Freefrom additives/ingredients

Alex Gazzola investigates the additives/ingredients used in the manufacture of freefrom food and assesses whether or not we need to be worried about them.

Anyone with food allergies or intolerances needs to take extreme care to check food labels regularly for allergens and other problem ingredients. While certain ingredients – nuts, milk, wheat – stand out familiarly and are obviously avoidable, others you see may appear as if they’re more at home in a laboratory or in a test tube than in a kitchen or on a food label. These can cause concern and leave you feeling insecure about what you’re consuming. Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, anyone? Safe or not?

Free-from food manufacturers, in striving to produce quality safe products which are as free from as many relevant allergens as possible, often have to cast their nets wider in search of safe and non-allergenic ingredients useful in free-from manufacturing. These ingredients may help replicate the characteristics of what has been removed – for instance, xanthan gum as a gluten replacement in deglutenised wheat – or help mimic the effect or taste of one of the major absent allergens in the free-from alternative. Additionally, sometimes the processing methods employed in production compels the use of extra ingredients, such as preservatives or additives, to help prolong shelf life or boost palatability.

This is a guide to some of the most common unfamiliar ingredients you may encounter on labels, although with thousands of ingredients cleared for use, it cannot be exhaustive. We cover what the ingredients are, what they are typically used for, and whether they may be of concern to those with sensitivities, allergies or related dietary issues.

To check an ingredient, look in the left-hand column, listed alphabetically.

In order to list related ingredients together, typically the preservative salts, we group them under their ‘surname’ (ie, technically speaking, their ‘anions’). So, for example, look for calcium sulphite under sulphur dioxide and sulphites, and sodium bicarbonate under carbonates. For the many colours, see Colours and the special footnote.

Click here for a pdf of Alex's additive/ingredient chart.

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