Food Additives

Food additives have many very important technical functions in foods. Food additives contribute to the overall quality, safety, nutritive value, appeal, convenience, and economy of foods (IFT, 2010; PDF Download). Food and color additives and GRAS substances have been the subjects of research and development, public policy, and regulatory activity as well as public interest for decades.

IFT has addressed food additive topics in numerous ways: through workshops, publications, and expression of scientific viewpoints in numerous forums. IFT is also actively engaged in deliberations on food additives in the scientific and policy arenas (e.g., Codex Committee on Food Additives).

Food Additives, in general


European Food Safety Authority Reaffirms BHA Safety & Current ADI
The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) (E 320) does not raise concern with respect to genotoxicity and reaffirmed the safety of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0.5 mg/kg bw/day. BHA is a synthetic antioxidant authorized in the EU as a food additive. The European Commission requested the BHA reevaluation. BHA has been evaluated several times--the latest was in 1989 by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and another that same year by the EU Scientific Committee for Food (SCF). Both Committees established an ADI of 0.5 mg/kg bw/day, with SCF's being classified as temporary.

FDA's food ingredient approval process: Safety assurance based on scientific assessment (Rulis and Levitt, 2008)
Alan Rulis and Joseph Levitt, draw upon their first-hand experience within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review in this 12-page article the details of the Agency's rigorous science-based process for evaluating the safety of new food additives. They address the law, determination of estimated daily intake and acceptable daily intake, roles of toxicological and other specific studies, and post-approval activities. They review the safety evaluations of the fat substitute olestra and sweetener sucralose as case studies, and describe how substances whose use is generally recognized as safe are addressed.


Natural Flavors and Colorants , an IFT Press book by Mathew Attokaran, 2011
Addresses general information (e.g., analysis, extraction), numerous individual flavors and colors, and opportunities.


Food Ingredients and Colors (IFIC, FDA, 2010; PDF Download)
An 8-page document produced by the International Food Information Council Foundation and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with background on the different types of food and color additives, their important functions in foods, and their regulation

Regulatory Agencies

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.

European Commission (EC)
The EC represents the common European interest to all the European countries, having the role of 'guardian of the treaties' and defender of the general interest, and putting common policies into practice and managing the EU's budget and programmes.

  • Food Additives, Enzymes, and Flavourings
    Access EU rules, legislation, and specifications for these substances, an informational database of approved additives and uses, lists of authorized food additives, news, and other resources

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is the keystone of European Union (EU) risk assessment regarding food and feed safety. In close collaboration with national authorities and in open consultation with its stakeholders, EFSA provides independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Food Additives
Information pertinent to reading food labels, including names of food additives associated with code numbers, functional classes/uses, and information on food intolerances

Health Canada
General information on food additives, including regulations and other Canadian resources

Japan Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare, Food Additives
Regulatory information, including lists of additives designated as approved, substances being evaluated for authorization, lists of substances exempted from the "designation system," Japan's Specifications and Standards for Use of Food Additives, and guidance for designation of food additives and revision of standards for use

Associations and Organizations

Calorie Control Council
Represents the manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie and light foods and beverages, including manufacturers and suppliers of alternative sweeteners and other low-calorie ingredients

Federation of European Specialty Ingredients (ELC)
Provides a united voice for the specialty food ingredients industry on scientific, technical, and regulatory issues related to food products in Europe

Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA)
Maintains a scientific program to promote the safe use of flavors, supports the FEMA Expert Panel for independent evaluation of the safety in use of flavor ingredients, and as representative for its members fosters a global environment in which the flavor industry can create, innovate, and compete

FoodDrink Europe
Represents the European food and drink industry. Aims to promote the industry's interests to European and international institutions, contributing to a framework addressing, inter alia, food safety and science, nutrition and health, environmental sustainability and competitiveness.

Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)
Serves as the voice of more than 300 leading food, beverage and consumer product companies that sustain and enhance the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe)

International Food Information Council (IFIC)
Communicates science-based information about food safety and nutrition to health professionals, government officials, educators, journalists, and consumers

  • Food Insight
    Nutrition and food safety information resource of the IFIC Foundation (educational foundation associated with IFIC)
  • Hot Topic: Food Colors
    Informational resources on food color

International Food Additives Council (IFAC)
Represents companies that produce high quality substances used worldwide as food additives and food ingredients)―information on food additives, and details on food gums, microbial food cultures, and phosphates

Other Resources


Review of the regulation and safety assessment of food substances in various countries and jurisdictions (Magnuson et al., 2013)
Bernadene Magnuson and others review and compare the regulations, definitions, and approval for direct food additives, common food ingredients, food contact materials, flavoring agents, food enzymes, processing aids, novel foods, and nanoscale materials for food use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States.  They also review safety assessment-related activities of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.

