Making life taste better

Monthly archive for September 2012

Scientists question validity of GM cancer study

cornTop scientists have called into question the credibility of a study suggesting that GM maize can cause cancer in rats.

Rodents fed a lifelong diet of a common strain of GM corn developed breast tumours and suffered damage to their livers and kidneys, according to a team from the University of Caen.

However, others said that the team had used a breed of rat naturally susceptible to cancer, and that the control group was too small.

“Until you know the degree of variation in 90 or 180 control rodents, these results are of no value,” says Anthony Trewavas, a professor of cell biology at Edinburgh University. “That is what should have been done and no doubt reflects the predetermined bias of the experimenters and the funding groups.”

Adds Prof Tom Sanders, head of nutritional sciences research at King’s College London:

“It would appear the authors have gone on a statistical fishing trip.”

The Institute of Food Science & Technology also issued a statement on the study. It said: “Food scientists and technologists can support the responsible introduction of GM techniques provided that issues of product safety, environmental concerns, information and ethics are satisfactorily addressed. IFST considers that they are being addressed, and need even more intensively to continue to be so addressed. Only in this way may the benefits that this technology can confer become available, not least to help feed the world’s escalating population in the coming decades.”



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Food colours

Many natural food colours degrade over time or when they are heated. This is one of the main reasons why colour ingredients are needed.

The colour of our food is an intrinsic part of its appeal. Colours contribute to the taste sensation, whether they are the bright colours we associate with many fruit and vegetables, or the lurid reds and yellows common in Indian dishes. Grey colours give the impression that a food will be tasteless, or even spoiled.

Colour is one of the many facets that food manufacturers have to consider when they Many natural food colours degrade over time or when they are heated. This is one of the main reasons why colour ingredients are needed.are creating food products. Many natural food colours degrade over time or when they are heated, and they need to ensure that the products remain attractive and look edible throughout their life on the shelf. This is one of the main reasons why colour ingredients are needed.

There are three main categories of food colourings: natural colours, browning colours, and artificial colours. The current trend in the market is towards a greater use of natural colours.

Natural colours

Natural colours are extracted and purified directly from nature. The most important natural colours are chlorophyll, carotenoids and flavonoids, which include anthocyanins.

Chlorophyll (E140) is the green pigment present in most plants, and is a vital part of the photosynthesis process by which they get their energy. It is extracted commercially from crops such as alfalfa and grass.

beta-Carotene (E160a) and the other carotenes are yellow-orange pigments found in fruit and vegetables like carrots, mango, papaya and squash. beta-Carotene can be extracted commercially from carrots or palm oil, but is mainly produced synthetically, and is converted into vitamin A in the body. It is also an antioxidant, and may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk of some cancers and heart disease.

Annatto (E160b) is extracted from the achiote tree, which grows in the American tropics. Its colour derives from the two carotenoids, the fat-soluble bixin, which is red, and water-soluble norbixin, which share its E-number. It is used as an orange food colouring in products such as cheese, butter, custard powder and smoked fish. Annatto is unusual among natural food colourings as it has been associated with asthma-type side-effects, which are more commonly attributed to synthetic colours.

Lycopene (E160d) is a another carotenoid. The dark red chemical can be extracted from tomatoes, and is also present in a variety of other red and yellow fruit, as well as being produced synthetically using microorganisms. It is another strong antioxidant, and may help protect the body against degenerative diseases.

Lutein (E161b), another carotenoid which occurs naturally in maize and marigolds, has an orange-red colour. Its primary use as a food colorant is in chicken feed, where it gives a darker yellow yolk, and also yellower chicken skin. It is also believed to be important in eye health.

Anthocyanins (E163) are a group of water-soluble pigments whose colour varies from red to purple. They are widespread throughout the plant kingdom, and are responsible for the red and purple colours of fruit and vegetables such as blackcurrants, red grapes, aubergines and beetroot. However, they are prone to decomposing and losing their characteristic colour on heating, and in acidic conditions.

Browning colours

Browning colours are produced during cooking and processing.

Caramel (E150) is the most familiar browning colour. It is made by the caramelisation of sugars, and the colour ranges from yellow through to dark brown depending on the degree of caramelisation and how it was prepared. It is one of the oldest food colourings, and is used in many different products such as gravy browning, breads and bakery products, chocolates and sweets, and soft drinks such as colas.

Artificial colours

Artificial colours have been used to colour foods for more than a century. They tend to have stronger colours than natural colorants, and most are azo dyes. Over the years, some have been banned from food use, starting with the dye butter yellow, or dimethylazobenzene, which was found to cause cancer in rats and was withdrawn in 1937. Several azo dyes are still used in food, and all have been extensively tested.

A number of artificial food colours have been implicated in causing hyperactivity in children. As a result, several of these are being phased out on a voluntary basis in the UK. Click here for more information on additives and hyperactivity.

Brilliant blue (E133) is a reddish-blue substance that can be used to colour food blue. It can be combined with yellow colours, notably tartrazine, to make food more green. It appears in products such as ice cream, confectionery, soft drinks and tinned peas.

Tartrazine (E102) has gained something of a bad reputation in recent years, with suspicions that it causes hyperactivity and exacerbates asthma. It is a bright yellow colour. Products that can contain tartrazine include sweets, soft drinks and soups.

Heart health

Plant sterols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

High levels of cholesterol are believed to be bad for the heart. Increasing numbers of people in the western world now take statin drugs to help reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in their bloodstream, as it can lead to blocked arteries Plant sterols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But a number of food ingredients are also believed to lower cholesterol levels, and thus contribute to heart health.

