Monday, November 14, 2011

Food Additives vs Processing Aids

If you are just starting to read food labels, check out other Nutrishus posts about using the % Daily Value and which nutrients to choose a little of and which to choose a lot of.  I'll be sure to keep posting about label reading to help you through the grocery store.

To help you start understand more details about additives and processing, I went to Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the Canadian Department of Justice. 

The CFIA  Food and Drug Regulations defines a food additive as “any substance the use of which results, or may reasonably be expected to result, in it or its by-products becoming a part of or affecting the characteristics of a food.”  Food additives do not include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, spices, seasonings, agricultural chemicals, and food packaging materials. 

Permitted food additives, their allowable areas of use and maximum levels of use are listed in the Tables of Division 16 of the Food and Drug Regulations on Food Additives from the Canadian Department of Justice.  Food additives are considered to be ingredients in a final pre-packaged product. Added ingredients must be included in the list of ingredients and accompanied by nutrition facts table (with the exception of wax coating compounds and their components that are not required to be shown on the label of a prepackage fresh fruit or fresh vegetable as an ingredient or component thereof (Section B.01.008 (7), Food and Drug Regulations )). Additional information on the labelling requirements for fresh produce and added ingredients can be found in the CFIA Guide to Food Labeling and Advertising

The CFIA is responsible for the administration of food labelling policies related to misrepresentation and fraud in respect to food labelling, packaging and advertising, and the general agri-food and fish labelling provisions respecting grade, quality and composition specified in the Canada Agricultural Products Act (CAPA), the Meat Inspection Act (MIA) and the Fish Inspection Act (FIA). In addition, the CFIA has responsibility for the administration of the food-related provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (CPLA), including basic food label information, net quantity, metrication and bilingual labelling.

So-called “processing aids” do not fit the definition of a food additive (Section B.01.001, Food and Drug Regulations).  This is because they are used early on in food processing, are not intended to be functional in the final food product, and leave no residues.   Because they are not food additives, they are not required to be declared in the List of Ingredients on the label of a pre-packaged food.

So, basically you will see food additives on a food label ingredient list, but you will not see processing aids. 
For some people it may be a matter of trusting government organizations that regulate our food, its labelling, and processing.  I am a fairly trusting person, but I also practice variety, moderation, and balance so that I don't get too much of a good or bad thing!

Come back to find out which packaged foods to avoid.

Steph Wheler, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching