Additives are allowed in food only after they have been fully tested. The testing is rigorous and the cost of the research to show that an additive is safe must be borne by the additive manufacturer.
The research to show the additive is safe must include tests in which animals are given the additive, mixed with their diet, but at much higher concentrations than will occur in human food. The tests are designed to give information on any possible effects from short-term or long-term exposure to the proposed additive, including whether it may have any potential to cause cancer, or to affect reproductive processes or the development of the embryo or the foetus if consumed by a pregnant woman. Tests are also carried out to assess its ability to interfere with genetic material in the body, which could lead to the development of cancer or adverse effects in future generations.
The results of the safety tests are assessed by independent experts – independent, that is, of the additive manufacturer or the food manufacturer – and used to calculate the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for humans. The ADI is defined as: ‘an estimate of the amount of the food additive, expressed on a body weight basis, that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable health risk' and is expressed on a milligram per kilogram bodyweight per day basis (mg/kg w/day)
The ADI concept is used extensively by regulatory bodies throughout the world, such as the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Community (EC) to confirm that ingestion of all additives remains within safe levels. It applies to people of all ages, children as well as adults.
But testing alone isn’t the end of the process. An independent organisation is now required to assess the safety of all additives – find out more here.