ifp Institut für Produktqualität offers service testing of food additive as well as labelling and regulatory consulting. For more information on food additives see the following pages:

Additives in the food industry

Foodstuff additives are substances with or without nutritional value, which are generally neither consumed themselves as foods, nor used as a characteristic food ingredient, but which are added to a food for technical reasons. They are added during manufacturing, processing and preparation, whereby they themselves or their byproducts directly or indirectly become or can become a component of a food.

Additives are used in foodstuffs for many different reasons, for example in order to increase food safety by protecting it against spoilage, or to ensure consistent quality or stability.

The following are not classified as additives:

  • Flavourings
  • Substances for coating agents and wrappings, which are not consumed with the foodstuff
  • Processing aids (with no technical effect on the end product)
  • Enzymes
  • etc.

Legal principles

European Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008, which lays down the basic regulations for food additives, has been in force since 20 January 2010. Appendix II of the abovementioned regulation contains the EU list of the additives approved for use in foodstuffs, with the conditions for their use.

Approximately 320 additives have been approved in the EU. At European level, the additives are subject to the stringent scientific safety assessments by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). Scientific advice and support is provided by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, BfR) in Berlin. In addition, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) undertakes safety assessments at international level.

Only those additives which have been tested and considered technically necessary by the EU Commission receive the legally-required approval and an E number.

For reasons of preventative consumer protection, additives are approved in accordance with the principle of ‘prohibited unless granted permission’. This means that an additive may only be approved if it has unambiguously been determined non-hazardous to health in advance. 

The use of food additives is only legally compliant if they have been approved for the respective intended purpose. Within the scope of the European Union approval procedure, it must be verified that:

  • The substance has been tested to ensure that it is non-hazardous to health
  • The use of the substance is technically necessary
  • The use of additives does not cause consumers to be misled
  • The substance complies with the EU-wide, bindingly determined purity specifications.1


Additives in prepackaged foodstuffs must be labelled in compliance with the Food Information Regulation (FIR Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011) with details of the function classes, followed by their specific designation or the E number in the list of ingredients. The ‘E’ stands for ‘Edible’ or also for ‘Europe’. The function classes are listed in Appendix I of the (EC) Regulation No. 1333/2008, and represent additives which have been classified into groups depending on their technical function in foodstuffs.2

Example for the labelling of the additive cyclamate:

  • Function class: Sweeteners
  • Designation: Cyclamate
  • E number: E 952
  • Information in list of ingredients: Sweetener cyclamate or Sweetener E 952

With bulk goods or foods for communal catering, the gastronomy sector, etc., the national Additive Approval Ordinance (Zusatzstoffzulassungsverordnung, ZZulV) still applies.