Plant sterols and stanols, also known as phytosterols and phytostanols, have been clinically proven to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed in the intestines. They occur naturally in several vegetable oils, notably sea buckthorn oil, corn oil and soy bean oil. These ingredients are commonly added to products such as margarines, yoghurts and breakfast cereals, and products that contain phytosterols are allowed to make this health claim:

Plant sterols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol lowering may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Other ingredients are also believed to have a positive impact on heart health. The omega-3 oils eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease.Other ingredients are also believed to have a positive impact on heart health. The omega-3 oils eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. They are naturally present in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and herring.

Vitamin B1 is also thought to contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system and a health claim is permitted.

Health claims have been approved by both the UK and the US authorities for soy protein and also oat beta-glucans as a way of reducing high cholesterol in patients with high blood pressure.

A claim has also been authorised for the maintenance of normal blood pressure by potassium.

In summary:-

Health claim Ingredient
Contributes to the normal function of the heart EPA and DHA, vitamin B1
Has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease Oat beta-glucan, plant sterols and plant stanol esters

Digestive health

In recent years, these probiotic-bacteria have become popular ingredients in foods designed to promote digestive health.

Foods that claim to improve digestive health are now commonplace on the supermarket shelves. In recent years, these probiotic-bacteria have become popular ingredients in foods designed to promote digestive health. These days, it’s not as simple as adding ‘fibre’ – many more exotic sounding ingredients such as resistant starch, inulin, oligosaccharides and polydextrose are used, not to mention the lactic acid bacteria that are added to yogurts and yogurt drinks.

Inulin, for example, is a carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic soluble fibre. It may help reduce the risk of some infections and relieve the symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. As a prebiotic fibre, it helps promote the growth of the ‘friendly’ bacteria that live in the intestinal tract and play an important role in the digestive process.

In recent years, probiotic bacteria have become popular ingredients in foods designed to promote digestive health. The most common of these are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. The idea is to maintain a healthy balance of these bacteria in the gut, because their numbers can be reduced by illness, stress, poor nutrition and antibiotics. Claims have been made that they can help strengthen the immune system, and reduce the impact of some diseases.

Bone and dental health

Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children.

Several vitamins and minerals are essential for our bones and teeth to grow and remain healthy. It’s crucial, for example, for children to consume sufficient calcium as it’s needed for the growth of strong, dense bones and teeth, and as we get older it’s needed to keep them that way. This is why children are encouraged to drink milk, which is a great source of calcium. It is also important in post-menopausal women, who have a high risk of developing osteoporosis. This causes bones to become brittle and prone to breaking.

Calcium is not alone in this – we also need sufficient vitamin D and  vitamin K. Vitamin D is required by the body to enable the absorption of calcium. As an example, products that contain sufficient levels of both calcium and vitamin D can carry this health claim:

Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children.

This is because it is recognised that calcium and vitamin D are both essential for the normal growth and development of bones, and some children and adolescents may not consume sufficient to ensure that their bones develop properly.

Certain minerals which are important in the maintenance of normal bones and teeth comprise magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, and claims have been authorised for use in products for the general population.

Vitamin C is also important for the formation of the elastic collagen net which forms the base upon which calcium is deposited to form bones and teeth, thus giving bones and teeth an elastic quality and  claims have been authorised for this.

The claims can be summarised as below:

Health Claim Nutrient
Maintenance of normal bones Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin K, Zinc
Maintenance of normal teeth Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, vitamin D
Maintenance of normal collagen formation for the normal function of bones Vitamin C
Maintenance of normal collagen formation for the normal function of teeth Vitamin C
Needed for the growth and development of bone in children Calcium, vitamin D, Phosphorus, Protein

The claims may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.





Blood sugar control

Fiberous carbohydrates are digested slowly.

We get the energy we need from the food we eat. Much of the energy comes in the form of carbohydrates, and if these are rapidly digested the energy is quickly taken up by the body. Such rapidly digested carbohydrates are termed ‘high glycaemic’, as they give a rapid, high peak of blood sugar. But there is a problem here – blood sugar levels rapidly ‘crash’ because of the insulin the body produces to transport the sugar from the blood into the cells. Low blood glucose leads to a lack of alertness and even drowsiness, so if these extreme highs and lows of blood sugar can be levelled out, the body will better use the energy available.

Part of the answer comes in carbohydrates that are digested much more slowly, such as resistant starches, beta-glucan, pectin and sugar replacers. Unlike easily digestible carbohydrates such as simple sugars, these more complex carbohdrates pass through the small intestine unchanged and are digested more slowly in the large intestine where they provide a slower supply of energy, reducing the energy spike.

Blood sugar claims

Health claimFunctional ingredient
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Aribinoxylin from wheat germ
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Beta-glucan from oats and barley
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Pectins
Reduction of postprandial glycaemic response Sugar replacers – ie
Intense sweeteners, eg sucralose; xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol, and polydextrose; D-tagatose and isomaltulose


Carotenoids are found naturally in foods such as fruit, spinach, carrots and eggs.

The importance of certain ingredients in the diet for maintaining health has been known since ancient times. But the need for what we now call vitamins was first realised in the mid-18th century, when the Scottish surgeon James Lind found that citrus fruit helped to prevent sailors on long voyages from developing the disease scurvy.James Lind found that citrus fruit helped to prevent sailors on long voyages from developing the disease scurvy.

