Food additives used by industry

Food additives are substances that are intentionally added to food and beverages in order to modify or stabilise their organoleptic characteristics, to stabilise physical properties, to prolong their shelf life or to correct their components. Although some additives provide nutritional value, they are not used in order to increase the nutritional value of the food to which they are added.

Historically, additives have been included in food, mainly during the 19th and 20th century with the advent of food science, a discipline that combines biology, chemistry, physics and engineering to study the nature of food. Additives are also known by their E numbers, which are codes that have been assigned to them and are usually listed on product labels, mainly in the European Union, but due to their widespread use, they can also be found in other areas.

It was the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1989 who adopted the International Numbering System for Food Additives (E-Numbers) with the aim of establishing an international numerical identification system on ingredient lists that would function as an alternative to the declaration of the specific name. Often, the names of the additives are too long, different in many languages and of a complex chemical nature,  all reasons to establish such a coding system, which can be used independently or alongside the chemical name of the additive. For example, when Tocopherol Blends are used in a product, these may be stated on the label as “E-306”, “Antioxidant E-306” or “Antioxidant: Rich Extract in Tocopherols”.

The main types of additives used in the food industry are:

  • Aromatiers
  • Colourants
  • Preservatives
  • Antioxidants
  • Acidulants
  • Sweeteners
  • Thickeners
  • Starch derivatives
  • Flavors
  • Emulsifiers

Types of food additives

These types of additives are grouped into a general classification according to four specific functionalities. You can consult the article Classification of additives in the food industry to get more information on the subject. In addition to the classification according to their technological function, the additives can be classified according to their origin – natural or synthetic.
Additives are used in industry mainly for food safety reasons, to ensure the safety and edibility  of food. In addition, there are other reasons why these types of substances are used, such as maintaining or increasing nutritional value, increasing stability and extending shelf life, or facilitating the manufacturing process of products. Besides that, its use is important to provide food to groups of people who have specific needs as in the case of diabetics, celiacs or people who have certain allergies or food intolerances.

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Regulation of food additives


To use an additive type it is necessary that it is authorised. In the case of European legislation, authorisation is granted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an agency of the European Union whose main objective is to assess the risks and problems affecting food safety in the member states Of the EU.

EFSA is also responsible for carrying out relevant safety assessments of new additives, producing safety reports and reviewing scientific information to determine and / or modify conditions of use.

All food additives must comply with the criteria approved in the directives of European legislation. The main regulations that deal with the subject of food additives are the following:

  •     Framework Directive (89/107 / EEC), general system of authorized food additives
  •     Specific Directive (94/36 / EC) on the colours used in foodstuffs.
  •     Specific Directive (94/35 / EC) on sweeteners.
  •     Specific Directive (95/2 / EC) on additives other than authorised colourings and sweeteners.
  •     Positive lists of permitted additives and their conditions of use.


The international food regulation that also weighs in on additives is the Codex Alimentarius, which aims to ensure the quality and safety of food in any place and to all people. It belongs to the World Health Organization and to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and seeks to contribute through standards, codes and guidelines in international food practices.

Codex standards serve as basic recommendations for national legislation, even if they are merely suggestions where application by members is optional. The information of this institution is public and free of charge and Codex members cover 99% of the world population. Codex is a global reference in the food sector for producers, processors and consumers operating within the international food trade.

In the field of additives, the main standard published by this entity is the general standard STAN 192-1995.

It is also important to track, communicate and publish the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO).


In the United States the regulation of additives is at the federal level, so the agencies that have competence in matters of additives is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). There are differences in definition which we will  highlight with respect to the European Union.

The first is that additives that are added to food are called direct additives and indirect additives are those present in the packaging that are susceptible to releasing substances into food. In addition, the FDA allows the treatment of foods with irradiation to fight bacteria, which is legally considered as an additive.

Another difference to take into account when working with the US market, is how to name the additives in the labeling of the products, since it is not valid to use the previously mentioned E. Numbers. Besides that, in the US there are additives that are allowed which are not authorized in the EU and the other way around, and there are different limits for the use of certain additives.

There are countries where certain foods cannot have additives introduced during their manufacturing process. For example, in Spain, milk, pasta, natural yogurt, eggs, nuts, seeds, olive oil or coffee powder, among others, do not have any kind of additive.

Food additives also relate to other sectors such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or animal nutrition. Some of these substances are being increasingly requested because of the greater knowledge about the effects on people’s health and the new eating habits of consumers.

What is a natural antioxidant and why is it useful in food?

Introduction to the concept of food additives

Before understanding what antioxidants are and talking about natural antioxidants in food, you first have to know the concept of food additives, as they are part of this group.

According to the Spanish Food Code, additives are “all substances that can be intentionally added to foods and beverages, with no intention of changing their nutritional value, in order to modify their characteristics, processing or preservation techniques or to improve their adaptation to the use for which they are intended. ” They are substances that are intentionally added and their presence fulfils a specific objective. Additives are usually incorporated to modify or stabilise organoleptic properties, to stabilise physical characteristics, to extend shelf life or to improve or correct components of a food; however, they are not used to increase the nutritional value of food. There are different types of food additives, and among them we find the group of antioxidants.

From that definition, what is a natural antioxidant? Natural antioxidants are naturally occurring additives that aim to delay the oxidative rancidity of the product to make its conditions optimal for a longer period of time. Some of the most commonly used natural antioxidants are tocopherols, rosemary extract or ascorbic acid, which are increasingly being sought after by companies in the food industry because of their many benefits.

Over the centuries, nature has developed different compounds to prevent the oxidation of lipids. Some of these antioxidants have been identified and characterised, but many others have not been discovered yet. Nowadays there are several natural antioxidants commonly used by the food industry, such as those mentioned above.

How did natural antioxidants come about?

Throughout history fats have been a fundamental part of human feeding due to their nutritional properties, their caloric contribution and many other properties that they contribute to foods.

Since mankind began to accumulate food and subsequently to market it, people have always sought ways to protect food from deterioration and rancidity. The first techniques were based on physical treatments, and later chemical methods. Techniques such as salted or smoked foods are some of the ways society had to preserve products. However, from the twentieth century, due to the demographic explosion and socio-demographic changes, the use of additives to delay the oxidation of products and to increase their shelf life was increased.

Initially, food companies resorted mostly to synthetic antioxidants, however, and as the years go by, there has been a change in this trend and more and more companies are choosing to use antioxidants of natural origin to protect their products, thanks to the benefits they bring and the increased demand for natural ingredients by consumers.

