Food additive

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Food additives are compounds that are added to food to achieve chemical , physical or physiological effects. They are used to regulate or stabilize the structure, taste, smell, color and chemical and microbiological shelf life of processed foods, i.e. their usefulness and nutritional value , and to ensure trouble-free production of the food. It can be both synthetic substances, and in some cases natural substances that are added as active ingredients. In contrast to processing aids Not only are food additives tolerated in the finished product, but their presence is expressly required to achieve the desired properties.



In the entire European Economic Area, the use of food additives is regulated by Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 . It defines a food additive as:

"A substance with or without nutritional value, which is usually neither consumed as a food itself nor used as a characteristic food ingredient and which is added to a food for technological reasons during production, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage, whereby it is added itself or its by-products directly or indirectly become or become part of the food; "

- EUR-Lex

On their own, additives are not consumed as food and are not characteristic ingredients. These are compounds that are added to the food to achieve chemical, physical or even physiological effects. Additives are required, for example, to regulate or stabilize the structure, taste, color, chemical and microbiological shelf life of processed foods, i.e. their usefulness and nutritional value, and to ensure the trouble-free production of the food. Typical technological properties are the preservation or improvement of baking ability (e.g. baking powder ), spreadability, pourability (e.g. flow aids ) or machine suitability (e.g. modified starches ), furthermore the inhibition of microbial growth ( spoilage , also Formation of toxins, for example through mold or botulin ) or the oxidation of substances ( e.g. rancidity in fats ).

Food additives that are not identified as typical ingredients of traditional foods, especially flavor enhancers and man-made additives, are rather unpopular with consumers .


According to the Food and Feed Code (LFGB), food additives are equated with:

  • Substances that are not consumed as food themselves and are not a characteristic ingredient of a food and that are added to a food for reasons other than technological,
  • Minerals and trace elements and their compounds, with the exception of table salt ,
  • Amino acids and their derivatives,
  • the vitamins A and D and derivatives thereof.

Not counted as food additives and not equated with:

  • Substances which are of natural origin or which are chemically identical to natural substances and which are mainly added because of their nutritional value, smell or taste ( aromatic substances )

Also not counted among the additives:

Enzymes are usually not additives, but processing aids and do not have to be declared if they no longer have any effect in the end product or are removed beforehand. If enzymes are still present in the end product and if they have a technological effect, they are additives.

legal framework


With industrialization, chemical compounds that support the production and preservation of food were also increasingly used in food production. If such compounds were called "foreign substances" in the German Food Act (LMG) of 1936, as they do not occur in natural foods or their raw materials, the term was adopted with the Food and Consumer Goods Act of August 15, 1974 ( LMBG ) the "additives" introduced. 1989 saw the listing of the additive classes in Directive 89/107 / EEC, the first harmonization of additives for the European internal market. With the Additive Approval Ordinance of January 29, 1998, the German food law approvals were adapted to several EC additive directives developed for the common market . But it was not until the Food, Consumer Goods and Feed Code ( LFGB ) dated September 1, 2005 that this term was brought into line with the international definition of food additives .

On January 20, 2009, Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 16, 2008 on food additives came into force. As an EU regulation , this regulation applies directly in all member states of the EU; it does not need to be implemented in national law. National regulations that conflict with this regulation are no longer valid. Only areas that are not covered by the relevant EU legal regulation can still be regulated nationally. Therefore, the German additive approval regulation only applies in parts. Since it came into force, Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 has now been adapted and supplemented almost a hundred times, e.g. B. to ensure more safety and transparency in the use of food additives and to clarify which specific additives are allowed in which dosage in individual food categories.

Requirements for use

Food additives are prohibited subject to permission  - this means that all substances are automatically prohibited if they are not expressly permitted. For the European Union , when Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 comes into effect on January 20, 2010, it is expressly regulated that nobody in the member states use an unauthorized food additive or such a substance or a food in which a food additive is present, place on the market may, when their use is not consistent with Regulation (EC) no. 1333/2008 in line, so this substance is not listed there, or he local restrictions is used contrary. The positive list of permitted substances from the Additive Approval Ordinance (ZZulV) is suspended and replaced by Annex I, Part B of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008. The conditions of use, including the dosage quantities, for food additives are listed according to food categories in Annex II, Part E of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 and apply uniformly throughout the EU. National restrictions on traditional products, such as the German purity law for beer must be explicitly listed in Annex IV of Regulation (EC) no. 1333/2008.

Further regulations regulate the use of other substances that may be added to food but do not come under the definitions for food additives. In the EU these are, among others

In Switzerland, the Swiss Ordinance on Additives (ZuV) regulates this accordingly; Appendix 1a contains the list of permitted additives. In Germany, the LFGB regulates the punishment for violations. The following are responsible for the technical evaluations:

Dosage and labeling

Most additives are only permitted for certain foods and only in limited quantities. Is the maximum amount prescribed not numeric, the restriction applies to the rules of good manufacturing practice ( Good Manufacturing Practice , GMP): "As much as necessary, as little as possible" ( quantum satis .) Here, the addition of these substances is not permitted unless he:

  • is harmless to health according to the current scientific status,
  • is technically necessary and
  • does not deceive the consumer.

