Food classification is a tricky topic. There are so many different names for additives and preservatives, and it can be hard to keep track of them all. But that’s okay! The goal of this post is to help you understand the different types of food ingredients, food additives, and preservatives and what they do in food. It’s an important topic to understand because there are so many terms and acronyms! However, it’s critical to know what each term means because these ingredients can have a big impact on your health and the environment. So, let’s dive right in!
What Do GRAS, NDI, and ODI mean?
These terms can sometimes be confusing because they all have similar-sounding names.
GRAS stands for “Generally Recognized as Safe”, NDI stands for “New Dietary Ingredient” and ODI stands for “Old Dietary Ingredient”. To be used in conventional foods, ingredients must be classified as either GRAS, NDI, or ODI.
In this post, we will focus on the different types of food additives and preservatives which can be considered GRAS, NDIs, or ODIs. We’ll also be discussing what they do in food and how they can impact your health, as well as the environment.
What are Food Additives and Food Preservatives?
Food additives are used to improve the quality, safety, and longevity of foods by changing their color, flavor, or consistency. They may also be used to prevent spoilage (oxidation), reduce the microbial load, or improve the nutritional value of food products such as cereals or dairy products that have been processed using heat treatment technology (pasteurization).
Here is a list of the most common food additives:
- Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal), and saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
- Artificial colours (e.g. Red 40 dye)
- Food preservatives like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate used in wine production
Food Classification Complications:
You may have noticed that there are many different names for the same type of additive. For example, you might see “diglyceride” or “diglyceride esters” listed on a label and think they’re two different things when they’re the same thing. This is because FDA regulations allow manufacturers to use one name for an ingredient if it’s followed by another more specific type of name (e.g., shortening).
Another complication is that there are many types of food additives and preservatives, so knowing what each does can be confusing at first. Here’s a quick breakdown of some common categories:
- Preservatives prevent spoilage from microorganisms such as bacteria and mold in foods like cheese or spices; examples include sodium nitrite/nitrate and calcium propionate/propionic acid.
- Antioxidants help protect fats from going rancid (oxidizing) during storage; common ones include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).
- Stabilizers help keep ingredients mixed together so they don’t separate out over time; examples include carrageenan gum or xanthan gum.
How Are Additives and Preservatives Approved for Use in Foods?
Today, food and color additives are more strictly studied, regulated, and monitored than at any other time in history. FDA has the primary legal responsibility for determining their safe use. To market, a new food or color additive (or before using an additive already approved for one use in another manner not yet approved), a manufacturer or other sponsor must first petition FDA for its approval. These petitions must provide evidence that the substance is safe for the ways in which it will be used. As a result of recent legislation, since 1999, indirect additives have been approved via a premarket notification process requiring the same data as was previously required by petition.
When evaluating the safety of a substance and whether it should be approved, FDA considers:
- The composition and properties of the substance,
- The amount that would typically be consumed,
- Immediate and long-term health effects,
- Various safety factors.
The evaluation determines an appropriate level of use that includes a built-in safety margin – a factor that allows for uncertainty about the levels of consumption that are expected to be harmless. In other words, the levels of use that gain approval are much lower than what would be expected to have any adverse effect.
Does FDA have databases for GRAS ingredients and Food Additives?
YES! The FDA’s Food Additives Status List, formerly called Appendix A of the Investigations Operations Manual (IOM), organizes additives found in many parts of 21 CFR into one alphabetized list.
The Food Additives Status List includes short notations on use limitations for each additive.
The Food Additive Status List omits certain categories of additives, such as those that are considered GRAS and are obviously safe substances. You may find such substances in the GRAS Notice Inventory on the FDA website.
How Quality Smart Solutions can help:
We hope this post helped you understand food additives and preservatives a little better. There are many different kinds, and they can have a big impact on your health and the environment. If you want to learn even more, reach out to us today!
Please contact our team for more information on food classification, ingredient feasibility questions, ingredient submissions, and food labelling projects. Our specialists are here to help with the following services; Novel Food Notifications, SFCR License application, HACCP & PCP program, TMA License for Supplemented Foods, Nutrition Facts Table (NFT) Creation and label compliance!