Other Uses of Natural Antioxidants

Today the industry has evolved, and natural antioxidants are not only used in human food, but also in other industries such as cosmetics, nutraceuticals and animal feed. In all these markets, compounds that are susceptible to oxidation are used, so the use of natural antioxidants has also been growing due to its advantages and its capacity to increase the shelf life of the products. Some of the most common applications of natural antioxidants in cosmetics are in anti-aging formulations, face and body creams, essential oils, perfumes and spa products. They can also be used in balms and lipsticks. With regard to animal nutrition, some of the most common applications are fats, oils, fat soluble vitamins, pigments, as well as meat and fishmeal.

Why use natural antioxidants in the food industry?

Although natural antioxidants have applications in different sectors, in this article we will focus on their application in the food sector.

The oxidation of fats in food is an inevitable reaction, which increases as time passes. However, it is possible to delay the oxidative process by using natural antioxidants in order to preserve food for a longer period of time.

The oxidation of food not only changes the colour, smell or taste of the food, but also causes foods to lose their nutritional value and rancid products may be a problem for the health of the person who ingests them. This is why the food industry uses additives such as antioxidants to protect products.

Some of the main reasons why companies today prefer to use natural antioxidants are:

– They have a high antioxidant capacity
– They have lower volatility and higher stability at high temperatures
– They have no legal limitations and are allowed in virtually every country
– They have greater solubility and are easily incorporated into the production process
– They are in line with the market trend and consumer demand

what is a natural antioxidant

Where can natural antioxidants be used within the food industry?

Below we will name some of the most common natural antioxidants and their application within the food industry.

Ascorbic Acid (E-300), along with its derivatives, is one of the antioxidants used in foods such as meats, juices, beverages, pastries or fruits. In baking it can also be used as a technological aid that helps to improve dough. Its application in fatty products is limited due to its lipid insolubility.

This additive acts as an antioxidant through the extinction of oxygen, the reduction of free radicals and the regeneration of primary antioxidants. It is considered a safe food additive and has no use limits. Ascorbic Acid is very susceptible to elements such as heat, light or oxygen, so it is often necessary to add it exogenously to food.

In addition to its antioxidant activity, it acts as vitamin C, a flavouring, acidulant, colour fixative and reducing agent.

Mixtures of Tocopherols (E-306) are another natural antioxidant most used in food, mainly in products containing fats, such as oils, cookies, cereals, snacks, sauces, flour, confectionery, etc. Tocopherols are a mixture of four isomers and their antioxidant activity lies mainly in the Gamma and Delta isomers, being practically null in the Alpha and Beta isomers. These antioxidants prevent the oxidation of fats by stopping chain reactions of free radicals.

Antioxidants based on Tocopherols are an excellent solution to stabilise fats and oils. They are a natural antioxidant with a lot of benefits, such as its resistance to high temperatures, its high solubility, its null impact on the colour or odour of the final product, or the possibility of being used in organic products. In addition, it is allowed to use as an antioxidant in any country in the world.

Rosemary extract (E-392) is another antioxidant widely used in food that has a good performance in animal fats, but has certain problems of smell and taste. It is often used in combination with other antioxidants such as Tocopherols looking for a synergistic effect between these ingredients.

This antioxidant is an extract obtained from the Rosemary plant using solvents suitable for human consumption. Its most important compounds from the antioxidant point of view are Rosmarinic Acid, Camosol and Carnosidic Acid.

The use of antioxidants today

The use of natural antioxidants as additives in the food industry is a necessity that is increasingly present in the market and is increasingly demanded by society. That is why, currently, using natural components becomes an added value for the product.

In addition, the fact that there are natural antioxidants for different applications, allows them to be used in a wide variety of products within the food sector, so more and more companies are choosing to use these types of ingredients in their formulations.

Classification of additives in the food industry

Throughout history, mankind has needed to prolong the shelf life of food, modify its organoleptic characteristics or stabilise its physical properties, with the aim of surviving periods of shortage, drought or winters. In the past, the classification of additives was less common and food consumption was seasonal, but with the development of agriculture and livestock mankind began to manipulate food in order to preserve them better and transform them into more durable and stable products.

The first techniques developed were based on physical treatments, which were sometimes combined with chemical treatments. Some of these treatments are still currently used, for example: drying, salting, smoking, and freezing, among others.

Food additives are one of the great technologies that have been developed in terms of food preservation and transformation. Due to massive urbanisation and the rhythm of life in the twentieth century, it has become necessary to use food additives to adapt products to current needs. Without additives, many foods could not be manufactured or even consumed.

Today, additives are part of our daily lives, since virtually all beverages and processed foods we consume contain any of these substances. However, the incorporation of additives into the food industry’s products is a controversial issue due to both ignorance and concern on the part of consumers. On one hand, there is ignorance in the classification of additives and their types and on the other, there is concern about the possible impact of certain additives on human ihealth.

According to the Codex, international food standards proposed by FAO and approved by WHO, a food additive is defined as: “any substance which is not normally consumed as a food, nor is it used as a basic food ingredient, having a nutritional value or not and whose intentional addition to the food for technological purposes in its manufacturing, processing, preparation, processing, packaging, packaging, transport or storage phases, results or can reasonably be expected to result in itself or its by-products in a component of the food or an element that affects its characteristics.”

Main characteristics of food additives

In the food industry, for a substance to be admitted as an additive and to be used, it must overcome toxicological controls, be chemically characterised and demonstrate that its use provides consumer benefits and / or technological benefits.

The 7 main functions of the additives are:

– Ensure the safety and edibleness of the food.
– Preserve or increase the nutritive value of the ingredients.
– Increase stability or improve organoleptic properties.
– Prolong the shelf life of the food and contribute to its conservation.
– Make possible the availability of food out of season.
– Facilitate the manufacturing processes of the products.
– Provide food for groups of consumers with particular dietary needs.

classification of food additives

Classification of food additives

The following classification of additives is based on criteria on their technological functions. However, it is necessary to emphasize that there are other classifications based on the origin (natural or synthetic) or the type of additive.

1) Stabilizers of physical characteristics

– Emulsifiers: Substances that allow the maintenance or formation of a homogeneous mixture of two or more non-miscible phases. For example, water and oil.
– Thickeners: macromolecules that preserve the textures of foods such as viscosity or gelling effect. For example, adding E-406 (agar-agar) to a jam preserves for its texture.
– Anti-caking agents: substance that prevents the formation of clumps or lumps that affect product homogeneity. They are usually used in soups, sauces, juices or dairy products.
– Acidity correctors: substances that control or alter the pH of food. Inadequate control can lead to the proliferation of undesirable bacteria in the food which could suppose a health risk.

