from lemon or other citrus juice can inhibit the action of the enzyme phenolase which turns surfaces of cut apples and potatoes brown. FDA standards do not currently require fruit and vegetable product labels to reflect the type of preservative used in the products.

    Food colouring

    • Food coloring (colouring) is any substance that is added to food or drink to change its colour. Food colouring is used both in commercial food production and in domestic cooking. Due to its safety and general availability, food colouring is also used in a variety of non-food applications, for example in home craft projects and educational settings.

    Purpose of food coloring

    • People associate certain colors with certain flavors, and the color of food can influence the perceived flavor in anything from candy to wine. For this reason, food manufacturers add dyes to their products. Sometimes the aim is to simulate a color that is perceived by the consumer as natural, such as adding red coloring to glace cherries (which would otherwise be beige), but sometimes it is for effect, like the green ketchup that Heinz launched in 2000.

    • While most consumers are aware that food with bright or unnatural colors (such as the green ketchup mentioned above) likely contain food coloring, far fewer people know that seemingly "natural" foods such as oranges and salmon are sometimes also dyed to mask natural variations in color. Color variation in foods throughout the seasons and the effects of processing and storage often make color addition commercially advantageous to maintain the color expected or preferred by the consumer. Some of the primary reasons include:
    • Offsetting color loss due to light, air, extremes of temperature, moisture, and storage conditions.
    • Masking natural variations in color.
    • Enhancing naturally occurring colors.
    • Providing identity to foods.
    • Protecting flavors and vitamins from damage by light.
    • Decorative or artistic purposes such as cake icing.


    • Food colorings are tested for safety by various bodies around the world and sometimes different bodies have different views on food color safety. In the United States, FD&C numbers (which generally indicates that the FDA has approved the colorant for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics) are given to approved synthetic food dyes that do not exist in nature, while in the European Union, E numbers are used for all additives, both synthetic and natural, that are approved in food applications.Most other countries have their own regulations and list of food colors which can be used in various applications, including maximum daily intake limits.Natural colors are not required to be tested by a number of regulatory bodies throughout the world, including the United States FDA. The FDA lists "color additives exempt from certification" for food in subpart A of the Code of Federal Regulations - Title 21 Part 73. However, this list contains substances which may have synthetic origins.

    Natural food dyes

    A growing number of natural food dyes are being commercially produced, partly due to consumer concerns surrounding synthetic dyes. Some examples include:
    • Caramel coloring (E150), made from caramelized sugar, used in cola products and also in cosmetics.
    • Annatto (E160b), a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the Achiote.
    • A green dye made from chlorella algae (chlorophyll, E140)
    • Cochineal (E120), a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus.
    • Betanin extracted from beets.
    • Turmeric (curcuminoids, E100)
    • Saffron (carotenoids, E160a)

    Elderberry juice

    • To ensure reproducibility, the coloured components of these substances are often provided in highly purified form, and for increased stability and convenience, they can be formulated in suitable carrier materials (solid and liquids)


    • The impact of chemical contaminants on consumer health and well-being is often apparent only after many years of prolonged exposure at low levels (e.g. cancer). Chemical contaminants present in foods are often unaffected by thermal processing (unlike most microbiological agents). Chemical contaminants can be classified according to the source of contamination and the mechanism by which they enter the food product.

Last modified: Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 7:14 PM