Food additives must be specified in the list of ingredients for the end consumer ( consumer protection ). The food must be labeled as such - either with its scientific name or with the trivial name or with the E number . The German Additive Traffic Ordinance (ZVerkV) contains further regulations.

INS numbers

Outside the EU, the E-number system is also used in Australia and New Zealand and by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The FAO calls these numbers INS numbers (INS = International Numbering System ). In the INS system, the same numbers are used for the additives as in the European Union, but without the leading "E".

Classification (functional classes)

Directive 89/107 / EEC , which came into force in 1989 , lists 25 categories in its annex for food additives that are largely identical to the current functional classes of the EU. Food additives in the EU are currently divided into 27 functional classes according to Annex I of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 (as of December 2020) and in Switzerland according to Annex 1 of the Additives Ordinance (ZuV) (as of July 2020) . The FAO also divides food additives into 27 - in some cases different - functional classes.

The German additive approval regulation , which is no longer valid in this area, divided the additives into colorings and sweeteners and other additives , the latter were then subdivided into 25 technological purposes in Appendix 7 .

Emulsifier E322 - lecithin formulations
Class name description
1 26 Sweeteners Substances that are used in food for sweetening or in table sweeteners. Sweeteners approved in the EU are listed in Annex II, Part B, No. 2 of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, and sweeteners approved in Switzerland in Annex, 1a Section b. of the Additives Ordinance.
2 9 Dyes Substances that are added to a food in order to restore its color or to give it color. These can be natural components of food or natural raw materials that are normally not consumed as food or used as food ingredients. Dyes approved in the EU are listed in Appendix II, Part B, No. 1 of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, and dyes approved in Switzerland are listed in Appendix 1a, Section a. of the Additives Ordinance.
3 21 Preservatives Substances that reduce the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and / or the effects of microorganisms and thereby extend the shelf life of food.
4th 4th Antioxidants Substances that protect against the harmful effects of oxidation, such as the rancidity of fat and / or changes in color, and thus extend the shelf life of food.
5 8th Carriers Substances that themselves have no technological effect and are used to dissolve, dilute, disperse or otherwise physically modify food additives (but also flavors or enzymes, nutrients and / or other substances) without their function to change. They are only used to simplify the handling, application or use of the additives. Carriers approved in the EU are listed in Appendix III of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, and carriers approved in Switzerland are listed in Appendix 5 of the Additives Ordinance.
6th n. d. Acidulant ( acid ) Substances that acidify a food and / or give it a sour taste. Included in the FAO's acid regulator functional class .
7th 1 Acidity regulators Substances that are added to adjust the pH value of a food. Unlike acidulants, these are also used to increase the pH value and thus reduce the acidity.
8th 2 Release agent Substances that are added to reduce the tendency of the individual particles of a foodstuff to stick to one another.
9 3 Antifoam Substances that are added to prevent or reduce foam formation.
10 6th Fillers Substances that increase the volume of a food but make no significant contribution to its usable energy content.
11 11 Emulsifiers Substances that are used to produce and / or maintain a uniform dispersion from the two or more immiscible phases (e.g. oil and water).
12th 12th Melting salts Substances that are added to cheese to disperse the proteins it contains and thus bring about a homogeneous distribution of fat and other components.
13th 13th Firming agents Substances that are added to fruit and vegetables in order to give or maintain their cell tissue firmness and freshness or which, in combination with a gelling agent, produce or strengthen a gel.
14th 14th Flavor enhancers Substances that are added to enhance the taste or smell of a food.
15th 16 Foaming agent Substances that are added to form a uniform dispersion of a gaseous phase in a liquid or solid food.
16 17th Gelling agent Substances that are added to give food a firmer consistency through gel formation.
17th 18th Coating agents (including lubricants ) Substances that are applied to the surface of a food to give it a shiny appearance or to form a protective coating.
18th 19th Humectants Substances that are added to food to reduce or prevent it from drying out. They offset the effects of a low moisture atmosphere or promote the dissolution of a powder in an aqueous medium.
19th n. d. Modified starches Substances that are produced through a chemical treatment of edible starches.
20th 20th Packing gases ( protective gas ) all gases other than air that are filled into the container together with the food.
21 22nd Propellants all gases that are put into the container to force the food out of the container.
22nd 23 Raising agent Substances or combinations of substances that increase the volume of a dough by releasing gases.
23 24 Complexing agents Substances that are added to bind metal ions through complexation .
24 25th Stabilizers Substances that are added to maintain the physico-chemical state of a food. This can serve to stabilize a dispersion , the color or the binding of food pieces in reconstituted foods. At the FAO, color stabilizers are grouped together in a separate functional class.
25th 27 Thickener Substances that are added to increase viscosity.
26 15th Flour treatment agents Substances, with the exception of emulsifiers, that can be added to the flour or dough to improve the baking properties.
27 n. d. Contrast enhancer Substances that are applied to the surface of fruit and vegetables in order to contribute to previously depigmented areas (e.g. by laser treatment) so that these areas stand out from the remaining surface. This results from a color reaction with certain components of the epidermis.
n. d. 5 Bleach Substances that are used to discolor food.
n. d. 7th Carbonizing agents Substances that are used for the carbonation of food.
n. d. 10 Color stabilizers Substances that are used to stabilize, maintain or intensify the color of food. Included in the functional class stabilizers in the EU and Switzerland .