2) Inhibitors of chemical and biological alterations

– Antioxidants: they are additives that are added mainly in fatty ingredients to delay or prevent the rancidity of foods due to the oxidation. There are two types of antioxidants on the market: natural and synthetic.
– Conservatives: substances that when added protect food against deterioration caused by unwanted microorganisms. They are often used in food containing water, such as bakery, pastries, dairy, beverages or meat products.

3) Modifiers of organoleptic characters

– Colouring agents: substances used to modify or stabilise the colouring characteristics of a food. Colour in food is an aspect that is associated with the quality of food and is related to taste and smell. The use of dyes in food goes back to ancient civilizations; the use of saffron or cochineal for colouring have a long tradition which continues to today.
– Flavour enhancers: substances that enhance the taste and / or aroma of a food without giving its own flavour. They are widely used in sauces and soups. Monosodium glutamate is one of the most used in processed foods.
– Sweeteners: These additives are used to provide sweet taste or to mimic flavours. Its aim is that the flavour is the most similar to the common sugar and resist similar treatments in which sugar is used. They are very important in products for diabetics or low calorie products.
– Aromatic substances are substances that provide a new aroma and / or correct the aroma of food and beverages. It is possible to obtain them from extracts of vegetable origin.

4) Improvers and correctors

They are additives that are used in baking, wine making, or to regulate the maturation of dairy products, such as cheese or meat products.

As mentioned above, there are natural and synthetic additives that are titrated according to the ADI (acceptable daily intake) and based on available toxicological data. Each additive has a maximum dietary level without demonstrable toxic effects and public administrations rely on the ADI when legislating and establishing authorized quantities for the use of the additives.

The use of food additives seeks to improve the products that food manufacturers offer to consumers. However, in many cases the consumer has a poor perception about the additives, especially of the synthetic or artificial ones. Some believe that the food industry uses additives to mask poor quality and to lower costs, but the truth is that the use of additives allows people to eat healthy, tasty and safe food.

Although there is still a great deal of ignorance on the subject in the general population, the market trend is towards the consumption of good quality food, using natural additives, easily prepared and preserved, and without harmful effects on health.

The classification of food additives allows to synthesise and understand what type of additives the manufacturer needs for each type of product. In addition, the regulations concerning additives require that all food additives used in the product should appear on food labels. In Europe, the E-number system is used, although labelling using the full name of the additive, Tocopherols for example, a natural antioxidant used in the food industry can be labelled using its E-306 number or as “Rich Extract in Tocopherols”.

The main bodies responsible for regulating additives are the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) at the European level and the FAO / WHO Committee of experts on food additives (JECFA) at the international level. It is important to periodically review the official sources in order to stay updated on the latest developments and changes regarding additives and the food sector in general.

Differences between preservatives and antioxidants

Currently, there is a myth that all food additives are bad and harmful to people’s health, however, the truth is that these products allow people to consume tasty, healthy and safe products. In fact, the manufacture of food at the industrial level today is only possible thanks to the use of additives, and in that regard, companies should strive to use ingredients that, besides fulfilling their technological function, are safe for health and are regulated by food authorities, in order to offer consumers the highest quality products possible.

Currently in the food industry there is a wide variety of additives that are added to foods for purposes such as modifying or stabilising their organoleptic characteristics (e.g. colouring), stabilising certain physical characteristics (e.g. emulsifying), prolonging their shelf life (e.g. preservatives and antioxidants) or improve its components (e.g. acidity correctors). Since they are different components, it is important to learn about them and to know the characteristics that differentiate them from each other.

Two types of additives commonly used in the food industry are preservatives and antioxidants, however, oftentimes we confuse one with the other, and people are not completely clear about their meaning, their characteristics or their most common applications. In the next section, we will learn and differentiate these concepts, and we will see the differences between the two, as well as learn about their applications.

What are preservatives

Preservatives are a type of additive whose purpose is to protect foods against microbial contamination, therefore preventing them from deteriorating from the growth of these unwanted microorganisms. This does not mean that the product will not deteriorate, since all foods have an expiration date, but they do help to delay deterioration. Preservatives are used in the food industry to delay the onset of fungi, bacteria and yeasts in processed foods ranging from baked goods to dairy and beverages.

What are antioxidants

Antioxidants are additives capable of delaying or preventing rancidity of food due to oxidation, and therefore, lengthen the shelf life of products. They are very important in the food industry because they allow foods to conserve their nutritional properties and their quality levels. Antioxidants do not improve the quality of food, but it does help them to keep for a longer period of time. There is a wide variety of antioxidants from natural and synthetic origin, which are usually used in food. The most common uses of antioxidants are oils, margarines, confectionery, baked goods, pastries, snacks, cereals and sauces. Some natural antioxidants used in the food industry are Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid or Rosemary Extract.

What are the differences between preservatives and antioxidants

Although both additives seek to extend the shelf life of the food, preserving the quality of the product, its organoleptic characteristics and its nutritional properties, there are some differences that should be known to clarify which should be used and when.

The first difference between preservatives and antioxidants lies in their technological function. As we have already mentioned, the former seek to prevent the proliferation of undesirable microorganisms in the product, while the latter are used to protect food from oxidative rancidity. Both are inhibitors of alterations in the product, but the preservatives are inhibitors of biological changes, and the antioxidants are inhibitors of chemical changes.

The second big difference is that preservatives are used in products that contain water, since it is in this environment where microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria and yeasts that deteriorate food arise and develop. Antioxidants, on the other hand, are incorporated into products that contain fats, to protect them from oxidation due to the impact of light, heat or other factors.

There are products such as fruits or drinks that do not have a percentage of fat in their composition; in that case it is recommended only to add preservatives to prevent deterioration. Additionally, products like oils lack water in their composition, which is why in this case it is advisable to use antioxidants. However, there are a lot of foods like bread, biscuits, margarine or sausages that have both water and oil in their ingredients, so in these cases it is common to see that food companies add both preservatives and antioxidants.

A third difference is the classification of these additives in relation to their labelling. For example, E-numbers are used at European level, where the preservatives correspond to the numbers between E-200 and E-299, and the antioxidants correspond to the numbers between E-300 and E-399. The E numbers are codes of the different additives, which are used to label them on food products. The number system originates from the International Numbering System (INS) as determined by Codex Alimentarius.

