Understanding food additives
Understanding food additives can be difficult as they often contain numbers or words you’ve never heard of. This can cause worry among parents about what they are feeding their children. Yet food additives play an important role ensuring the food is safe to eat by the time it’s consumed.
Why are food additives used?
Food additives are often used to:
- Prevent the spoilage of food and increase shelf life
- Add colour and flavour to a food, enhancing the taste or flavour
- Increase the thickness of a sauce and improve the quality of a food
If you would like to look up a specific food additive, please follow this link
How do I know if my food is safe?
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) decide what food additives and how much can be added into foods. Rigorous testing is used to determine if the food additive is safe. FSANZ also determines if there is a legitimate reason for adding an additive to a food, and passes on information about the additive to consumers. Foods that you find in the Australian food supply are safe to your health as the additives are used in incredibly small amounts – too small to have any negative health effects.
Should I be worried?
Some parents avoid buying food with additives due to worries that it can cause hyperactivity or other health issues. However, this is only an issue for children who suffer from allergies or intolerances towards food additives. If you believe that your child may have an allergy or intolerance, refer to our fact sheet on allergies and intolerances and contact your GP or find an accredited practising dietitian to help.
What does the Healthy Kids Association recommend?
We encourage children to have a wide variety of foods from the five food groups and choosing fresh options means you’re reducing consumption of food additives. However, some foods need some preservatives – bread, for instance, would not be safe for consumption by the time it reached our homes if it didn’t include preservatives. If you want to reduce your intake of food additives, it’s best to cut back on “extra” foods such as chips or confectionery, as while they contain food preservatives, they also provide very little nutritional benefit.
Don’t stress about the numbers and difficult-to-pronounce words! Stick to a variety of foods from the five food groups and you can rest assured that you’re feeding your child well.