Codex Alimentarius
Develops food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair trade practices in food trade, and promote coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations

Food Chemicals Codex (FCC)
The FCC is a compendium of internationally recognized standards for the authenticity, purity and identity of food ingredients. It features about 1,100 monographs, including food-grade chemicals, processing aids, foods (such as vegetable oils, fructose, whey, and amino acids), flavoring agents, vitamins, and functional food ingredients (such as lycopene, olestra, and short chain fructooligosaccharides), as well as informational chapters to aid the analyst on topics such as adulteration, analytical methods and more. Published since 1966, the FCC plays a key role in safeguarding commerce and public health by providing essential criteria and analytical methods to authenticate and determine the quality of food ingredients. FCC standards are beneficial to all players in the food industry: as agreed standards between suppliers and manufacturers aid in distinguishing genuine products from inferior or adulterated ingredients and substances, thereby helping to make the food supply chain safer and assuring consumers of the quality of the food products they eat.

Food Additives News from Food Chemicals Codex (Ebert, 2011)
Andrew Ebert, Chair of the FCC Food Ingredients Expert Committee, provides highlights of current FCC activities.

Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)
Independent scientific expert advice produced for the Codex Alimentarius Commission and its specialist Committees

International Food Additives Database
A Codex-aligned database searchable by additive name and technological function. Intended as an initial reference for food exporters, the database shows allowable uses in different markets and allows comparison of maximum use levels among different countries.

Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) Substances

IFT Resources


The future of GRAS (Hallagan and Manley, 2010)
John Hallagan and Charles Manley provide insightful perspective on the GRAS concept and its management by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (e.g., establishment of a voluntary GRAS notification program in 1997), and the 2010 report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office

The GRAS process (Burdock, 2003)
George Burdock provides a detailed historical overview of the GRAS process and cites the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association's Expert Panel as an effective example of the GRAS concept model for industry and regulatory cooperation for evaluation of dietary ingredients


IFT Comment on Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (PDF)

Regulatory Agencies

Food and Drug Administration

Generally Recognized as Safe
General information, and links to an overview of the GRAS Notification Program, guidance, regulations, database, and inventory

  • GRAS Notice Inventory
    Pending and closed U.S. FDA GRAS notifications, GRAS notice records including complete submissions and FDA response

Associations and Organizations

Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA)
Maintains a scientific program to promote the safe use of flavors, including supporting the FEMA Expert Panel for independent evaluation of the safety in use of flavor ingredients

FEMA GRAS Assessments of Favoring Substances
Published in Food Technology (most recent publications only)

GRAS Flavoring Substances 24 (PDF)
GRAS Flavoring Substances 23 (PDF)
GRAS Flavoring Substances 22 (PDF)
GRAS Flavoring Substances 21 (PDF)
GRAS Flavoring Substances 20 (PDF)
GRAS Flavoring Substances 19 (PDF)

Food Colors

IFT Resources


A new color (Nachay, 2009; PDF)
Karen Nachay reviews the controversy surrounding food colors and discusses color ingredient developments and regulations, to help manufacturers meet labeling requirements and formulate products meeting consumer desires

Palette of our palates: A brief history of food coloring and its regulation (Burrows, 2009; PDF)
Adam Burrows provides a historical and regulatory overview of food color additives and discusses the future of food coloring including the move towards more natural dyes

Coloring foods and beverages (Griffiths, 2005; PDF)
James Griffiths reviews natural and synthetic colors and their regulation in the United States


IFT comment to members of the FDA Food Advisory Committee (PDF)

Regulatory Agencies

U. S. Food and Drug Administration

Color Additives
Variety of information on color additives used in U.S. FDA-regulated products, including inventories of those listed for use, quarterly reports on certifications, and laws, regulations, and guidance

Food Advisory Committee March 2011 Meeting
Variety of materials for the Mar. 30 – 31, 2011 meeting of the Food Advisory Committee, which focused on whether available relevant data demonstrate a link between children's consumption of synthetic color additives in food and adverse effects on behavior, including an interim toxicological review memorandum, background documents, and meeting transcripts

European Food Safety Authority
Information on EFSA's ongoing work and published scientific advice, and the European regulatory framework

U.K. Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency is an independent government department established by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect public health and consumer interests regarding food. The FSA provides advice and information on food safety from farm to fork to the public and government and conducts food enforcement and monitoring.

Associations and Organizations

Natural Food Colours Association (NATCOL)
Acts on behalf of the natural food colour industry―variety of information including legislation of food colors in Europe

International Association of Color Manufacturers
Represents the manufacturers and end-users of coloring substances that are used in foods―IACM statements and information on activities, news

Other Resources

Meta-analysis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, restriction diet, and synthetic food color additives (Nigg and others, 2012)
Joel Nigg, Kara Lewis, Tracy Edinger, and Michael Falk report in the J. Child & Adolescent Psychiatry the conclusion that "dietary effects on and treatments of ADHD, including food additives and colors, deserve renewed investigation."

Food Contact Substances

Regulatory Agencies

Food and Drug Administration

Food Contact Substances
Components of materials used in manufacturing, packing, packaging, transporting, or holding food that are not intended to have any technical effect in the food―regulatory information, guidance, inventory of food contact substance notifications, list of indirect additives used in food contact substances