Food additives are chemicals added to food and beverages to preserve flavor, help keep them fresh, improve its taste, texture and appearance. Food additives are listed on food labels, along with all other ingredients. There has always been some misconception that food additives are 'bad' and that they all contain gluten. Well, this is not true. What is necessary, is to understand what the additives are used for and what source they are derived from.
Some people are sensitive to particular food additives and may have reactions like diarrhea or hives. This doesn't mean that all foods containing additives need to be automatically deleted or treated with suspicion. Many of the food additives used occur naturally within foods that are regularly eaten.
Additives 1400 - 1450 - This group of starches and thickeners can cause the most confusion for celiacs. This does not need to be the case; it is just being aware of what the starch or thickener has been derived from.
Modified starches in the group of 1400 - 1450 can be derived from a range of cereal products. These can be wheat, maize, tapioca and potato starch. If an allergen is used in a product, it must be declared on the label. For example: "Additive 1400 (wheat)" written on a label is declaring that wheat has been used in the product therefore it is not considered safe to consume on a gluten free diet. If the label stated "Additive - 1400" then this is safe to eat on a gluten free diet as there is no allergen to declare so the product could be made from tapioca or potato starch.
Thickeners are food additives that are used in food manufacturing to thicken or to give a smooth uniform texture to a food. Examples of foods to which thickeners are added include sauces, mayonnaises, pie fillings, dairy desserts such as custard, yoghurts and mousses, dessert mixes and soups. Previously, only additive numbers 1400 – 1450 were called thickeners.
Thickeners may also be called modified starch or dextrins (thickener 1400).
Thickeners now also include 181 (tannin), 400 – 418 (vegetable gums), 440 (pectin), 461 – 466 (celluloses).
General information of food additives:
Additive 150, 150A 150B, 150C, 150D are caramel color which is so highly processed that it contains no detectable gluten so therefore is gluten free.
Additive 575 – Glucono delta - lactone (acidity regulator, raising agent). Source may be glucose which is gluten free even if derived from wheat.
Additive 965 – can be hydrogenated glucose syrup which is gluten free even if wheat derived.
Additive 1100 – can be made from glucose or dextrose which are gluten free even if wheat derived.
Acidity Regulators - These additives hold the pH (acid-alkali balance) of a food or drink at a constant level. All acidity regulators are gluten free.
Anti-caking Agents - Anti-caking agents stop ingredients from becoming lumpy and stop particles clumping together e.g. cellulose (460) in grated cheese. All anti-caking agents are now gluten free.
Antioxidants - Antioxidants slow down a chemical reaction called oxidation to prevent fats turning rancid and food going brown. All antioxidants are gluten free.
Bulking Agents - Bulking agents add volume, but offer very little to the total energy content of the food. All bulking agents are gluten free.
Colorings - Colorings may be either natural (extracted from plants or animals) or artificial. Colorings are usually present for visual appeal, to either add or restore color to foods. Caramel color is a food additive manufactured from glucose. Even, if derived from wheat, and carries the 1400 – 1450 class, it has been so highly processed that there is no detectable gluten in the product. All food colors have no detectable gluten.
Color-fixatives - Color-retention agents retain, stabilize or intensify the color of foods.All color-retention agents are gluten free.
Emulsifiers - Emulsifiers are substances that stabilize mixtures and prevent oil and water from separating. Emulsifiers stop fats from clotting together. Lecithin (322) occurs naturally in soy beans and egg yolk, and is an emulsifier often used in margarine, chocolate and confectionery. All emulsifiers are gluten free.
Firming Agent - Firming agents have a role of increasing the firmness of a food on their own, or they may also work together with gelling agents to increase or develop the strength of a gel in a food. All firming agents are gluten free.
Flavour enhancers - Flavour enhancers act to bring out the flavour or aroma of a food without contributing a flavor of their own. Monosodium glutamate or MSG (621) is the most common flavor enhancer and is commonly used in gravies, stock, sauces. Most MSG is now produced by fermentation of sugars (which may include glucose syrup). MSG from these sources is gluten free. Wheat-derived MSG is rarely used in current food manufacture practice. MSG is considered safe for inclusion in a gluten free diet. All flavor enhancers have no detectable gluten.
The following are flavour enhancer additivies: 620, 621, 622, 623, 624, 625, 627, 631, 635, 636, 637, 640, 641.
Flavorings - Flavors are additives that give food a particular taste or smell, and may be derived from natural ingredients or created artificially.
Foaming Agents - Foaming agents disperse gas evenly throughout liquid or solid food substances. Foaming agents are gluten free.
Gelling Agents - These food additives modify the food texture by the formation of a gel. They include the agar (406) and gellan gum (418).All gelling agents are gluten free.
Glazing Agents - Glazing agents act to provide a shiny appearance or a protective coating to foods e.g. Carnauba wax (903) used on chocolates. All glazing agents are gluten free.
Humectants - Humectants are used to maintain moisture levels in foods and to prevent drying out e.g. Maltitol (965). They allow solids to be dissolved into water-based liquids. They are often used in icings, soft tortillas, dried fruit. All humectants are gluten free.
Intense Sweeteners - Intense sweeteners are used as a sugar replacement in many diet products including soft drinks, yoghurts, sugar-free jellies, chewing gum and chocolate. Aspartame (951), xylitol (967), acesulphame potassium (950) and sucralose (955) are a few of the common ones. All intense sweeteners are gluten free.
Preservatives - Each preservative stops microbes (including bacteria, yeasts and moulds) from multiplying and spoiling the food e.g. Sodium benzoate (211) used in dips. No single preservative can act on all types of micro-organisms. All preservatives are gluten free.
Propellants - Propellants are the gases used in aerosol sprays to expel the contents when the button is depressed. All propellants are gluten free.
Raising Agents - Raising agents have a role in foods to release gas, which in turn increases the volume of a food, causing it to rise. An example is sodium bicarbonate (500) often used in home-baking. Cream of Tartar and Bicarbonate of Soda are both gluten free and can be mixed together to make into Baking Powder. See FAQ for the recipe. Baking Powder that is from a wheat source is not gluten free. Anchors Baking Powder (sold in Australia and NZ) is not suitable for a gluten free diet, however Ward's Baking powder is marked gluten free and therefore is suitable for a celiac.
Sequestrant - Potassium gluconate (577) forms a chemical complex with the metallic molecules that are present in the food product. Sequestrants are gluten free.
Stabilizers - Stabilizers allow uniformity and even dispersion of two or more food substances that may otherwise separate. Xanthan Gum (415) often has a role of a stabilizer in many gluten free baked products, and is often used in commercial sauces. All stabilizers are gluten free.