What is Codex Alimentarius

Codex Alimentarius is a compilation of standards, guidelines, codes of best practice, guides and other recommendations on food, food production and food safety, the purpose of which is to protect consumers by ensuring the availability of safe and high quality food.

Codex Alimentarius is a global benchmark for consumers, food producers and regulators. Its influence is recognised on all continents, as it has greatly contributed to protecting the health of consumers and ensuring best practices within the food industry.

How did food additives come about?

We go back to the era of the Roman Empire to find evidence of different ways to preserve food, such as using salt, algae and gelatines to make food more consistent, or using certain plant extracts to colour food. However, it is in the twentieth century that the idea of a food preservative begins to develop. These additives emerged with the aim of improving the quality of food and also to protect the health of consumers, especially as food began to require higher levels of production and transport across longer and longer distances.

At first, they were called “substances foreign to the composition of foods” but later they became known as “chemical food additives”. Although everything had been previously studied, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the foundations for the use of these substances were laid. Various congresses and meetings were held in which official bodies and experts from fields such as industry, science and law participated. After all the meetings, the foundations were finally laid for legislation, which has continued to evolve and adapt to new discoveries related to consumer health.

Food additives to extend shelf life

Food additives have been present in mankind for centuries, given the need for humans to preserve food. To date, it is hard to imagine the food industry without additives such as preservatives or antioxidants, because they allow foods to have a longer shelf life, entailing benefits for both consumers and producers.

The most substantial difference between a preservative and an antioxidant is that they are components that affect food differently. Both have a mission to keep food in good condition for a longer time, but do so in different manners.

In short, these are two different components that act differently and are used in products with different characteristics, but always with the aim of keeping the product in good condition for a longer period of time.

9 reasons to choose natural tocopherols and extend the life of your product

Natural tocopherols were one of the first liposoluble antioxidants isolated from plants. Due to its high concentration and habitual presence in vegetable oils and other plants with high concentration of lipids, Tocopherol is the most common antioxidant in nature.

Most vegetable oils contain a mix of Tocopherols between 0.5% and 0.1%, but because of the refining processes, the oils lose most of the natural tocopherols present. Due to this, sometimes it is necessary to add Tocopherols at the end of the refining process to ensure that the oils have a good stability and to prevent their oxidation.

Tocopherols prevent oxidation of lipids by stopping the free radical chain reactions by yielding a hydrogen atom to a hydroperoxide radical. The result of this reaction is a relatively stable Tocopherol derivative (Tocopheryl) radical which does not continue the chain reaction.

Tocopherols exist in nature as a mixture of four different isomers: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. The antioxidant activity of each isomer is different as is its vitamin power. Numerous studies show that the antioxidant capacity lies mainly in the gamma and delta isomers, and are practically non-existent in the alpha and beta isomers.

Tocopherols are a powerful natural antioxidant widely used in the food industry, as well as in cosmetics or animal nutrition, due to its great ability to prevent against oxidative rancidity, extending the shelf life of food products.

Food shelf life is defined as the period from production to expiration, the end of the life of a food is when it exceeds the levels of microbiological contamination and loses its physical-chemical and organoleptic qualities. This definition was set by the European Parliament and the Council of 20 March 2000 related to the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods.

See the article The most commonly used methods for determining food shelf life for more information on shelf life.

9 reasons to choose natural tocopherols

Here are nine reasons to choose tocopherol-based antioxidants for the food industry:

  1. It is a 100% natural ingredient

As we have previously explained, Tocopherols are present in a large quantity of vegetable oils, and are obtained from distillates of these oils by physical methods without the use of solvents, which can alter their natural composition. This characteristic is of paramount importance for the food industry, and because of this the Tocopherols can be used without limitations in practically the whole world. In addition, this is increasingly valuable for consumers, who are more and more searching for foods that are healthy and do not use artificial ingredients.

  1. Availability in various raw materials

It is possible to find Tocopherols that come from diverse sources, however in the food industry the most used are soybean oil and sunflower oil. The composition of the 4 isomers of Tocopherol varies among the different sources of origin, with soybean Tocopherols showing a higher antioxidant activity due to their higher concentration of gamma and delta isomers. On the other hand, the Tocopherols from sunflower origin have a higher concentration of Alfa Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

  1. Effectiveness

Over the centuries, nature has developed different compounds to prevent the oxidation of lipids, with Tocopherols being one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. This antioxidant is very effective in protecting fats against oxidation and rancidity, so every day it is used by more and more food companies to protect their products. It is common to find mixtures of Tocopherols in concentrations between 30% and 90%.

  1. No organoleptic effects on the product

It should be noted that due to the low doses in which Tocopherols are used (between 0.03% and 0.3% of the fat portion of the product), they have no effect on the colour, taste or smell of the final product, which is something that is highly valued by the food industry.

  1. Stability at high temperatures

Tocopherols have an important structural difference in respect to synthetic antioxidants, providing them with a number of advantages. This difference is its long lipid side chain, which greatly decreases the volatility of Tocopherol. Volatility in antioxidants is directly related to their stability during the food production process. This is a very important feature, especially when using antioxidants to protect food during processes that involve high temperatures, such as baking or frying.

  1. Double protection

“Carry through” is the property that some antioxidants have to “survive” a process of frying; in other words, it is the ability to remain in the oil and thus pass to the final product, where they continue to exercise their antioxidant function, delaying rancidity of said final product. Highly volatile antioxidants tend to evaporate at different stages of the manufacturing process, leaving less antioxidant in the product. The result is a high cost and difficulty in controlling the optimum level of antioxidant remaining in the final product.

  1. Ease of incorporation into a product

Because antioxidants cannot reverse the process of self-oxidation of food but only prevent it, it is important that both when they are added and that their distribution to the lipid medium is homogeneous. Natural Tocopherols are 100% miscible in all fats and oils, unlike the synthetic antioxidants, with which it is sometimes necessary to use solvents such as propylene glycol.

  1. Ecological products

Another differentiating factor of this natural antioxidant is that its use is permitted in organic products. This is thanks to the low doses of Tocopherols that are used to protect against oxidation, which do not exceed the limits established by regulation for this type of product.

  1. Food safety

Natural Tocopherols are a safe, effective and easy-to-transport antioxidant. In addition, since they are not toxic components, there are no limits to their use and they are permitted in practically every country in the world. In contrast, certain synthetic antioxidants are limited or even banned in food meant for human consumption, because there is evidence to suggest that high doses may be harmful to health. On the other hand, Tocopherols have GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe), an FDA-approved mark, an assurance that they are safe to use as food additives.