Vitamins are organic chemicals that were first isolated in the first half of the 20th century, and while the body is able to make some of these itself, we rely on our diet for the rest. Our bodies also need a number of inorganic chemicals in tiny amounts, mostly metals, and these are called minerals.

Many processed foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, which helps us to consume enough of these vital substances.

Most governments issue lists of recommended daily amounts – RDAs – of each vitamin and mineral that should be supplied by the diet. Many people already eat sufficient in their normal diet, but there are still large groups in each country who do not. In the UK, fortification of margarine with vitamins A and D is compulsory as it is a substitute for butter, which is a good source of these vitamins. Fortification of bread flour is also compulsory in the UK, as milling the flour removes several of the useful B vitamins. Generally, fortification is carried out at no more than 50% of the RDA per daily serving.

Carotenoids are found naturally in foods such as fruit, spinach, carrots and eggs.Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is important for healthy eyesight and bone growth. It is made in the body from precursor chemicals called carotenoids, or ingested directly from meat and dairy products. Carotenoids are found naturally in foods such as fruit, spinach, carrots and eggs.

Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is important in many of the processes carried out by our cells. Some of the most important sources include meat, vegetables, cereals, rice and yeast. The disease beri-beri results from a deficiency in this vitamin, as does Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in alcoholics. Most cases of deficiency in the UK occur in alcoholics, causing confusion, ataxia and coma.

Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is another vitamin that is important in metabolism. It is found in foods like milk, liver, yeast and green vegetables, and can also be used to add colour to foods.

Vitamin B3, better known as niacin, is a vital component of metabolic processes. Deficiency Vitamin B5, now referred to as pantothenic acid, is important in metabolism. It is widespread in foodstuffs, including whole grains, eggs, meat and legumes. It is a familiar ingredient in cosmetics, where it is normally used in the more stable alcohol form, panthenol.causes the disease pellagra. It is commonly found in foods like meat, fruit and vegetables and various nuts and cereals.

Vitamin B5, now referred to as pantothenic acid, is important in metabolism. It is widespread in foodstuffs, including whole grains, eggs, meat and legumes. It is a familiar ingredient in cosmetics, where it is normally used in the more stable alcohol form, panthenol.

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is important in the production of red blood cells and various hormones. It is found in milk, meat, brown rice, whole-wheat grain and nuts.

Vitamin B7, better known as biotin, is again important in metabolism and cell growth, and is widely available in egg yolk, liver, kidney, meat and some vegetables. As a result, deficiency is rare.

Vitamin B9, now usually listed as folic acid and B vitamins, has numerous functions in the body, mainly in amino-acid metabolism. It also has an important role when the body is growing rapidly during pregnancy, resulting in a reduction in the likelihood of neural tube defects such as spina bifida if it is ingested in the right quantities pre-and post-conception. It is found in foods such as green vegetables, peas and beans, and liver as folate. Supplements are important for pregnant women.

Vitamin B12, is a group of related substances, the most important of which is cyanocobalamin. Vitamin B9, now usually listed as folic acid or folate, has numerous functions in the body, mainly in amino-acid metabolismIt is essential for healthy blood and nervous system, and a deficiency ultimately leads to pernicious anaemia. It is found naturally in milk, eggs and meat, but not in vegetables,  so vegetarians need to ensure that they either eat foods fortified with B12, or take a supplement.

Vitamin C is familiar on food labels under its chemical name of ascorbic acid as it is commonly used as an antioxidant. It is needed by the body to synthesis collagen, the protein that makes up much of our connective tissue, and if we don’t get enough, we will develop scurvy. It also helps iron to be absorbed, and works as an antioxidant in the body, helping to protect against the onset of many chronic diseases. It is found in many fruits, and is particularly abundant in citrus fruits. Potatoes are also an important source in the UK diet.
Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins our bodies can make itself, which it does in response to sunlight, but many foods are fortified with it to make sure we get enough. It is actually a group of related chemicals, the calciferols, and has aVitamin E is another group of related chemicals, the tocopherols. These antioxidants are found in many foods, especially oils from sources such as wheatgerm, sunflower, olive and various nut oils. number of functions in the body. These include healthy bone growth, and a deficiency in this vitamin will result in a softening of the bones, or rickets, in children. Good natural sources include oily fish, liver, milk and eggs.

Vitamin E is another group of related chemicals, the tocopherols. These antioxidants are found in many foods, especially oils from sources such as wheatgerm, sunflower, olive and various nut oils. It is vital the integrity of membranes, and the dietary requirement tends to increase with the amount of polyunsaturated fats ingested, so it is often added to margarine. It is also used as an antioxidant.

Potatoes are also an important source for Vitimin C in the UK diet.Vitamin K is a group of quinone chemicals that are important in the blood clotting process, and the maintenance of healthy bones and cardiovascular system. Sources include green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli, and also some fruits such as avocado. K vitamins are also found in fermented dairy products such as cheese.


More than 80 health claims for the vitamins have been authorised in 2012 by the European Commission, and they demonstrate the important synergy between the different vitamins (and minerals) as several vitamins (and minerals) are noted to carry similar claims
ClaimVitamin or mineral
Maintenance of normal bonesVitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus,Vitamin D, Vitamin K
Maintenance of normal hairBiotin, Copper, Selenium, Zinc
Maintenance of normal energy-yielding metabolismVitamin B1, B2, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C
Maintenance of normal functioning of the nervous systemVitamin B1, B2, Niacin, Biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C

Vitamin C carries extensive claims for the maintenance of normal collagen (elastic net) formation in blood vessels, bones, cartilage, gums, skin and teeth.

