Americans spend about ninety percent of their food budget on processed foods, which, unlike whole foods, have been treated in some way after being harvested or butchered.1Almost all of these processed foods contain additives, substances intended to change the food in some way before it is sold to consumers. Additives include flavorings that change a food's taste, preservatives that extend its shelf life, colorings that change the way it looks, and dietary additives, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other supplements. Packaging is considered an indirect food additive and, in fact, many kinds of packaging actually add substances to the food they enclose.
|By eating fresh, unprocessed foods grown by local farmers, you avoid preservatives and additives because these foods are not transported thousands of miles. Photo by Jason Houston.|
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has approved more than 3,000 food additives for use in the United States.2 However, while approved for human consumption, food additives may still threaten our health. This is one of many reasons why it is better to purchase whole foods, or those that have been minimally processed and treated.
Regulation and Categories of Food Additives
The FDA regulates all food additives, breaking them into three categories. "Indirect Food Additives" include packaging materials such as paper, plastic, cardboard and glue that come into contact with food.3 "Direct Food Additives" include preservatives, nutritional supplements, flavors and texturizers that are added to food. "Color Additives" are used to alter color.