The main way that manufacturers affect our food takes place when they process it. Most of the food we eat is processed. By that we mean that something is done to the food. For example we process food if we cook it. Most of the food we eat has already had something done to it. This also goes to the notion that in modern times food processing has cut down the hours needed for food preparation. It also means we can have a greater variety of foods from allover the world. Going back to the community we can see that in an urban area like New Haven there is except when seasonal crops are available we cannot provide our own food supply. We rely on foods already baked, frozen, precooked, etc. to feed our families.
Additives are used in processed foods to preserve the food so it will stay fresh. Sometimes additives are put into food to make it smell, taste or look more pleasing. There are over 3,000 additives now used in our foods. 25
The most important additives include preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers, flavorings, and colorings.
Antioxidants help to keep food from decaying when it is exposed to oxygen.
Without oxygen the bacteria cannot live and so the food item stays fresh. You would see this if you cut up an apple and left a slice exposed to the air. The apple would turn brown. If you put lemon on the apple slice it will stay not change color because the lemon contains natural antioxidants called citric acid and ascorbic acid. Some of the antioxidants can be poisonous in large amounts so usually processed foods contain small amounts of antioxidants.26
Emulsifiers stop ingredients from separating such as oil and water in salad dressings, margarine, and cocoa. Usually if an emulsifier is used a stabilizer is also used to stop ingredients from separating again. 27
A thickener is added to foods like pudding, yogurt, gravy, etc. and does exactly what the name implies. Many thickeners, emulsifiers and stabilizers come from things like eggs tree sap, seaweeds and wood pulp. Some are made from chemicals like polysorbates, and propylene glycol.28
In the United States food the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulates colorings and other additives. In the past some of the food colorings have been banned when it was determined that they were dangerous. If a color is marked with the letters F, D, C, it means that the coloring can be used on foods, drugs, or cosmetics.29
Food additives also include flavorings and enhancers. A drink that is labeled chocolate flavored may not contain any real chocolate but only an artificial flavor. Flavor enhancers are not flavors they just make the flavor stronger in foods that through processing loose their strong smells. 30
Most processed foods also usually contain sweeteners. Some foods also have added salt.