Notes (A.)

  1. a b n. D. = This functional class is not defined in the relevant standard.

The Regulation (EU) no. 231/2012 contains the specifications for the Annex I to Regulation (EC) No. Food additives listed 1333/2008.

Health assessment

Approval as a food additive can only be considered if the toxicological harmlessness is justified and proven. The amount is determined in which no measurable effect occurs in any test ( NOEL ). This value is divided by a safety factor (usually 100) to determine the permitted daily dose (ADI). If the additives do not have an ADI value, no health risk has been identified after long-term use. The ADI values ​​are regularly checked using the latest test methods. Statutory maximum values ​​are set in such a way that a consumer cannot exceed the ADI values ​​with normal consumption.

For the first time in 2007, a scientific study published in the British medical journal The Lancet came to the conclusion that some additives lead to symptoms of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in an average, representative group of children . This applies to the coloring agents quinoline yellow (E 104), yellow orange S (E 110), azorubine (E 122) and allura red AC (E 129) as well as the preservative sodium benzoate (E 211). According to the authorities, the EFSA tested all food colors for their tolerance. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment assessed the observed effects as minor. An analysis of the study shows no clear evidence of a link between additive intake and hyperactivity. After further testing, additives E 102 ( tartrazine ), E 104 (quinoline yellow), E 110 (yellow orange S), E 122 (azorubine), E 124 ( cochineal red A ) and E 129 (allura red AC) must be approved from July 20, 2010 Wear a note on the label: "May impair activity and attention in children".

Apart from scientifically examined effects, there are lists of additives with unsubstantiated information such as “questionable”, “dangerous” or “carcinogenic”, which can lead to uncertainty among consumers. The Villejuifer Hospital Research Center in France, which has clearly distanced itself from these lists , is often named as the author . The hoax has been circulating in this or a similar form since the late 1970s.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: E number  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Art. 3 (2) Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008
  2. a b Werner Baltes, Reinhard Matissek: Food chemistry . Springer DE, 2011, ISBN 3-642-16539-7 , pp. 154, 214 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. “Without artificial additives” more important than “organic” / Ipsos examines the nutrition trend in Germany .
  4. § 2 Definitions, Paragraph 3 LFGB .
  5. Ordinance on the reorganization of food law provisions on additives from January 29, 1998, in BGBl. 1998 I p. 230
  6. BVL - approval of additives. In: Retrieved December 21, 2020 .
  7. Regulation (EU) No. 1129/2011 of November 11, 2011 on food additives .
  8. a b Werner Baltes : Lebensmittelchemie, 6th edition, Springer, 2007, doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-540-38183-9_10
  9. Articles 4 and 5 of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 16, 2008 on food additives; Art. 35 for entry into force
  10. a b Ordinance of the FDHA on the permitted additives in food. The Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), July 1, 2020, accessed on December 20, 2020 .
  11. § 6 Paragraph 1 a) LFGB, Paragraph 3 refers to Regulation (EG) 1333/2008. Criminal offenses in Section 59 Paragraph 1 Items 1 to 3 and Paragraph 2 Item 5 LFGB
  12. BfR: Food additives
  13. Ordinance on requirements for additives and the placing on the market of additives for technological purposes (Zusatzstoff-Verkehrsverordnung - ZVerkV)
  14. a b CLASS NAMES AND THE INTERNATIONAL NUMBERING SYSTEM FOR FOOD ADDITIVES CXG36-1989. In: Codex Alimentarius. FAO , 2019, accessed December 25, 2020 .
  15. Consolidated text: Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives - EUR-Lex. In: December 16, 2008, accessed December 20, 2020 .
  16. Appendix 7 ZZulV. In: Retrieved December 23, 2020 .
  17. Donna McCann, Angelina Barrett, Alison Cooper, Debbie Crumpler, Lindy Dalen: Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial . In: The Lancet . tape 370 , no. 9598 , November 3, 2007, ISSN  0140-6736 , p. 1560–1567 , doi : 10.1016 / s0140-6736 (07) 61306-3 (English, [accessed July 4, 2017]).
  18. Netzeitung: Food coloring promotes hyperactivity ( Memento from September 8, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) from September 6, 2007.
  19. Hyperactivity and additives - is there a connection? (PDF; 106 kB) BfR Opinion No. 040/2007 of September 13, 2007.
  20. Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 , Annex 5, p. 18. List of food colors for which additional information must be provided from January 20, 2010.
  21. Regulation (EU) No. 238/2010 of the Commission of March 22, 2010 amending Annex V of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the labeling requirements for beverages that exceed 1.2 % Alcohol (volume concentration) and certain food colors
  22. Federal Institute for Risk Assessment: 06/1997 Food additives are harmless to health March 10, 1997.