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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 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 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 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 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.
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 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. 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.
|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|
Foods that claim to improve digestive health are now commonplace on the supermarket shelves. 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.
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:
|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.
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.
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.
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 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 or folate, 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. It 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 anumber 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.
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.
ClaimsMore 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
|Claim||Vitamin or mineral|
|Maintenance of normal bones||Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus,Vitamin D, Vitamin K|
|Maintenance of normal hair||Biotin, Copper, Selenium, Zinc|
|Maintenance of normal energy-yielding metabolism||Vitamin B1, B2, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Biotin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C|
|Maintenance of normal functioning of the nervous system||Vitamin 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
Marine oils are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, notably eicosapentaenoic acid (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.
|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|
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 is 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:
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.
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.
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 meats, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, and 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.
Acidulants are an essential ingredient in sharp, zesty food products. These acids are what give fruit its characteristic tang, and most of those that are added to food products are common in nature. For example, citric acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, malic acid is found in apples, and tartaric acid in grapes.
They are important in products such as jams, where the acidity of the fruit determines how it will set. Acids also have preservative and antioxidant properties.
Common acids used in food products include:
Citric acid (E330) is by far the most widely used acid in food products. It was originally extracted from citrus fruits, but now most is made by the fermentation of molasses and other sugar sources. More than half of all citric acid in foods is used in beverages.
Lactic acid (E270) is produced in the body during metabolism and exercise. It is commonly found in sour milk products like yoghurt. It is used to regulate acidity in processed food products, and it also acts as an antioxidant and a preservative.
Malic acid (E296) is often found in unripe fruit. Common food uses include as a flavouring in sour confectionery.
Phosphoric acid (E338) is a chemical that is responsible for the tangy taste of cola drinks. Although it is a synthetic chemical, phosphoric acid derivatives are widely found in nature.
Tartaric acid (E334) occurs in fruits such as grapes and bananas. It is commonly used in sour-tasting sweets, and also as an antioxidant.
Flavour enhancers are used to bring out the flavour in a wide range of foods without adding a flavour of their own. For example, monosodium glutamate (E621), known as MSG, is added to processed foods, especially soups, sauces and sausages.
Flavour enhancers are also used in a wide range of other foods including savoury snacks, prepared meals and condiments. Salt, although not classed as a food additive, is the most widely used flavour enhancer.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of the naturally occurring amino acid glutamic acid. This amino acid is one of the most abundant in nature, being an important component of all proteins. Monosodium glutamate, has been used as a seasoning or flavour enhancer, since it was first isolated from seaweed more than a century ago and is now recognised as the most pure example of umami or savoury taste. The body treats glutamate in exactly the same way whether it comes from the food we eat or from seasoning.
MSG not only adds a umami character to food but can also be used to reduce the salt content. For the latest information about the science about glutamate and umami taste. It was suspected by some people of being the cause of ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’, where people suffer a hot flushing reaction after eating food containing MSG. However, tests on people who claim to be susceptible have never been able to confirm that there is a link, as this scientific review explains.
Oxidation is a real problem for food products. Oxidation, for example, causes raw apples and potatoes go brown, but this can prevented in the kitchen by adding lemon juice. It’s very effective because lemon juice contains a very strong antioxidant – ascorbic acid or vitamin C (E300). By preventing or slowing down the oxidation process in foods, waste through spoilage is reduced.
Many antioxidants occur naturally in fruit and vegetables, many of which are flavonoid compounds such as quercetin in onions and apples, and epigallocatechin in tea. The health benefits of these antioxidants are becoming clear, and many scientific studies have been carried out on them. Oxidation can damage DNA leading to cancer, and can change polyunsaturated-fatty acids into forms that contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Increasing the consumption of antioxidants can have a preventative effect against cancer and heart disease, although it’s not clear yet which are the most effective.
Ascorbic acid (E300), or vitamin C, is found in many different fruits. It is also commonly used as a flour improver.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (E320) is a synthetic antioxidant which works by stabilising free radicals.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (E321) or BHT is another synthetic antioxidant. It works in the same way as butylated hydroxyanisole, but has caused controversy, as it has produced adverse effects in dogs. However, it also has anticancer effects.
Propyl gallate (E310) is a synthetic antioxidant. Its main food use is in products that contain oils and fats.
Tocopherols (E306) are natural antioxidants which are forms of vitamin E. The most important sources are vegetable oils such as palm, corn, sunflower, soybean and olive.
