Friday, 14 January, 2022

The use of additives in processed foods has globally decreased in 10 years

Consumer pressure seems to have an effect on the content of their plate: the use of additives in processed foods has globally decreased in 10 years, according to an official report published on Wednesday.

“It seems that current trends in the search for healthier food and consumers’ fear of additives have prompted manufacturers to review the ingredient lists of their products, by reducing the use of additives”, according to this Oqali report.

This Food Observatory depends on the ANSES health security agency and INRA (National Institute for Agronomic Research). Its report has a dual objective: to establish an inventory of the presence of additives and to measure the evolution between 2008 and 2016.

The study covers 30,000 products in twenty categories, from cereal bars to ready meals, including drinks and chocolate. On the other hand, confectionery, which nevertheless contains a lot of additives, has not been examined but should be in a next section.

First observation: more than three-quarters (78%) of the products analyzed contain at least one additive. The majority (53%) contains at least three and a small part (4%) at least ten.

The foods richest in additives are “frozen pastries and desserts, fresh delicatessen products and ice creams and sorbets”, explains to AFP one of the persons in charge of the study, Céline Ménard (Anses).

“Fresh catering products” are foods sold in the fresh section that are often eaten on the go in the office: sandwiches, dishes prepared in trays, salads …

While 400 additives are authorized by European regulations, only a small number are frequently used. 42 additives are found in at least 2% of all foods, but only 8 are identified in at least 10% of these products.

The most frequent are citric acid (E330, acidity regulator), present in 23% of products, modified starches (thickeners), in 22%, and lecithins (E322, emulsifiers), in 17%.

Cold cuts and nitrites

The second part of the study highlights “a downward trend, especially for the most widely used additives,” says Céline Ménard.

Globally, there are more and more foods without additives: since the beginning of the 2010s, their share has increased from 13.7% to 18.3%.

This trend is particularly marked for fresh delicatessen products (where the share of food without additives goes from 3 to 16%), frozen pizzas (from 23 to 32%) or frozen ready meals (from 15 to 19%).

Ditto for the cold cuts. Previously, only 3% of this type of product contained no additives, compared to 9% today.

The additives used in industrial meats are mainly nitrites, in the sights of consumer associations because of their role in the appearance of certain digestive cancers.

Manufacturers use them to facilitate storage and give the product its pink color.

“There has been a lot of marketing on deli products without additives,” notes Céline Ménard. Because in recent months, delicatessen stamped “without nitrites” has flourished on supermarket shelves.

On the other hand, “the number of products with additive increases significantly for compotes (+10 points)”, due in particular to “the use of antioxidants such as ascorbic acid”, according to the report.

In addition, contrary to the overall trend, four additives are used more than before, all of which fall under a “specific use”: carotenoids (E160a, dyes), sodium carbonates (E500, yeasts), pectins ( E440, gelling agents) and anthocyanins (E 163, dyes).

However, this study does not aim to address the consequences of additives on health.

“She makes a finding, it is not a risk assessment work”, underlines Céline Ménard.

All these data have been transmitted to the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), responsible for the risk assessment of food additives. They can serve as a basis for other work to assess consumer exposure to these substances.

(with AFP)