The EU Register can be searched very simply by nutrient and/or health condition




Fish oils

Fish oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Marine oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, notably eicosapentaenoic acid Fish oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are extracted from various different oily fish, such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna and herrings, but the fish do not make the oils themselves – they come from their own diet, usually microalgae, or for fish-eating fish, from other fish that eat the microalgae. It is possible to ferment these microalgae in a contained environment, from which a vegetarian algal oil rich in DHA and EPA can be extracted. Numerous health benefits have been claimed for these oils, including improving attention and positive effects on heart health.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant omega-3 in the brain. It may also have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease, and clinical trials are being carried out.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) has several important roles in the body, as it is used to make several important biological molecules such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes which are essential to the healthy functioning of the body. It is also thought to have a positive benefit on mental health.


Many different minerals are essential for health, often in tiny amounts. Some of the most important are:

Calcium has long been associated with formation of bones and teeth but has a wide role in human health, and claims have now been authorised for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth and also for the maintenance of normal blood clotting, energy-yielding metabolism, muscle function, neurotransmission, function of digestive enzymes and also a role in cell division and specialisation.

Cobalt is an essential component of the vitamin B12. It is not authorised for use as a food additive but it is available from the diet in adequate quantities.

Copper is part of many of the enzymes the body uses. Several claims have been authorised for copper, ranging from the protection of cells from oxidative stress to the maintenance of normal hair and skin pigmentation.

Chromium is needed by the body in the metabolism of sugars and lipids.

Claims have been authorised for the maintenance of normal macronutrient metabolism and normal blood glucose levels when in its trivalent state.

Iron is at the core of haemoglobin, the chemical that transports oxygen around the body in the blood, and is also part of numerous enzymes. A wide range of claims have been authorised, from the maintenance of normal cognitive function to the normal formation of red blood cells and the reduction of fatigue.

Manganese is required by many enzymes, and is important in the way the body processes toxic superoxide. Authorised claims include the maintenance of normal bones and connective tissue to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.

Magnesium is essential for a wide range of fundamental cellular reactions and is involved in at least 300 enzymic steps in intermediary metabolism. Claims have been authorised for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth, muscle function, nervous system and psychological function as well as reduction in tiredness and fatigue.

Molybdenum is present in several enzymes and can carry a claim for normal sulphur amino-acid metabolism.

Nickel is in a number of enzymes, notably urease which processes urea. Like cobalt, it is not authorised for use as a food additive.

Selenium containing chemicals work with various important enzymes, particularly peroxidases, and is important in thyroid function. Selenium in the British diet is generally low as our soils have low contents of the element, so levels in the plants grown on that soil are also low.  Various claims have been authorised, including the maintenance of normal hair, nails and thyroid function, and also the protection of cells from oxidative stress.

Zinc is an important component of several important enzymes, including carbonic anhydrase in the eye, and the dehydrogenase which breaks down alcohol in the liver.  A wide range of claims have been authorised, including the maintenance of normal DNA synthesis, cognitive function, fertility, macronutrient metabolism and also the maintenance of normal  hair, skin, nails and vision.

It should be noted that several minerals (and vitamins) have in many cases been authorised to carry health claims. The claim in that case can be made for one or several of the relevant nutrients contained in a few product.

Examples are:

Health claim Vitamin Mineral
Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism Biotin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, vitamin B1, vitamin B2,vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C* Calcium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese*
Maintenance of normal bones Vitamin D, vitamin K Calcium,Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus,Zinc




Dietary fibre is essential in maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Consuming sufficient dietary fibre is essential to maintain a healthy digestive system. There are two main types of fibre – soluble and insoluble – and many different components of plants act as dietary fibres, including cellulose, lignin, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides.

Dietary fibre is essential in maintaining a healthy digestive system.Insoluble fibre passes straight through the digestive tract unchanged. Because it absorbs water on the way, it softens the stool and helps waste material pass through the intestines more quickly. Important sources include beans, lentils, whole grains and wheat bran.

Soluble fibre is not digested, but it does not pass through the body unaltered – it absorbs water to form a gel, and may be fermented by bacteria within the large intestine. Increasing the amount of soluble dietary fibre in the diet may increase the feeling of fullness, or satiety, and contribute to weight management. Sources include oats, peas, beans, lentils, fruits such as apples, oats, potatoes and some green vegetables.


If it weren’t for artificial intense sweeteners, the only way to satisfy a sweet tooth would be with natural sugars such as sucrose, fructose and maltose, which are full of calories and contribute to tooth decay.

The modern desire to eat sweet foods that don’t make you fat has led to the development of a variety of low calorie intense sweeteners that are much sweeter than sucrose, and only need to be used in tiny amounts to satisfy the taste buds. They aren’t a modern invention – the first, saccharin, was first produced back in 1878.

If it weren’t for artificial intense sweeteners, the only way to satisfy a sweet tooth would be with natural sugars such as sucrose, fructose and maltose, which are full of calories and contribute to tooth decay.

Most food products use blends of sweeteners. Regulations limit the maximum use levels for If it weren’t for artificial intense sweeteners, the only way to satisfy a sweet tooth would be with natural sugars such as sucrose, fructose and maltose, which are full of calories and contribute to tooth decay.individual high-intensity sweeteners, and each has its own unique taste profile, such as metallic, bitter, lingering or delayed onset. Synergistic effects also mean that the mixture can often give an even more intense sweetness than the individual components alone.