Over the years, the perception of food additives has been bedevilled by a lack of understanding that nutrition is a chemical process. In the Mix brings out the chemistry in familiar culinary tasks, such as cake-making, and shows how the use of additives is rooted in such processes as making sauces, jam, bread and wine.
Often on the receiving end of negative comments and bad publicity, a new TV programme has uncovered the truth about flavour enhancer MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).
Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped recently went behind the scenes at MSG manufacturer Ajinomoto, and unearthed some surprising facts.
For example, MSG – the subject of more than 80 scientific studies – is actually derived from natural ingredients, primarily tapioca.
Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. And glutamate is a naturally occurring amino acid found in nearly all foods, including stock cubes, dried noodles and even breast milk!
In the European Union, monosodium glutamate is classified as a food additive (E621) and regulations are in place to determine how and when it can be added to foods.
It’s added to savoury prepared and processed foods, such as frozen foods, spice mixes, canned and dry soups, salad dressings and meat or fish-based products. It’s also used as a table-top seasoning in some countries.
To find out more, watch Food Unwrapped here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/food-unwrapped
More than 97% of food samples evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contain pesticide residue levels that fall within legal limits, with just under 55% of samples free of detectable traces of these chemicals. The findings are part of EFSA’s 2013 annual report on pesticide residues in food, which includes the results for almost 81,000 food samples from 27 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.
The 29 reporting countries carry out two monitoring programmes for the report: a national programme designed by each country, and an EU-coordinated programme under which all food control authorities monitor the same “basket” of food products. A combined total of 80,967 samples of a wide variety of processed and unprocessed food products were tested for the presence of 685 pesticides. The main findings are:
- 97.4% of the samples analysed fell within legal limits;
- 54.6% were free of detectable residues;
- 1.5% clearly exceeded the legal limits, taking into account the measurement uncertainty, thus triggering legal or administrative sanctions against the food business operators responsible;
- Residues of more than one pesticide (multiple residues) were found in 27.3% of samples.
As the EU gets set to scrap ‘best-before’ dates on long life food packaging in a bid to stop millions of tons of edible produce being thrown away every year, a US businessman is preparing to open a supermarket and restaurant selling only food that is out-of-date. Doug Rauch, the man behind the successful Trader Joe’s chain in the US, plans to open the Daily Table in Boston this autumn, and will sell meals and basic groceries at discounted prices. Staff will gather groceries that are about to be thrown away at supermarkets and food service outlets, and a trained chef will then use them to cook on-the-go meals.
Did you know?
Tortilla chips If they start to taste stale, put them in an oven with oil to re-crisp them, then store in a sealed container.
Chocolate can last a long time but often develops a white coating, known as ‘bloom’, when it’s exposed to the air. This happens when some of the crystalline fat melts and rises to the top. It’s not mould and is fine to eat.
Eggs can last 3-5 weeks, but be sure to keep them at a temperature below 5˚C (41˚F).
The Food Standards Agency’s Biannual Public Attitudes Tracker for November 2013 shows the top food safety issue of concern for respondents was food hygiene when eating out (36%).
When asked about wider food issues, the top three issues of concern were food prices (60%), food waste (50%), and the amount of salt in food (44%).
Almost half (49%) of the respondents reported concern about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways.
James Kennedy, a British chemistry teacher based in Australia, has combined a love of graphics with a love of science, and produced a series of posters and images which he hopes will dispel the many myths surrounding enumbers and additives.
“As a chemistry teacher, I want to erode the fear that many people have of ‘chemicals’,” he says. “I want to demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab.”
“James’ images are incredibly powerful, as they shatter – at a glance – all the common misconceptions many have about additives,” says FAIA Executive Director Michelle Maynard. “In this instance, a picture really does paint a thousand words.”
Experts who have reviewed a study of aspartame have concluded that ‘the results did not indicate any need for action to protect the health of the public’.
The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer products and the Environment (COT) peer reviewed a double blind randomised crossover study of aspartame, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
COT is a committee of independent experts that provides advice to the FSA and other parts of government.
The full minutes of the COT discussion have not yet been published, as a report of the study has been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
The study was led by Hull York Medical School and aimed to record any effects from eating a snack bar that may or may not have contained aspartame. The study recruited individuals who reported reactions after consuming aspartame, alongside a matched control group of individuals who normally consume foods containing aspartame without problems.
The work took the form of a double blind randomised crossover study, the gold standard of scientific research. This type of study is designed to test the effect of a substance in such a way that neither the research team nor the participants know whether the bar consumed contains the test substance or not. Double blind studies therefore eliminate the risk of prejudgement by participants or researchers which could distort the results.
