Tuesday, October 25, 2011: 03:15:21 PM

Food Processing Trend

Food Additives – Adding a zing to your palate

Food processing additives and other degradation products are used to improve the colour, texture, taste, flavour, consistency and shelf life of any food item

A food additive is a substance which is of no nutritional value added deliberately to any food product in small amounts. Food processing additives and other degradation products are used to improve the colour, texture, taste, flavour, consistency and shelf life of any food item. However, sometimes during food processing they may be removed from the integrated component consisting of the food and additive.

 
The use of additives is as old as the craft of cookery. The exact timelines could not be charted as some believe that prehistoric man also used additives through certain chemicals. Later methods like salting fish and meat to improve its shelf life, adding spices and indigenous herbs to food to improve its taste and pickling fruits using salt and vinegar were also in common practice.
 
Why Additives
 
The sudden rise in the use and manufacture of additives stems from the fact that most foods are nowadays packed and processed unlike in the past where majority of the food was hand cooked. Also adding additives and preservatives ensures the availability of the product both off and on season. Also, easy to prepare convenience food has generous doses of additives so that the quality is restrained over the course of transportation and the item is still ready to eat. The concept of food additive keeping in pace with the technological advance, enlarged their horizon encompassing a number of a functional additives to improve the quality, shelf life, nutritional status, economies, as well as aesthetics of the products.
 
Major additives in food processing include:
 
  • Alternate sweeteners,
  • Anti-caking agents,
  • Antioxidants,
  • Bleaching and maturing agents,
  • Bulking agents,
  • Colouring agents,
  • Dough conditioners,
  • Emulsifiers,
  • Enzymes and sweeteners
 
There are many different uses and nutritional values that are present among additives:
 
Nutritive Value of food: Additive such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and amino acids derivatives are utilised to increase the nutritive value of food
 
Sensory Value of food: Colour, odour, taste and texture, which are important for the sensory value of food, are determined by additives.
Shelf Life of Food: The current form of food production and distribution, as well as the trend towards convenient foods, has increased the demand for longer shelf life.
 
Generally it is these four main values for which additives are used in the food items apart from for its processing or handling. Food additives play a vital role in today’s food supply as they are nutritious. According to nutritionist Divya R Sanglikar, “In today's world, our diet includes 30-40% processed food, which may be more than 50% for those who are staying away from home. This processed food contains preservatives, chemicals and colours which are known as food additives. Preservatives are used more frequently than preservation techniques. These additives have hazardous effect on our health and it contributes to increasing incidence of cancer, heart disease and the like. Skin problems, hyper activity, hair loss and greying of hair can also be caused because of food additives.”
 
Mumbai-based management student Prinsu Jain says, “Indeed we end up consuming a lot of processed food staying away from home, which results in a significant intake of food additives.”
 
Nonetheless, consumers still prefer food additives because they allow the urban population to enjoy a variety of safe, wholesome, tasty foods without any potential risk.
 
Vijayendra Sesodia

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