However, these ingredients can only replace the sweetness of sugar, and not its bulk, so in products like cakes and jams, something else is needed if sugar is going to be replaced. This is where bulk sweeteners come in. These are derivatives of sugars, and while they are not as sweet as sucrose, they have fewer calories as the body metabolises them differently. They do not raise glucose levels in the blood, and so can be consumed by diabetics. However, many can have a laxative effect when consumed in large quantities.

Low-calorie and diabetic foods frequently contain a combination of both intense and bulk sweeteners, with the former producing the sweetness and the latter the texture that consumers expect.

Bulk sweeteners

Erythritol (E968) is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, which is made commercially by the fermentation of glucose, and was only approved for food use in Europe in 2006. It is about two-thirds as sweet as sucrose, but has almost no calories. As it is absorbed before it reaches the colon, it does not have the laxative effects of some other bulk sweeteners – instead, it is excreted unchanged in the urine. It is also tooth-friendly as it does not contribute to tooth decay

Isomalt (E954) is a sugar alcohol with similar physical properties to sucrose, but it is tooth-friendly and has half the calories. It is becoming increasingly popular in confectionery products such as hard candies, but like many bulk sweeteners it can have a laxative effect.

Lactitol (E966) is a bulk sweetener that is about 40% as sweet as sucrose. It is common in bakery products because of its heat stability, and it is also found in confectionery, chocolate and ice cream.

Maltitol (E965) has about three-quarters of the sweetness of sugar, but about half of its calories, and it does not promote tooth decay. However, it can have a laxative effect. It is particularly common in confectionery products like hard candies, chewing gum and ice cream.

Sorbitol (E420) is the oldest of the bulk sweeteners. It is commonly found in diet food and drink products, as well as confectionery such as mints and sugar-free gum. It is found in rowan berries, but as a food ingredient it is made by chemically modifying glucose.

Xylitol (E967) is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol was first commercially extracted from birch trees. It has about two-thirds of the calories of sugar, and does not cause tooth decay. It is found in a wide range of confectionery products, but sometimes has a laxative effect.

Intense sweeteners

Acesulfame K (E950) is about 200 times more sweet than sucrose. Invented in Germany in 1967, it leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste in the mouth, which means it is rarely used alone as a sweetener. Unlike some other intense sweeteners, it is heat-stable during cooking. Common uses include bakery products, and soft drinks, where it is usually blended with other sweeteners, and as a sweetener for hot beverages.

Aspartame (E951) is a sweetener that was invented in the US in 1965, and contains two amino acids joined together by a chemical bond. It is about 200 times sweeter than sucrose, but as it breaks down on heating it is not suitable for baking applications, although it can be added to hot foods before serving, such as hot drinks, stewed fruit or porridge. It is commonly found in soft drinks and confectionery products. People with the rare condition phenylketonuria cannot metabolise one of its constituent amino acids, phenylalanine, and so must try to avoid it. This is why product labels have to state ‘contains a source of phenylalanine’ if aspartame is an ingredient.

Cyclamate (E952) is about 30 times more sweet than sugar, and it is usually used in combination with other sweeteners.

Saccharin (E954) has been used as an intense sweetener for more than a century, and is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar. It is commonly used in carbonated drinks in combination with aspartame. There have been concerns that it might cause cancer over the years, but these health scares have been dismissed.

Sucralose (E955) is the newest of the intense sweeteners and is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is made by replacing three of the alcohol groups in sucrose with chlorine atoms, which dramatically increases its sweetness. It is heat-stable so can be used in bakery products. It is becoming increasingly popular in products from soft drinks to confectionery to hot beverages.

Preservatives in food

Preservatives work by killing the micro organism or preventing it from growing

Humans have always found ways to preserve their food to stop it spoiling before it can be eaten. Many of the bacteria and moulds that grow on food can be dangerous. Salmonella, listeria and botulism are familiar forms of food poisoning caused by bacteria, and one of the most infamous food poisoning incidents in history resulted from the growth of the ergot fungus on rye bread, which caused hallucinations. All of these problems can be reduced by using additives.

Preservatives work by killing the microorganism, or preventing it from growing. If the food Preservatives work by killing the micro organism or preventing it from growingis too acidic, too salty, or even too sweet for the microorganism to thrive, then this will slow down or even stop spoilage.

The earliest methods included using salt and smoke. Salt draws water out of the food and any microorganisms in it by osmosis, which prevents the microorganisms from growing. The chemicals introduced during smoking make it more difficult for moulds and bacteria to grow, and can also prevent rancidity. Vinegar, sugar and honey have also been used to preserve foods for centuries. One of the most widely used preservatives today, sulfur dioxide, has actually been in use since the Middle Ages!

Another advantage of preservatives is that we don’t have to shop every day because the food we buy lasts for longer. Not only does this save us precious time, but it also saves fuel as we don’t drive to the supermarket as frequently.

Many modern preservatives are actually simple molecules, and many are derived from nature. Examples include:

Benzoate preservatives

Benzoic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid, which is found in many different fruits, often at levels far higher than would be allowed as a food additive! (the Scandinavian cloudberry – pictured above – actually contains 50 times the legal limit!)  It is used to prevent the growth of yeasts, moulds and some bacteria in acidic foods such as fruit juices, carbonated drinks and pickles, and is used either as the free acid (E210), or as its sodium (E211), potassium (E212) or calcium (E213) salt. It has been suggested that a benzoate-free diet may help selected patients with persistent asthma, but this approach has not been evaluated in published controlled trials.[ref]

Reference: D D Metcalfe, et al. Food allergy : Adverse reactions to foods and food additives, 3rd edition, Blackwell Publishing, JM Fahrenholz, Adverse reactions to benzoates and parabens, pp369-376.