Aspartame is an intense sweetener, approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar, which has been used in soft drinks and other low calorie or sugar free foods throughout the world for more than 25 years.
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The company was commended by FDF President Jim Moseley (pictured) for its success in exports, for which it won the Exporter of the Year (Large Company) Award.
The FDF Awards recognise the achievements of food and drink businesses across a number of categories including: Innovation, Community Partner, Good Employer, Exporter of the Year, Environmental Leadership, Health and Wellbeing Champion, Growth Business, Education Initiative, Food and Drink Scientist, Food and Drink Engineer, and Apprentice of the Year. The FDF President’s Award winner is chosen by the FDF President from amongst the category winners.
“Winning an FDF Award is a real coup for any food and drink business,” says Jim Moseley, FDF President. “This year’s award entries were truly inspiring and reflect the hard work, passion and creativity of those working in our industry. I believe that United Biscuits deserves special recognition in this year’s Awards for its work to boost exports, its collaboration with others to address the looming skills shortage and the way it drives innovation in the industry.”
Food and Drink Engineer
Ian Rigby – PepsiCo UK and Ireland
Apprentice of the Year
Paul Morgan from Mondelèz International
Highly commended: Jordan Philips from Nestlé UK
Food and Drink Scientist
Tom Hollands – Raynor Foods
(SME) Agrico UK Ltd – Tattie Tastic Project
(Large) Mondelez International – Taste of Work Programme
Health and Wellbeing Champion
Mondelez International for ‘Health for Life’ in Primary schools
(Large) Nisa and DHL – Go Green
(SME) Raynor Foods – Minimising Food Waste
Britvic Soft Drinks plc
Exporter of the Year
(SME) Elmgrove Foods
(Large) United Biscuits
Retailers will soon be able to distinguish almost instantly between beef and horsemeat in products, thanks to a new device built by British engineers.
Oxford Instruments and the Institute of Food Research have developed a machine that can identify meat before it is processed.
The technology can distinguish between fatty acids from horses, cows, geese, pigs and sheep. It is also being developed to recognise rat meat.
“The methods being developed will be rapid and low cost,” says a spokesman for Oxford Instruments. “Dozens of samples could be analysed per day, taking 10-15 minutes per test, at a typical cost of less than £20 per sample.
“This makes the system ideal and affordable for high-throughput screening, or for pre-screening ahead of more time-consuming and expensive DNA testing.
“The research has reached a point where we are able to differentiate between whole cuts or chunks of beef, lamb, pork and horse. Further development work will be carried out over the coming months, to extend the methodology to the detection of small amounts of minced meat in the presence of another, mimicking many of the adulteration events that came to light earlier this year.”
Total UK food and non-alcoholic drink exports grew by 2.5% to £6.1 billion in the first half of 2013, according to figures from the Food & Drink Federation.
Although 2013 began slowly with food and non-alcoholic drinks exports down by 3.4% in Q1, this was offset by strong Q2 growth (+9%) – exports in June alone were up over 13%.
Exports to the EU27 showed positive signs (+1%) though this was eclipsed by continued high growth to non-EU markets, up 7.5%. China leapt up ten places to enter the top 10 markets for food and drink companies, a climb largely accounted for by a boom in British pork exports (+591%).
Value added foods were up in both EU (+4.9%) and non-EU markets (+8.2%), and sweet biscuits performed particularly strongly (+14.2%). Against a difficult backdrop with cumulative UK exports down by 3.3%, food and non-alcoholic drink exports have performed solidly, showing a 2.5% increase compared to the same period last year.
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Advice for people with food allergies has been updated, prior to new rules on allergen labelling being introduced.
New regulations will mean that information about allergenic ingredients will be made available for non-prepacked as well as prepacked foods. This is to make information clearer and more consistent for consumers.
These new rules on food allergen labelling will apply from 13 December 2014.
“You may already notice differences in the way that allergenic ingredients are presented within the ingredients list of prepacked foods as businesses prepare themselves for the change,” says a spokesman for the UK Food Standards Agency.
To help consumers understand these changes, the Food Standards Agency has reissued its advice for food allergic consumers, after working in collaboration with Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign, British Dietetic Association, British Retail Consortium, British Nutrition Foundation, Coeliac UK and the Food and Drink Federation.
Click here to read the advice.
The global market for food additives is set to grow steadily over the next five years, according to a new report.
The market was worth £18.4 billion in 2011, and is expected to reach £23.6bn in 2018, says Transparency Market Research.
The analyst says the increase will be as a result expected growth in the food and beverage industry, and increasing awareness of and demand for functional food additives.
