According to a recent article in Which? magazine, the UK Consumers' Association's publication, the quantity of additives used should be indicated on labelling.
Additives are ingredients that manufacturers add to products to increase flavour, aroma, and colour. Although they are generally thought as being artificial and linked to health problems, natural additives are present in some food and other additives can be used to preserve food.
Studies have show that additives can be liked to health problems. Which magazine claims that hundreds of additives are approved for use in food, but says the average consumer is unaware of the health risks associated with the ingredients.
Which? magazine believes that there are two problems with the current labelling of additives in foods; the identification of additives, and the quantity of additives in the ingredient.
At present the EU tests the safety of a particular additive, and then issues the ingredient with an 'e number' indicating the product's safety, but some ingredients are yet to be classified by the EU are not given an e-prefix. The claims that this causes confusion, and that consumers are unaware of the ingredients that they are eating and if the ingredient has been linked to health problems.
"Ingredients in some food label read more like a chemistry experiment than something you would want to eat," it stated in the article.
The association is calling for the quantity of additives to be labelled. EU safety testing of additives is based on a consumer's consumption over a period of time. If someone was to intake a level of additives that was over the accepted daily intake (ADI), ingredients that were thought to be safe could lead to health problems.
Studies have shown that many additives can lead to health problems such as behavioral problems in children, skin rashes and some can trigger asthma attacks. The association accepts that additives are needed to provide safe food all year round but claims that colouring is not justified in all cases. "There are still health concerns about certain additives, and our survey shows it's all too easy to consume them unwittingly," the article concluded.
Dairy products like many foods can be high in additives. The growing concern over the health implications that additives may have has led some dairy producers to target these consumers. For example last month the dairy giant Danone was reported to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for the misleading claim that its yoghurt contained 'added nothing'. Thus falsely inferring that the product contained no additives.
It is a possible that if Which's were followed up then consumers would be much more aware off what they are eating and could not be duped by advertising tricks.