Sulfite preservatives

Sulfur dioxide gas, or related sulfite and metabisulfite compounds, are very important preservatives that have been used for thousands of years. It is used as a preservative in wine, where it prevents bacterial spoilage and oxidation. If the wine has a sulfur dioxide concentration below 10ppm (parts per million), then the label need not say that it contains sulfites – the legal limit is more than 10 times this. It is also used to preserve dried fruits.

It is clear that these preservatives aggravate symptoms in about 4% of asthmatics [ref] and in a handful of cases, this can be severe. Steroid-dependent asthmatics are twice as likely to be affected.

Reference: Bush R.K. et al Prevalence of sensitivity to sulfiting agents in asthmatic patients.  Am J Ned 1986; 81 (5): 816 – 820

As a result of these problems, the permitted levels of sulfur dioxide (E220) and its salts (E221 – 224) have been reduced in recent years; in red wine, for example, the permitted level is now about a third the amount that was allowed a century ago. Sulfites remain one of the most important additives, and they are even permitted in organic foods.

Other Preservatives

Nisin (E234) is a peptide which is made by the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, which is manufactured by growing it on substances such as milk. It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic which stops a number of bacteria from growing on dairy products and Preservatives work by killing the microorganism or preventing it from growingmeats, including listeria.

Propionic acid (E280) is a simple acid, closely related to vinegar. It is often used in bread manufacture, where it is more effective than vinegar. Curiously, even though it is an additive, vinegar doesn’t have an E number as it’s a traditional preservative. This doesn’t make it any more or less safe!

Sodium nitrite (E250) and potassium nitrite (E249) are important preservatives for fish and meat products as they inhibits the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism. There is some concern about the way they are used, as nitrites form cancer-causing nitrosamines during cooking. It is likely that the body neutralises nitrosamines, but processed meats preserved with nitrites now also include vitamins C and E, antioxidants which prevent the formation of nitrosamines.

Sorbic acid (E200) is very widely used to prevent the growth of moulds and yeasts in products like wine, dairy products such as cheese, meats and seafood, baked goods and various fruit and vegetable products. The acid is found naturally in several plants.

Gelling agents, thickeners & stabilisers

The texture of food is important for the look and feel of food, and also for digestion. Thickening and stabilising agents are gums that work with emulsifiers to maintain the texture of food, and create texture in water-based products that would otherwise be runny.

Ingredients such as flour, cornflour and arrowroot have been used for thickening sauces for centuries. In jam, pectin is used to thicken the fruit juices. Pectin is naturally present in fruit, but many fruits don’t contain enough to make the jam set so extra is added.

Natural sources predominate – many thickeners are derived from plants and seaweeds. Others are made by the chemical modification of natural cellulose, and some, such as xanthan gum, are even made by fermentation.

Thickeners and stabilisers tend to be both odourless and tasteless. The gums are polysaccharides – polymers made up of sugar molecules. The majority of these polysaccharides have few or no calories, but many function as fibre in the digestive system. This eases bowel function, and some are used as bulk laxatives.

Most of these gums can form gels at room temperature, and (rather like non-drip paint) they lose their thickness when they are stirred. This makes mixing easier during the production process as they become runny, and then when the mixing stops, they thicken up again.

Some of the most important thickeners and stabilisers are:

Agars (E406) are partly sulfated polysaccharides that were first discovered in Japan in the 17th century which are extracted from two different species of red algae. They have a very high gel strength, and when dissolved in water the gelation process is reversible at 85°C. They are used in jellies, bakery products, sauces, fillings and meat products.

Alginates (E400-404) are salts of alginic acid, a viscous gum formed by the cell walls of brown algae. Food uses include thickening fruit drinks, soups and sauces, and as a gelling agent in jellies and bakery fillings. They are also an important component of several indigestion remedies.

Carrageenans (E407) are sulfated polysaccharides extracted from several species of red seaweed. They are used to thicken dairy products such as ice cream and milk shakes and water-based jellies. They are also components of various processed meat products.

Gum Arabic (E414) is made from the sap of the acacia tree and is a mixture of saccharides and glycoproteins (proteins with attached sugar molecules). Commercially, most is extracted from trees in countries south of the Sahara desert in Africa, and the biggest producers are Chad, Nigeria and Sudan. Food uses include hard jelly sweets and soft drinks.

Guar gum (E412) is extracted from guar beans, which predominantly grow in India. It is a type of water-soluble polysaccharide called a galactomannan, where the polymer chain is made up of galactose sugar units, with mannose sugars attached to it. Uses include baked goods and bakery fillings, thickening dairy products like yoghurt and milk, and as a stabiliser in sauces and dressings. It is also used in meat products.

Locust bean gum (E410), also known as carob bean gum, is (like guar gum) a galactomannan polysaccharide, and is extracted from the seeds of the carob tree. It is water soluble, and is used as a thickener and stabiliser in a variety of products, including sauces, salad dressings, fruit fillings and ice creams.

Pectin (E440) is a gelling agent that is usually extracted from dried citrus peel or the solids that remain when the juice is pressed from apples. It is a polysaccharide made by plant cell walls, and as well as being used to help jams and jellies to set, it is used as a stabiliser in milk drinks and fruit juices.

Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (E466), or sodium CMC, is a water-soluble semi-synthetic thickener, made by reacting cellulose with an acetic acid derivative. It is used in a variety of products such as breads and cakes, ice creams, and milk and fruit drinks.