Europe dominated the food additives market in 2011, accounting for over 32% of global consumption. However, surging demand from India, China and South Korea, means Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market for food additives, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 5% from 2012 to 2018.
“Huge opportunities exist in the segments of flavours and enhancers, enzymes, fat replacers and the shelf life stabilisers market,” says a spokesman for Transparency Market Research.
Despite a difficult year for the soft drinks industry, the overall retail value of the industry rose by 3.3 per cent in 2012, to nearly £15 billion.
According to the 2013 Soft Drinks Report, soft drinks are consumed in more than 99 per cent of households. Soft drinks containing added sugar made up 39 per cent of the market, while no added sugar drinks represent 61 per cent.
The report also revealed that overweight and obese consumers were less likely than average to consume soft drinks, exploding the myth that soft drinks consumption is the cause of obesity.
“When they do choose a soft drink, overweight and obese consumers are more likely than average to choose a no added sugar drink rather than a drink containing added sugar,” says Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drinks Association.
He adds: “It’s been a tough year for the economy, but the soft drinks industry has come through it well.”
Supermarket bread contains 20 per cent less salt than it did a decade ago, according to new research.
Bread is a major source of salt in the diet, providing almost a fifth of the total derived from processed foods.
The recommended daily intake for UK adults is a maximum of 6g, compared with the current average of 8.1g a day.
This study published in the online journal BMJ Open shows that the salt content of bread has been progressively reduced over time, contributing to the evidence base that a target-based approach to salt reduction can work.
“The results show that bakers have gradually reduced the levels of salt in their products, and should be congratulated,” says Adds Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director for CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health). “These results provide evidence that the UK salt reduction strategy, based on a series of salt targets for different food groups, has been working.”
The European Food Safety Authority’s draft scientific opinion following re-evalution of artificial sweetener aspartame reveals that ‘it poses no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels’.
To carry out the full risk assessment, EFSA undertook an in-depth review of peer-reviewed scientific and other literature on aspartame – which is used in some soft drinks and certain food products – and its breakdown products, including new human studies.
Regulatory bodies around the world have evaluated the safety of aspartame since the 1980s – however, this is the first full evaluation of aspartame that has been requested of EFSA, and carried out by the Authority’s Scientific Panel on Food Additive and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS Panel).
In this re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame, EFSA’s scientific experts drew upon all available information on aspartame and its breakdown products and, following a detailed and methodical analysis, concluded in its draft opinion that they pose no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels of exposure.
The current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is considered to be safe for the general population and consumer exposure to aspartame is below this ADI.
Founded in 1935, Cornelius are a European distributor of speciality chemicals with operations in UK, Eire, France, Poland, Russia and Scandinavia and sourcing offices in China and India. Cornelius Group plc represents innovative suppliers from around the globe which means we are able to offer a vast array of specialist raw materials to support your product development in the Cosmetics and Personal Care, Food and Beverage, Industrial and Pharmaceutical markets.
Numerous health claims have been authorised by the EU in this area. They fall into three major categories – psychological, cognitive and neurological claims. Many claims submitted for memory and its enhancement were rejected.
|Health claim ‘contributes to’||Vitamin||Mineral|
|Psychological||Normal psychological function||Biotin, Folate, Niacin, Vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin C||Magnesium|
|Cognitive*||Normal cognitive function||Iodine, Iron, Zinc|
|Cognitive development in children||Iron|
|Mental performance||Pantothenic acid|
|Neurological||Contributes to functioning of the nervous system||Vitamin B12, biotin, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C||Copper, Iodine, Magnesium, Potassium|
|*A claim has also been authorised for water as it ‘contributes to physical and cognitive function’..|
- ‘contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function (general population)’
- ‘maternal intake (of DHA) contributes to normal brain development of the foetus and breastfed infants’.
A claim may be made for a single nutrient or several nutrients.
The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates
The immune system is a complex collection of organs, cells and tissues that work collectively to protect the body against disease caused mostly by pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi).
Parts of the immune system include the tonsils, lymph nodes, appendix, spleen, thymus, skin and mucous membranes.
The lymph nodes in particular produce lymphocyte cells (white blood cells) whose role is to destroy invading pathogens.
Eleven claims have been authorised by the EU for contributions to the normal function of the immune system, and these are:-
|Contributes to the normal function of the immune system||Vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D||Copper, Iron, Selenium, Zinc|
The claim may be made for one of the nutrients or several of the nutrients.
The EU Health Claims Register is dynamic in nature and should be checked for updates.