Food Additives

A food additive is any chemical substance that is added to food during preparation or storage and either becomes a part of the food or affects its characteristics for the purpose of achieving a particular technical effect.

Under the Food and Drug Regulations, food additives do not include:

  • food ingredients such as salt, sugar, starch;
  • vitamins, minerals, amino acids;
  • spices, seasonings, flavoring preparations;
  • agricultural chemicals;
  • veterinary drugs; or
  • food packaging materials.

Lists of Permitted Food Additives

  1. List of Permitted Anticaking Agents
  2. List of Permitted Bleaching, Maturing or Dough Conditioning Agents
  3. List of Permitted Colouring Agents
  4. List of Permitted Emulsifying, Gelling, Stabilizing or Thickening Agents
  5. List of Permitted Food Enzymes
  6. List of Permitted Firming Agents
  7. List of Permitted Glazing or Polishing Agents
  8. List of Permitted Food Additives with Other Accepted Uses
  9. List of Permitted Sweeteners
  10. List of Permitted pH Adjusting Agents, Acid-Reacting Materials and Water Correcting Agents
  11. List of Permitted Preservatives
  12. List of Permitted Sequestering Agents
  13. List of Permitted Starch Modifying Agents
  14. List of Permitted Yeast Foods
  15. List of Permitted Carrier or Extraction Solvents

Even more list to check out – Archived Lists

Join Health Canada’s Food Additives e-Notice, a free service to stay on top of issued advice as well as regulatory and scientific developments in the area of food additives in Canada.

Glossary of Food Additive Terminology

Here are descriptions of some food additive

  • Anti-caking and Free-Flow Agents

    Substances added to finely powdered or crystalline food products to prevent caking, lumping, or agglomeration.

  • Antimicrobial Agents

    Substances used to preserve food by preventing growth of microorganisms and subsequent spoilage, including fungistats and mould and rope inhibitors.

  • Antioxidants

    Substances used to preserve food by retarding deterioration, rancidity, or discoloration due to oxidation.

  • color and Coloring Adjuncts


    Substances used to impart, preserve, or enhance the color or shading of a food, including color stabilizers, color fixatives, color-retention agents, etc.

  • Curing and Pickling Agents

    Substances imparting a unique flavor and/or color to a food, usually producing an increase in shelf life stability.

  • Dough Strengtheners

    Substances used to modify starch and gluten, thereby producing a more stable dough.

  • Drying Agents

    Substances with moisture-absorbing ability, used to maintain an environment of low moisture.

  • Emulsifiers and Emulsifier Salts

    Substances which modify surface tension in the component phase of an emulsion to establish a uniform dispersion or emulsion.

  • Enzymes

    Enzymes used to improve food processing and the quality of the finished food.

  • Firming Agents

    Substances added to precipitate residual pectin, thus strengthening the supporting tissue and preventing its collapse during processing.

  • Flavor Enhancers

    Substances added to supplement, enhance, or modify the original taste and/or aroma of a food, without imparting a characteristic taste or aroma of its own.

  • Flavoring Agents and Adjuvants

    Substances added to impart or help impart a taste or aroma in food.

  • Flour Treating Agents

    Substances added to milled flour, at the mill, to improve its color and/or baking qualities, including bleaching and maturing agents.

  • Formulation Aids

    Substances used to promote or produce a desired physical state or texture in food, including carriers, binders, fillers, plasticizes, film-former’s, and tableting aids, etc.

  • Fumigants

    Volatile substances used for controlling insects or pests.

  • Humectants

    Hygroscopic substances incorporated in food to promote retention of moisture, including moisture-retention agents and anti dusting agents.

  • Leavening Agents

    Substances used to produce or stimulate production of carbon dioxide in baked goods to impart a light texture, including yeast, yeast foods, and calcium salts.

  • Lubricants and Release Agents

    Substances added to food contact surfaces to prevent ingredients and finished products from sticking to them.

  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

    Substances having less than 2 percent of the caloric value of sucrose per equivalent unit of sweetening capacity.

  • Nutrient Supplements

    Substances which are necessary for the body’s nutritional and metabolic processes.

  • Nutritive Sweeteners

    Substances having greater than 2 percent of the caloric value of sucrose per equivalent unit of sweetening capacity.

  • Oxidizing and Reducing Agents

    Substances which chemically oxidase or reduce another food ingredient thereby producing a more stable product.

  • pH Control Agents

    Substances added to change or maintain active acidity or basically, including buffers, acids, alkalies, and neutralizing agents.

  • Processing Aids

    Substances used as manufacturing aids to enhance the appeal or utility of a food or food component, including clarifying agents, clouding agents, catalysts, flocculents, filter aids, and crystallization inhibitors, etc.

  • Propellants, Aerating agents, and Gases

    Gases used to supply force to expel a product or used to reduce the amount of oxygen in contact with the food in packaging.

  • Sequestrants

    Substances which combine with polyvalent metal ions to form a soluble metal complex, to improve the quality and stability of products.

  • Solvents and Vehicles

    Substances used to extract or dissolve another substance.

  • Stabilizers and Thickeners

    Substances used to produce viscous solutions or dispersion’s, to impart body, improve consistency, or stabilize emulsions, including suspending and boding agents, setting agents, jellying agents, and bulking agents, etc.

  • Surface-Active Agents

    Substances used to modify surface properties of liquid food components for a variety of effects, other than emulsifiers, but including solubilizing agents, dispersants, detergents, wetting agents, re hydration enhancers, whipping agents, foaming agents, and deforming agents, etc.

  • Surface-Finishing Agents

    Substances used to increase palatability, preserve gloss, and inhibit discoloration of foods, including glazes, polishes, waxes, and protective coatings.

  • Synergists

    Substances used to act or react with another food ingredient to produce a total effect different or greater than the sum of the effects produced by the individual ingredients.

  • Texturizers

    Substances which affect the appearance or feel of the food.

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