Choosing the ideal antioxidant to extend the shelf life of a food depends on various factors such as the type of application, compatibility, production process, regulatory guidelines or the impact of external factors such as packaging or storage conditions. That is why food manufacturers should be aware of all these elements when selecting an antioxidant to protect their products. Antioxidants based on natural Tocopherols are presented as a suitable and very effective solution due to their multiple properties and benefits compared to other alternatives in the market.

The most commonly used methods for determining the shelf life of food

Determining the shelf life of processed foods is one of the main problems faced by food companies when launching a product to market, or when modifying some of its ingredients. This problem is especially considerable when it comes to non-perishable products, where food needs many months, or even years, to deteriorate. That is why it is very important to employ methods that correctly estimate the shelf life of products.

We understand shelf life to be the time during which a food maintains characteristics and a level of quality that is suitable for human consumption. In the food industry, the shelf life of a food is the time between the production or packaging of the product and the time when it becomes unacceptable under certain environmental conditions (Ellis, 1994) and when the consumption of said food implies a risk to consumer health.

The Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods defines shelf life as the time from production to expiration, the end of the life of a food is when it exceeds the levels of microbiological contamination, loses its physical-chemical qualities and changes its organoleptic qualities.

From the point of view of food safety, the shelf life of the food depends on four main factors:formulation, processing, packaging and storage, which we will explain later. In countries such as Spain, each marketing company is responsible for establishing and guaranteeing the shelf life of the food it places on the market given the importance and impact on consumers’ health; making a mistake on the guarantee of the shelf life of the food carries serious consequences such as product recall, consumer complaints, market mistrust and brand reputation problems.

The expiration date and best by dates of foods

Prior to understanding the methods to determine the shelf life of foods, we must take into account two elementary concepts: the expiration date and the best by date.

The expiration date is indicated on perishable products with biological risk(s), meaning its consumption after that date can generate some degree of food poisoning. This date depends largely on factors such as optimal storage conditions, water activity, microbiological criteria or oxidation.

On the other hand, the best by date, which is applicable to more durable and stable products, indicates when a product begins to lose its physical qualities such as colour, smell or taste, but its consumption remains safe and presents no microbiological risk for the consumer. The use of antioxidants can help delay the best by date of a product.

Factors that influence food shelf life

There are several factors involved in the deterioration or loss of the original quality of a food. These factors can be divided into two types: intrinsic (inherent to the nature of the food itself) or extrinsic (external conditions facing food), and are determined by different quality parameters: organoleptic, nutritional, hygienic, physical, chemical or microbiological.

The intrinsic factors that affect shelf life are those that respond to the formulation of the food. In the food industry, it is imperative that the manufacturer has the following knowledge about its products:

  • Raw materials
  • Composition and formulation of the product (additives used)
  • Water activity
  • Total acidity and pH value
  • Potential Redox
  • Available oxygen

Taking all this information into account, the producer can choose the systems that maximise the life of a product according to the needs that it may have. For example, the oxidation of edible oils is a significant problem for the food industry due to the considerable increase in the use of fat and polyunsaturated oils (Frankel, 2010), so it is important to know the nutritional quality and the possible processes that the different raw materials have gone though, and to determine what antioxidants can slow down the oxidation process.

The extrinsic factors that affect the shelf life of the food are those that are present in the process, packaging and storage of the product. Mainly they are:

  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Damage to packaging
  • Distribution and places of sale

During the different manipulation processes of the product, it is necessary to control its interaction with the components of the external system. To control of the process used every detail counts: the light permeability of the packaging, the distribution of humidity and the relative temperature, both in storage and in transportation, are the main external factors to be monitored and optimised.

Methodologies to determine foods’ shelf life

The methods most used today to estimate the shelf life of foods are:

Direct method: These are real-time studies that consist of storing the product under conditions similar to those that it will actually face, to monitor its evolution in regular intervals of time. The main advantage of this method is that it creates a very accurate estimation of the time it takes for a product to deteriorate; however, they are studies that usually take a long time and do not consider the fact that storage conditions of a product are not always stable over time.

Challenge Test: This method consists of experimentally introducing pathogens or microorganisms into the food during the production process, so that the product is exposed to the real conditions it will suffer in real life. The main disadvantage of this type of test is that the effects caused by the studied parameters are the only things analysed, and the fact that the product can be faced with multiple factors at the same time is not addressed. In addition, they are studies that are quite complex and difficult to implement.

Predictive microbiology: This methodology studies the different microbial responses of foods to varying environmental conditions, based on mathematical and statistical models, in order to predict the behaviour of the microorganisms in the product. This type of study, widely used when developing a new product, does consider the possible changing conditions of a product, however, its major limitation is that it implies greater complexity for the manufacturer and that the results correspond to a simulation, which may not be accurate.

Accelerate shelf life tests: In these tests, conditions such as temperature, oxygen pressure or moisture content are modified to accelerate spoilage reactions of a food. These predictions allow one to predict the behaviour of foods in certain conditions and to estimate how they will evolve under certain storage conditions. Accelerated tests allow the inclusion of changing environmental conditions and concentration variations of the ingredients that they are composed of. These studies are very versatile, low cost for the manufacturer and allow for the comparison of different scenarios. Obviously, since it is not an exact representation of reality, there is some margin of error in the obtained results.

Survival method: It is a type of study that is based on the opinion of the consumer about the physical characteristics of the product. It consists in knowing the attitude of people towards the same product with different dates of manufacture, to determine if they would consume it or not. This method seeks to establish a relationship between the shelf life and the perceived quality of the product. Although it is not a method to accurately estimate the shelf life, it is important to do it in a complementary way to establish the best by date of a product.

The interest in preserving food goes very far back in time. Salting, pickling or drying in the sun and air were the first attempts to extend the shelf life of food. Today, thanks to food industrialisation, companies have the responsibility to determine the shelf life of their products and to provide good quality food. The search for this quality leads producers to conduct studies and to learn the factors that cause the deterioration of their products in order to have a sustainable basis for decision making, from the type of packaging, distribution or use of antioxidants to protect food against oxidation.

Antioxidants in food: Myths and Truths

Natural antioxidants are part of today’s society’s daily diet, either intrinsically in some foods that we consume, or added to foods in order to delay oxidative rancidity and lengthen the shelf- life of the product.

