What is a food additive?

A food additive is a substance, possessing or not a nutritional value, added intentionally to a food item in order to achieve a specific function that can be technologic, sanitary, organoleptic or nutritional.
The origin of food additives can be mineral (as sulfites, nitrates or nitrites), vegetal (some thickener are extracted from seeds, seaweeds or fruits) or animal (some dyestuff as the cochineal red), or produced by transforming natural products (some texture agents as the modified starches). Other food additives are also obtained by synthesis (some dyes such as tartrazine, erythrosine, and indigotin) or by fermentation (the enzymes, certain gum such as xanthan gum or the gellan gum)


What is their role in the food of humans?

Food additives aim at:

  • maintain or improve the sensorial quality of food (consistency, texture, colour, or taste) organoleptic role,
  • ease their processing, technological role, improve the preservation of food items by protecting them, 
  • from certain alterations (rancidification, stalling), hygienic or sanitary role,
  • to preserve, equilibrate add or substitute, nutritional role.

Ca. 350 additives are currently permitted in Europe, classified in 24 categories corresponding to the different technical functions played.


Who allows the use of food additives in food items?

Each new food additive to be used for human nutrition is subject to an authorisation procedure based on the examination of an application constituted according to the general criteria of the 89/107/CE directive dating from the 21st December 1988 - JOCE L 40 dating from the 02/11/1989, annexe II, specified by the administrative guideline of the European Commission and by the directory lines from the Scientific Committee on Food.

The application file of a food additive must provide precise data on:

  • its harmlessness,
  • its technological interest,
  • its loyalty of use (the use of a food additive should not be misleading by giving a product the appearance of quality it does not possess).

The additives that are not explicitly allowed should not be used. Every single additive, be it from natural or synthetic origin, must comply with the procedure aiming at guaranteeing the harmlessness for human health.
The additives can only be used in limited amount into food items. When no regulatory quantitative limit is set, they should be used, according to the good manufacturing practices, only to the dose necessary to obtain the desired technological effect.


Is the use of food additives safe? 

The use of a food additive should not present any risk for the consumer. Its security is assessed by competent and independent scientific experts’ panels. Consultative, these panels give an opinion to the deciders. They base the conclusions of their evaluation of the security of the assessed substance on the concept of Daily Aacceptable Intake (ADI).
The ADI is expressed in additive milligram per kilogram bodyweight, corresponding to the amount of food additive which can be ingested daily on a life span, without risk for humans.
The ADI is based on the evaluation of the available toxicological data and is established by the identification of the No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) during the most sensitive among the studies conducted on animals with the substance to be tested, and by extrapolation to humans by dividing the NOAEL dose by a factor usually equal to 100.
It is important to underline that the ADI is not a toxicity level. It represents a consumption level without danger.
A food additive is always used for a specific reason. Being present in the final food item, it should prove its technological interest.


Which is the European legislation on food additives? 

The community legislation on food additives contains an outline directive and two types of enforcement directives on the food colouring, the sweeteners and other food additives. The framework directory 89/107/CE

  • gives the definition the food additive, 
  • states the labeling rules for the additives sold as such to the users, 
  • foresee an enquiry to the Scientific Committee on Food (now called European Food Safety Authority or EFSA) on every measure that might have an impact on public health,gives the member states, according to a procedure defined in its 5th article, the possibility to allow on their territory a new alimentary additive, for a maximal time span of two years.

The Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) is a compilation of texts aiming at acting as a reference to guarantee the security of use of the alimentary additives on the level of the international exchanges.
This norm, referenced CODEX STAN 192, has been established since 1995 and has been continuously evolving since then.
More specifically, it contains table 3 that specifies the additives authorised in all food, without maximal regulatory dose.


Which are the Admissible Daily Intake for the additives sold by Cuisine Innovation?

Most of the products sold by Cuisine Innovation are without maximal regulatory dose.

For the carrageenans (kappagel and iotagel), a daily dose of 75 mg/kg body weight, corresponding to 3.75g each day for a 50kg person has been fixed by the European Commission.

For the calcium gluconate (calcium salt) a daily dose of 50 mg/kg body weight, corresponding to 2.5g each day for a 50kg person has been fixed by the European Commission.
Information from the SYNPA and legislative texts.


The alginsphere and the calcium salt, how does it work? 

