Natural or synthetic, food additives are widely used in processed food to extend shelf life or improve taste, colour or texture.
A report by Evira, which looked at around 150 additives that have an established Acceptable Daily Intake level, has found that the amount consumed by Finnish people is generally safe. People who follow a varied diet and eat in moderation are not likely to exceed the recommended intake level for any additive.
“At population level, the intake of additives even among high consumers of foodstuffs containing food additives is estimated to remain below acceptable daily levels,” it said.
The report also found that the highest levels used by Finnish food manufacturers often fell below the maximum permitted amounts according to food additive legislation.
The full report (in Finnish) can be read here.
“However, some people in Finland may often consume large amounts of foodstuffs, such as sweets, that contain several additives,” said senior Researcher and lead author of the report Johanna Suomi. “If so, the intake of additives may frequently exceed the ADI level. Even then the problem may lie in dietary deficiencies rather than an excessive intake of additives.”
“One thing that the food industry could consider is whether the same standard of quality could be achieved with lower levels of additives. After all, the latest ADI values specified by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA may lead to lower maximum levels in the foreseeable future,” Suomi added.
The report also called for further study into certain additives, such as the preservatives sulphites, benzoates and sorbates, some colouring agents, phosphates, glutamates and certain sweeteners like acesulfame K and cyclamate.
“For this type of additives, it is advisable to carry out further research into the extent of use and even prepare more accurate estimates of consumer exposure based on product-level data on the consumption of food and measured additive concentrations in food”, Suomi said.