But, what are antioxidants really? Why are antioxidants used in food? These are components whose function and main goal is to prevent the oxidation of food. According to Barry Halliwell, chief advisor to the president of the National University of Singapore and a specialist in biomedical research, the exact definition is, “substances that, are in low concentrations in respect to the biomolecules that they protect, prevent or reduce the damage suffered due to oxidation”. This makes antioxidants a key component for food, and relevant, since the industry relies on them to ensure that foods retain their quality for as long as possible.

We will now go over some of the myths related to antioxidants in food meant for humans, and we will analyse the reality about antioxidants.

Myth 1: All antioxidants are artificial

This is a statement that is quite widespread in some parts of society, since, unfortunately in food, especially when it comes to food additives, there is a great deal of ignorance. Sadly, some media are not very exhaustive when explaining the issue, creating confusion within society.

Another factor that has also influenced the spread of this myth is related to the existence of E numbers, since many people believe that these numbers correspond to synthetic ingredients.

However, the truth is that, in addition to synthetic antioxidants, there are various types of antioxidants that are 100% natural, such as Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract, Ascorbic Acid or Astaxanthin, among others, which have their corresponding E number and are presently used in many products of the food industry.

The truth is that natural antioxidants are being used more and more in industries such as food, dietetics, cosmetics, and more recently in animal nutrition, to the detriment of synthetic antioxidants, which are increasingly being questioned.

Myth 2: Antioxidants inhibit oxidation of food

The oxidation of fats is an irreversible process, so it is impossible to avoid it entirely. However, it can be delayed through the addition of antioxidants, which lengthen the shelf-life of the products. This is precisely one of the main reasons that leading companies in the food industry use natural antioxidants such as Tocopherols: to protect their products against oxidative rancidity.

Autoxidation is a chain reaction that consists of 3 phases: Initiation, Propagation and Termination. If antioxidants are added to the product during the first phase or before, it is possible to delay the rancidity of a product. However, once the propagation phase has finished, the process cannot be delayed, so it is known that once the second phase begins, the third phase of the oxidative process will inevitably occur.

So far, no miracle has been found to completely prevent the oxidation of foods and to make them last forever. What has been demonstrated over time and through different studies though, is the usefulness of using antioxidants in food to extend its shelf-life. This is of great importance to food manufacturers, as it gives their products a longer consumption margin.

Myth 3: Antioxidants do not withstand high temperatures

This belief is due to the fact that many food companies have only used synthetic antioxidants in the manufacturing of their products, so they only know the behaviour of these additives in processes that involve thermal processes, such as baking, cooking, or frying. However, many times those responsible for product development are unaware that there are certain natural antioxidants that are able to withstand high temperatures and can continue to protect the product against oxidation. It is known that some natural antioxidants like Tocopherols are more stable at high temperatures than some synthetics commonly used in the food industry, such as BHA, BHT or TBHQ.

The property of some natural antioxidants to “survive” a thermal process, that is, to remain present in the fat or oil, and to continue intact in the final product, where they continue to work by delaying rancidity in the final product is known as “Carry Through”.

There are several ways to check that an antioxidant is still present in a product after is has been subjected to high temperatures. There are several tests like the Rancimat Test, or the measurement of the Peroxides Index, which indicate that the antioxidant continues to exercise its technological function in the product, protecting it against rancidity.

Myth 4: There are very few types of natural antioxidants

Like the previous myth, this statement arises from the ignorance within the food industry about the fact that natural additives can be effective substitutes for certain synthetic compounds. This is because in the past, the use of synthetic compounds was prioritised. Among them, the most used in human food have been BHA, BHT, TBHQ and Propyl Galate, and in animal nutrition, other artificial compounds such as Ethoxyquin, which is being increasingly questioned, was used.

The truth is that over the centuries, nature has developed different compounds to prevent the oxidation of lipids. There are many types of natural antioxidants produced by plants in order to protect their own fats and / or oils. Many of these antioxidants have been identified but many others have not yet been discovered.

Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract and Ascorbic Acid are the natural antioxidants most used in the food industry, each with its own specific benefits and uses. In addition, many other naturally occurring antioxidants have been identified in plant sources and plant extracts, which can be in a variety of food applications.

Myth 5: Natural antioxidants are much more expensive than synthetics

At first glance it could be thought that this statement is 100% true, since, historically, synthetic antioxidants have always been cheaper than natural ones, especially if only the cost per kilo of the product is taken into account. However, at present, there are some types of natural antioxidants, such as Tocopherols, which in recent years have experienced a significant drop in prices, influenced both by a greater supply of the product and by the increase in efficient production.

Additionally, there are certain natural additives that have a higher antioxidant activity than synthetic ones in some specific uses, such as in frying processes, so the amount of product needed to achieve the same effect is lower. This, coupled with the fact that the recommended dosages are extremely low (between 0.03% and 0.3% of the fat part of the product), makes the economic impact on the cost of the final product minimal.

Lastly, although natural antioxidants are generally somewhat more expensive than synthetic ones (in price per kilo), the latter are being increasingly questioned by society, which is creating a demand for food producers to use products of natural origin. If we take into account the enormous economic impact that a food company can suffer if there is decrease in the demand for its product due to ingredients that do not reflect the market trends, the use of synthetic antioxidants may be much more expensive in the long run.

antioxidants in food

The perception that society has in relation to antioxidants in food

Because it is a technical field, much of society does deeply understand the functions of antioxidants and their application in food. This is why myths are generated around this issue, which may make society suspicious of antioxidant use. In fact, it should be just the opposite. Antioxidants are elements that help the conservation of food in a natural way, and can even provide a vitamin value for the consumer. The trend in the food industry, in line with the rest of society, is that more and more natural antioxidants are being used.

In short, the food industry is becoming focused on the processing of more natural foods, incorporating non-synthetic ingredients into their products, with the aim of making them healthier.

Examples of natural and synthetic antioxidants available on the market

What are antioxidants and what types exist?

Antioxidants are additives capable of delaying or preventing the rancidity of food due to oxidation, and therefore of lengthening the shelf-life of the products. Other methods that prevent the deterioration of foods can also be considered antioxidants, such as vacuum-sealed or inert gas atmosphere packaging, or freezing, however in this article we will focus mainly on antioxidants that correspond to food additives.

Types of Antioxidants: Natural and Synthetic

There are several types of antioxidants that have been used historically in the food industry, as well as in other industries, such as cosmetics, pharmaceutical or animal nutrition. On the one hand are the natural antioxidants, which are obtained entirely from natural sources, and on the other the synthetic antioxidants, created from chemical processes.