The alginsphere (E 401) is a thickener. As it is set in presence of calcium ions, it forms a gel.
For the normal spherification, the alginsphere is added to the solution to be spheriphied (0.5g alginsphere for 100g of solution). The preparation gets thicker. Using a syringe, or a pipette, dispense the alginsphere preparation dropwise into a solution of calcium (1g of calcium salt for 100g of water).
There is another method called reversed spherification, which works very well for dairy products, which naturally contain calcium. It requires to prepare a bath of alginsphere and to immerse yogurt drops, for example, into it.


Is it possible to make alginate beads containing alcohol? 

Vous pouvez réaliser des perles en sphérification normale avec des alcools jusqu'à 20°, au-delà l'alginsphère ne se solubilise plus. Pour utiliser un alcool fort, il est nécessaire de le diluer pour arriver à cette teneur maximum en alcool. Par exemple, si vous voulez utiliser du Calvados dont la teneur en alcool serait de 45°, il vous faudra diluer par deux pour que la teneur se rapproche de 20°. Essayer de dissoudre 2 % en masse d'alginsphère dans le liquide de dilution (par exemple du jus de pomme, mais pourquoi pas du thé fait avec une eau pauvre en calcium), laissez reposer 30 min en agitant de temps en temps pour assurer une bonne hydratation de l'alginsphère, puis ajouter lentement le même volume d'alcool fort (Calvados ou autre). Si vous constatez l'apparition de grumeau, n'ajoutez plus d'alcool. Formez ensuite les perles en faisant tomber goutte à goutte cette préparation dans un bain de calcium.


Why is the calcium chloride to be avoided in the spherification technique?

Calcium chloride imparts an unpleasant taste. On contrary, the calcium lactate or the calcium gluconolactate are neutral in taste.


Why can't I spherify all fruit juices?

Fruit juices have different acidities (pH). If the juice is too acidic, the alginsphere do not solubilise. Observing a thickening of your fruit juice is the proof of a proper dissolution of the alginate. If the thickening does not take place, you can add water (with low calcium content) to reduce the acidity of the fruit juice.


Why does my emulcithine foams do not froth properly?

To obtain the best possible foams when using emulcithine, it is necessary to avoid using a preparation containing fat.


What is the difference between agargel and kappagel?

agargel and kappagel are both polysaccharides. Their differences are related to their structure. The agargel allows obtaining brittle gels which hold up to temperatures close to 80 °C. The kappagel, for its part, allows obtaining elastic gels which hold up to temperatures close to 65 °C.


What makes the popping candy pop?

The popping candy is a sugar in which is included a small amount (3 %) of carbon dioxide, also called CO2 as it is its chemical formula, or carbonic anhydride. The consumption of CO2 as an alimentary additive do not present any known risk: neither the European Commission, nor the FDA, the American Food and Drug Administration, give any Admissible Daily Intake for the CO2.
The CO2 is a natural component of the Earth’s atmosphere (about 0.04 %), one of its source being the breathing of all living organisms. Human, at rest, breath out a mean volume of 200 mL CO2 per minute. The fact that it is produced in the respiratory cycle shows that it does not have toxicological effect at the usual low concentrations. It is not true for higher concentrations, as CO2 is a suffocating gas above 15 % in the breathed atmosphere.
Regarding the popping candy, it is used for the surprising and pleasing sparkling effect produced on the tongue by the gaseous release of CO2. As the pieces of popping candy are put into the mouth, they dissolve into the water of our saliva, setting free the CO2 they contained. The combination of CO2 with the sugar (saccharine), the lactose, and the glucose needs no specific warning.
In other words, the breathing of a human release in the atmosphere more CO2 every minute than what could 100 g of popping candy do. The popping candy is therefore not a problem for the environment.
Eating 5 g of popping candy (as for example the content of 25 g of popping chocolate) would set free at most 20 mL CO2, therefore less CO2 volume as what is set free by 25 mL cola (ca. 100 mL) or champagne (ca. 400 mL). Finally, as you have probably noticed it if you have already enjoyed some popping candy, the CO2 is slowly set free. There is therefore no risk eating it, as there is not any drinking cola, beer or champagne (with moderation), even while having a mentos®!


Is the methylcellulose toxic?

The methylcellulose has been attributed a GRAS statute (Generally Recognized As Safe) in the United States and is referenced in the European legislation on additives with the mention "quantum satis" (no admissible daily intake, i.e. no maximal daily dose). It has therefore passed successfully all toxicological evaluations showing the harmlessness of its use in food. Actually, methylcellulose, as the cellulose present in fruits and vegetables, is not digested by humans, and play the role of soluble alimentary fiber.
And concerning the limitation for children under 6 years old, it applies to a large number of additives (gums and others) that are not allowed in the “Baby Food”.