Starch (E1401–1451), in its various forms, is one of the most common thickeners in food products. These polysaccharides are isolated from a number of different crops, including wheat, corn, rice, potatoes and cassava. Numerous starch derivatives are also available where the properties have been chemically modified. Unlike many other gums, they are not water-soluble, but the molecules do enter their lattice-like structures, and so they thicken up when mixed with water. Many different types of foods contain starch ingredients, from sauces and pie fillings to sweets and puddings.

Xanthan gum (E415) is made by the fermentation of glucose or sucrose with the microorganism Xanthomonas campestris. It is commonly found in sauces and salad dressings, where it acts as a stabiliser and helps prevent the emulsion from separating.


Coffee has more than 800 different aromachemicals.

One of the most important qualities of our food is the flavour – it has to taste good. All flavours are a subtle mix of the five basic tastes – salt, sweet, bitter, sour and savoury – combined with the aromas that the foods give off, which are a crucial part of the way foods taste.

From a regulatory point of view, the flavourings that are used in food are Coffee has more than 800 different aromachemicals. grouped into those that are natural, and those that are man-made. Natural flavourings are obtained from natural sources, whereas the man-made ones may be synthetic versions of exactly the same chemicals that are found in nature, such as vanillin, whilst others may not be found in nature, such as ethyl vanillin. Some food flavourings rely on just one major component, but most are a mixture of many different aromachemicals.

It’s not just processed foods that contain a cocktail of flavourings – most natural foodstuffs contain very many different aromachemicals, which all contribute to the complex flavour. Tarragon essential oil, for example, has nearly 80 components, and coffee more than 800. Yet some flavours are down to just a handful, such as vanilla, where the chemical vanillin is the major ingredient.

Other characteristic flavours are created during cooking or fermentation, and many of the chemicals responsible have been identified. For example, the browning reaction that gives the characteristic caramel flavour to fried onions, pork crackling and even gravy is a chemical reaction between proteins and carbohydrates. Variations on this reaction produce many of the most delicious flavours. Allylpyrazine gives a roasted nut flavour; methoxypyrazines taste of earthy vegetables; 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine has a green pepper flavour; and acetylpyrazines taste of popcorn.

Emulsifiers in food

Ice cream is another food that would not exist were it not for emulsifiers.

Oil and water don’t mix but they do form emulsions – and these are crucial to the consistency of a number of foodstuffs. Nature is good at making emulsions, and the classic example is milk, where a complex mixture of fat droplets are suspended in an aqueous solution.

Emulsifiers are the chemicals that make emulsions happen. Nature uses proteins and phospholipids, and many emulsifiers used in modern food production are based on these natural substances.

Ice cream is another food that would not exist were it not for emulsifiers.An emulsifier is a molecule in which one end likes to be in an oily environment and the other in a water environment. To make an oil-in-water emulsion, such as mayonnaise, droplets of oil molecules are surrounded by the oil-loving end of the emulsifier molecules. This leaves the water-loving ends on the outside of the droplet, and so they sit happily in water, giving a homogeneous liquid rather than an unappealing mixture of water and oily droplets. In mayonnaise, the emulsifier is the phospholipids present in egg yolks – they are such successful emulsifiers that as much as 80% oil can be dispersed in the aqueous phase.

Ice cream is another food that would not exist were it not for emulsifiers. It is both a foam and an emulsion, and its texture results from the ice crystals and unfrozen water it contains. But it’s not just creamy products where emulsifiers are crucial – bread and other baked products, where solid particles are dispersed in an airy foam, are enhanced by emulsifiers.

The emulsifiers that are used commercially come from both natural and synthetic sources. They include:

Lecithins (E322) are mixtures of phospholipids such as phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidylethanolamine, and are usually extracted from sources such as egg yolk and soybeans. The precise composition of the phospholipids depends on the source. Uses include salad dressings, baked goods and chocolate.

Esters of monoglycerides of fatty acids (E472a-f) are made from natural fatty acids, glycerol and an organic acid such as acetic, citric, lactic or tartaric. The fatty acids are usually from a vegetable source, though animal fats can be used. Products that use them include ice cream, cakes and crisps.

Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) are semi-synthetic emulsifiers made from glycerol and natural fatty acids, which can be from either plant or animal sources. They are used in products like breads, cakes and margarines.

Anti-caking agents

Anti-caking agents are used to prevent powdery and granular food products from absorbing water and clumping together

Many powdery and granular food products have a tendency to absorb water and clump together. Whether it’s table salt, icing sugar, non-dairy creamer, instant soup or even grated parmesan cheese, if the ingredients don’t flow freely then they are difficult to use. Salt cellars wouldn’t dispense salt, drink vending machines would block up, and the parmesan wouldn’t spread evenly across the plate.

Anti-caking agents are used to prevent this problem. Many are natural products such as talc and bentonite, Anti-caking agents are used to prevent powdery and granular food products from absorbing water and clumping togetherand others are manufactured from natural sources, such as silicon dioxide and several silicates. They don’t modify the food itself – they just make it less ‘sticky’, often by soaking up water.

Bentonite (E558) is a naturally occurring porous volcanic clay, which is used as an anticaking agent. It is also used to remove proteins from white wine, which would otherwise make it go cloudy.

Calcium silicate (E552) is made from chalk, limestone or diatomaceous earth, and is commonly used as an anticaking agent in dry products.

Silicon dioxide (E551) is common in nature – it is the main component of sand. It is used to improve the flow of dry products, and also to absorb water.

Sodium aluminosilicate (E554) is a synthetic mixture of sodium, aluminium and silicon oxides which is used as an anticaking agent.