Due to current trends in society to strive for healthier habits and greater expectations for food safety legislation (especially in Europe, North America and some Asian countries), natural antioxidants are experiencing a sustained growth over the last few years. This has been to the detriment of synthetic antioxidants, which, until recently were the most widely used, but lately have been losing ground due to the questions regarding their impact on health.

Below we will list some examples of natural and synthetic antioxidants most used today in the food industry.

Natural antioxidants:

Tocopherols (E-306): Tocopherols were one of the first liposoluble antioxidants isolated from plants. Due to their high concentration and habitual presence in vegetable oils, such as soybean or sunflower oil, Tocopherols are presented as the most common antioxidant in nature.

Tocopherols exist naturally as a mixture of four isomers (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta). The antioxidant activity of each isomer is different, as is their vitamin power. Numerous studies show that the antioxidant capacity lies mainly in the gamma and delta isomers, being practically null in the alpha and beta isomers. These antioxidants prevent oxidation of lipids by stopping chain reactions of free radicals.

Tocopherols are a natural antioxidant with a great number of benefits, such as its resistance to high temperatures, its high solubility, its lack of impact on the colour or odour of the final product, or the possibility to be used in organic products. In addition, they are allowed as an antioxidant in any country in the world.

Examples of natural and synthetic antioxidants

Ascorbic Acid (E-300): Ascorbic Acid is a white crystalline powder used to stabilise beverages, fruits and vegetables. However, its application in fats and oils is limited due to its lipid insolubility.

This additive acts as an antioxidant through the extinction of oxygen, the reduction of free radicals and the regeneration of primary antioxidants. It is considered to be safe as a food additive and has no use limits.

In addition to its antioxidant activity, it acts as vitamin C, a flavouring, acidulant, colour fixative and reducing agent.

Ascorbic acid is very susceptible to elements such as heat, light or oxygen, so it is often necessary to add it exogenously to food.

Rosemary Extract (E-392): This antioxidant is an extract obtained from the Rosemary plant using solvents suitable for human consumption. Its most important compounds from the antioxidant point of view are Rosmarinic Acid, Carnosol and Carnosic Acid.

Rosemary Extract is an antioxidant with good performance in animal fats, but it has some problems related to smell and taste in the doses that guarantee good stability, which is why sometimes it is necessary to undergo a deodorisation and discolouration process, making the product more expensive.

Rosemary Extract is usually combined with other antioxidants such as Tocopherols; together they have a synergistic effect.

Synthetic antioxidants:

BHA (E-320) and BHT (E-321): These compounds are two phenolic antioxidants, capable of stabilising free radicals by isolating them and preventing chain reactions. Both antioxidants are effective in animal fats, however, they are less effective in vegetable fats and oils.

Due to their chemical structures they are extremely volatile, so they are not recommended for methods that involve thermal processes, such as baking or frying. These antioxidants have a slight phenolic odour, so they may be undesirable additives in foods that undergo high temperature processes for an extended time.

BHA is a white, waxy solid sold in the form of flakes or tablets. BHT is white crystalline solid.

In Japan their use is prohibited, in Australia their consumption is prohibited for minors, and in Europe their use is limited. This is because there are indications that they can be harmful to our health.

TBHQ (E-319): TBHQ is an antioxidant commonly used in vegetable oils and animal fats. As an antioxidant, it is more effective in vegetable oils than BHA and BHT. It is heat-stable and is considered an effective antioxidant in the prevention of oxidation of frying oils.

Like other synthetic antioxidants, there are indications that in high doses it can be harmful to health, so in Europe its use in food and has been banned, and in the United States limits have been set for its use.

Propyl Galate (E-310): It is an antioxidant that is widely used in foods where the use of other liposoluble synthetic antioxidants such as BHA, BHT or TBHQ is not appropriate. This antioxidant also works synergistically with other natural and synthetic antioxidants.

Propyl Galate is sensitive to high temperatures, so it does not survive during cooking or frying. However, it is used in different vegetable oils, in the creation of artificial aromas and in some animal feeds.

These are some examples of the most commonly used natural and synthetic antioxidantswithin the food industry.

As a general rule, antioxidants for food use should be economical, safe, effective in low concentrations, capable of surviving processing, stable in finished products and not create any undesirable effects on colour, taste and odour. At present, there is no antioxidant that meets all of these requirements, so the selection of antioxidants will depend on factors such as application, compatibility, regulatory guidelines or market trends.

In this sense, natural antioxidants are those that have been opening new paths in recent years and are being increasingly used by leading companies, such as food and other industries like cosmetics or animal nutrition.

Why choose natural antioxidants?

People’s eating habits are changing and evolving, so more and more consumers are looking for new, healthier and higher-quality formulas. This means that society is increasingly taking into account the ingredients of the food they eat and they are more familiar with concepts such as preservatives, additives and antioxidants. They strive to improve their health through their daily eating habits.

In this context, and within the field of food additives, natural antioxidants have gained ground against synthetics as a result of society’s demand for higher quality in their daily food intake. In addition, more and more problems have arisen for synthetic antioxidants, increasing the advantages to start consuming natural antioxidants.

But even still, why choose natural antioxidants to stabilise fats found in food? What are the characteristics that make them a better alternative to synthetic ones? Although the concept of natural antioxidants is intrinsically a differentiating factor, we will list some of the reasons why these additives add value to food production.

Reasons to use natural antioxidants in the manufacturing of food for human consumption

