The food industry uses chemicals in a variety of ways, from adding flavorings and preservatives to extending shelf life. Some chemicals are used in the production process, while others are used to make packaging impermeable to oxygen and moisture.
Sweeteners like glutamate and aspartame create cravings for unhealthy foods and can override natural hunger signals which can cause overeating. Manufacturers also make generous use of salt and sugar which can cause considerable health problems over time. Some common chemicals used include:
- Acids like citric acid and ascorbic acid are used to add flavor or to adjust the pH of a food.
- Binders like cornstarch and flour are used to hold ingredients together.
- Colors like annatto and turmeric are used to make foods look more appealing.
- Emulsifiers like lecithin help keep ingredients like oil and water from separating.
- Preservatives like sodium benzoate prevent food from spoiling.
- Sweeteners like sugar and high fructose corn syrup add flavor and sweetness to foods.
Some of chemicals have been linked to health problems and while the industry is trying to find ways to reduce the use of chemicals, it’s difficult to do because they’re often required in the production process.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food labeling in the U.S. The FDA has a number of regulations that govern the use of chemicals in food production. For example, the FDA requires that any chemical used in food must be considered safe and effective. The FDA also requires that the chemical be used in a manner that is consistent with its intended use.