Talc (E533b) is a natural mineral, which is made from hydrated magnesium silicate. It can be used in many different food products to prevent clumping.


Logo for UnivarUnivar is a leading global chemical distributor.  Univar’s strong sales and marketing teams complement chemical producers and create value for customers. The company provides technical expertise in application development, excellence in logistics support, and outstanding customer service to help its partners grow their business.

Univar Europe, Middle East and Africa serves customers from all industries across the spectrum, from pharmaceutical and food right through to coatings and chemicals.


  • We offer customers the broadest range of products from leading producersUnivar personnel at work across Europe, Middle East and Africa as well as in the United States and Canada. Our experienced local sales and technical teams tied with our strong European distribution network, ensure we provide differentiated and value-added solutions to our customers’ requirements – whatever their size or level of complexity.
  • Through long-term partnerships Univar has the knowledge and capability to improve execution efficiency as well as reduce costs and complexity of our customers’ and suppliers’ supply chains.
  • Safety is the first priority and the most important aspect of work at Univar. We pursue continuous improvement in the health, safety and sustainability profile of our company and those with whom we do business.
  • In today’s world of continuous industry evolution, we understand the need to provide more than just products. We strive for new thinking, creativity and new business opportunities.

Unbar Rothon

Logo for UnbarThe company was originally founded in 1921 as ‘Underwood & Barker’, supplying in the ‘UNBAR’ brand name. Felix Rothon purchased the company in 1948 and moved the operation to Billericay in Essex. The company focussed on serving the food industry, building a considerable knowledge in the formulation and application of ingredient systems for any food product.

The company was renamed in 1976 to Unbar Rothon by combining the “Unbar” brand with the family name ‘Rothon’. Our sister company, World of Spice was launched to supply the food service sector with the finest quality products.

Today, Unbar Rothon is directed and managed by the next generations, with support from a dedicated team of sales, manufacturing, quality and development personnel. Together we continue a proud tradition of delivering ‘Quality and Economy’ for our customers.

Tate & Lyle

Logo for Tate and LyleTate & Lyle is a global provider of distinctive, high quality ingredients and solutions to the food, beverage and other industries.

Through our large-scale, efficient manufacturing plants, we use innovative technology to turn raw materials into distinctive, high quality ingredients for our customers. These ingredients add taste, texture, nutrition and increased functionality to products that millions of people around the world use or consume every day.

Our strategyGranola

Our vision is to be the leading global provider of speciality food ingredients and solutions.

Our structure

Tate & Lyle operates through two global business units: Speciality Food Ingredients and Bulk Ingredients.

Our industry

Tate & Lyle operates primarily in two industries: corn wet milling and high-intensity sweeteners.


Logo for TasteTechTasteTech was established in November 1992 by Roger Sinton to develop microencapsulation techniques. We quickly became pioneers in this field and today we are widely respected by our customers for our specialist expertise and service delivery.

We have gone from strength to strength and work with some of the most famous brands in the UK and world markets. In December 2008 we were successful in achieving British Retail Consortium (BRC) grade A status for our Quality Management Systems and Processes and continue to hold this very high standard today, this is in addition to holding both ISO14001 and ISO9001 certifications.

We are a specialist manufacturer of controlled release flavourings and ingredients. Founded in 1992, we continue to be a creative pioneer in the field of encapsulation technology to provide solutions to manufacturers worldwide. Our products can be used in a wide range of applications and help to overcome many manufacturing difficulties, as well as improve quality, reduce cost and add value. We have an outstanding reputation for flexibility, quality and innovative thinking, which keeps us at the very forefront of our industry.


Logo for Roha
ROHA Caleb UK Ltd are one of Europe’s premier food colour suppliers, specialising in Natural and Artificial Food Colours, supplying to many well known multi-nationals in all sectors of the food and pharmaceutical industries.





ROHA Caleb UK Ltd are the UK’s leading quality food colour supplier with:

  • Product range and quality matched to customers needs of the food and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Technical support to both application and sample requests.
  • Reputation for efficient and friendly service before and after sales.
  • Product availability for timely delivery from stock.
  • Competitiveness of pricing.


Logo for IngredionIngredion are a global ingredient solutions company built on a rich legacy of exceptional performance and market-leading innovation. Our geographic footprint and diverse organization give us the capability to deliver solutions on a global scale and the agility to meet the needs of local markets.

We make it our business to understand industry trends and our customers’ challenges. They trust us to anticipate and deliver the consistently high-quality products and innovative solutions they need.

Each day, we live our Company Values—Safety, Quality, Integrity, Respect, Excellence and Innovation—so that we may create enduring, mutual value for our customers, business associates, communities, colleagues and shareholders.


Logo for McCormickSince 1889, McCormick has been the Company to turn to for flavor expertise. Today the world relies on our treasured consumer brands, trusted ingredients and culinary know-how.

Consumers, retail outlets, food manufacturers and food service businesses all depend on our spices, seasonings and flavorings. McCormick is so prevalent throughout the food industry that it’s very likely you enjoy the taste of McCormick every day.


Committed to meeting consumer demands of the 21st century and beyond, LLogo for LycoRedycoRed develops a range of ingredients to provide functional and nutritional ingredient solutions.

Building on its extensive carotenoids portfolio, the company produces natural lycopene, lutein and beta carotene designed for food fortification, dietary supplements and food coloring.

LycoRed is a global vitamin premix & mineral premix supplier and work closely with our customers by creating innovative nutrition solutions to market in a very short time.

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