  • The first reason is its high effectiveness as an antioxidant. There are different types of natural antioxidants that are able to delay the oxidation of fats by different methods, such as oxygen extinction, free radical reduction or regeneration of antioxidants, achieving in many cases better results than synthetics.
  • Due to the composition and chemical characteristics of natural antioxidants, they are less volatile and more stable at high temperatures, which means that they better support food production processes such as frying, cooking or baking, making them more effective in the protection of the final product. This property of “surviving” the thermal process and remaining in the final product is known as “Carry Through”.
  • Another benefit of natural antioxidants is that they are often more soluble than synthetics. Because an antioxidant cannot reverse the autoxidation process, but only prevent it, it is important to ensure that its distribution in the lipid medium is as homogeneous as possible.
  • On the other hand, there are natural antioxidants that are soluble in oil and soluble in water, so depending on the production process and the product to which they will be added, there are different solutions. In addition, in the market it is easy to find prepared solutions with components which, for example, make it possible to convert a liposoluble antioxidant into a water-dispersible ingredient.
  • Another advantage of natural antioxidants is that they are allowed for use in food in any country of the world, without facing the limitation or prohibition of use as established by health authorities such as FDA or EFSA for synthetics.
  • It is worth noting that there are natural antioxidants such as Tocopherols or Ascorbic Acid, and due to the low doses in which they are used, they have no effect on the colour, taste or odour of the final product.
  • Another factor that differentiates natural antioxidants is that some of them, such as Tocopherols, are allowed for use in organic foods. This is due to the low doses in which they are used, making is to they do not exceed the limits of this type of allowed product in other natural ingredients.
  • Additionally, within the market it is common to find various mixtures of natural antioxidants. The combination of two or more antioxidants in many cases works better than the quantitative equivalent of any one of them separately, which is known as synergism. An example of this is the use of Tocopherols with Rosemary Extract.
  • Finally, there is an increase in demand from consumers. Society is moving towards healthier habits and increasingly seeks a balanced and natural diet. That is why the use of these antioxidants in food production brings added value, unlike synthetic antioxidants.

natural antioxidants

Uses for natural antioxidants in food

Some of the main uses of natural antioxidants in food are: vegetable oils, animal fats, meat products, lecithin, cereals, dried fruits, dehydrated potatoes, mineral oils, fish oils, industrial pastry items, margarine, powdered milk, dehydrated broth, sauces and soups, vegetable preserves, juices, drinks, colouration, vitamins, baby foods, etc.

Other uses of natural antioxidants

In addition to its use in human food, natural antioxidants are also utilised by companies in other industries, such as: cosmetics and personal care, nutraceutical, animal nutrition or pharmaceutical. In all these markets compounds susceptible to oxidation are used, so the inclusion of natural antioxidants has also been growing, due to its advantages and its ability to increase the shelf life of products.

The future of natural antioxidants

In recent years, the use of natural antioxidants has experienced an increase in the food market due to its technological benefits and the consumers’ greater demand for more natural products which are less harmful to the human body. This has led more and more companies to choose these types of additives in order to protect their products against oxidation and increase their shelf life.

Nowadays, the manufacturing of products at the industrial level is only possible thanks to the use of additives, and in that regard, we must strive to use ingredients that, together with fulfilling their technological role in the product, are not harmful to human health, are regulated and approved by food authorities, and their use is justified in order to give consumers the highest possible quality food with as well as keeping the consumers highly informed.

Tocopherols, as one of the main natural antioxidants in the food industry, are opening up new paths and consolidating their place within the field of additives, since, in addition to all its benefits as an antioxidant, they meet all the legal and ethical requirements that the industry requires.

The AAFCO and the ingredients for animal nutrition

The Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO) is an association formed on a voluntary basis by local, state and federal agencies responsible for regulating the sale and distribution of animal feed and medicine.

The AAFCO has no regulatory authority, instead they have created a forum where the representatives of the members that compose it and the industry so that:

  • They provide a space for the commercial regulations of the animal nutrition industry.
  • They guarantee consumer protection.
  • They protect the health of animals and humans.

These functions are achieved through the development and implementation of laws, regulations, standards, definitions and application policies to regulate the manufacturing, labeling, distribution and sale of food for animal nutrition.It is intended to obtain effective and safe food, promoting uniformity among member organizations.

Thus, the Association of American Food Control Officials has become the meeting place and floor for debate for the regulatory officials in which they contribute their experience in animal science and nutrition, food labeling, field operations for the personnel of inspection and administration of the program. The ultimate goal is to create a model guide to ensure that the regulation of animal feed is as uniform as possible from one state to another.

AAFCO members include not only state and federal US regulatory officials, but also officials from Canada and Costa Rica. The recommendations of the association have become a benchmark worldwide. In addition, products that meet the AAFCO Recommendations include the minimum nutritional requirements that an animal nutrition food must have.

Regulation of ingredients

The AAFCO defines ingredient as one of the components or the main constituent of any mixture or combination that forms a commercial food.
According to the regulations of the Association of American Food Control Officers, all the ingredients used in the preparation of feed for animal nutrition must be listed. It will be made based on the initial weight at the time of manufacturing them in descending order. In this case, the main ingredients will go first and with recognizable names of animals or plants.

Products of animal origin are very common main ingredients that are used in dog and cat foods. Their names cannot be modified, and each ingredient must meet the definition set by the AAFCO.

Meatand poultry by-products are considered raw products, even though they are cooked in the pet food manufacturing process. It is a necessary process to destroy harmful bacteria.
Processed products (meat meal, bone meal, poultry meal and animal by-product meal) are cooked before being used as feed material, with the intention of destroying any harmful bacteria. During processing, heat and pressure remove most of the water and fat, leaving mainly proteins and minerals.


The minor ingredients mostly contain minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. You can also find, although in small quantities, preservatives, conditioning agents, emulsifiers, stabilizers and dyes or flavoring agents.

These minor ingredients cannot be grouped into a percentage (such as 1% or 2%). Also, in pet food it is not allowed to use a collective term to replace individual ingredient names for a group term, such as combining wheat, corn and oats in an ingredient name, “grain products”.

As mentioned above, the ingredients used must be those officially defined by the AAFCO, they must be common or usual names of the ingredients of the feed, they must be food additives approved in the Code of Federal Regulations 21 CFR 573 (food additives allowed in feed and drinking water of animals) or be considered GRAS additives (generally recognized as safe) for feed.

Although an ingredient is used in human food, that does not mean that it is acceptable for use in animal feed. It is important to note that if there is a name defined by AAFCO for an ingredient, it must be used in the corresponding ingredient declaration.

Some ingredients defined by the AAFCO and some listed in the Code of Federal Regulations have restrictions due to which they cannot be consumed in full or the amount of ingredient allowed to be used is regulated. Therefore, feed manufacturers must be up to date in choosing the right ingredients since product registration requests can not be accepted if they find ingredients not approved on their label.

In addition, dietary supplements for animals are not allowed. The DSHEA (“Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994”) does not apply in these cases. Therefore, any substance ingested by animals is classified as a food or medication. Some ingredients used in dietary supplements for humans cannot be used as ingredients in pet food either.

In summary, any animal feed that is marketed must be safe and suitable for each species. The AAFCO has developed a standard called Good Manufacturing Practices for Food and Feed Ingredients. This regulation provides guidance for the production of feed intended for animal feed.