In this page we are happy to provide you with answers to the most common and pressing questions you may have around specialty food ingredients, their safety and their contribution to healthy and sustainable diets.
About Specialty Food Ingredients & Safety
Specialty food ingredients play a key role in the food value chain. They typically help preserve, texturise, emulsify and colour food, and can add health benefits as part of an overall balanced diet and lifestyle. These ingredients allow food and drink manufacturers to create the great variety of products you can find today on the market, all of which are safe, tasty and convenient.
For more information about the specialty food ingredients EU Specialty Food Ingredients represents and their categories, please use the search tool on the right side of this page.
All the ingredients on the market are safe to human health.
Most specialty food ingredients, and all food additives, are subject to the assessment of their safety by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before they can be used in food and drinks, to make sure they do not pose a risk to human health.
In the safety assessment process, health experts review all available and relevant scientific data to identify e.g. an Upper Limit (UL) for certain nutrients and an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for food additives, which corresponds to the quantity of the additive that can be safely ingested on a daily basis over a lifetime, and use this to deduce maximum levels of use. Member States of the European Union are obliged to monitor the level of consumption of food additives, to ensure that their population is always below the ADI.
Indeed. Take preservatives as an example. In food they prevent the development of harmful or even life-threatening levels of microbiological spoilage. This leads to extended shelf life and a reduction in food waste. Antioxidants are another example. They prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting them against oxidation.
Our industry is on a sustainability journey to provide tools and solutions for current challenges, and those yet to come, thus contributing to a sustainable future for people, the planet and business, also in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example:
- By following responsible manufacturing practices, our industry contributes to efficient operations while minimizing carbon footprint;
- By providing innovative ingredient solutions, our industry can contribute to a huge variety of enjoyable food & drink products responding to individual and flexible dietary choices and substituting ingredients and/or sources of ingredients that are at risk or less sustainable.
For more information, please download our infographic ‘SPECIALTY FOOD INGREDIENTS: SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS FOR THE FOOD SYSTEM’.
20% of food produced in the EU goes to waste. Specialty food ingredients play a key role in safely sustaining the desired taste and texture of a huge variety of foods, thus extending shelf life and helping to reduce food waste. For example:
- Preservatives and enzymes help extend shelf-life of foodstuff without compromising their safety;
- Antioxidants are added to food to protect against deterioration caused by oxidation, such as fat rancidity and colour changes.
Moreover, by utilizing valuable by-products, our industry follows a waste to wealth concept:
- Improving raw material yield;
- Making the food value chain more sustainable;
- Supporting a circular and sustainable bioeconomy.
Consumers are looking for healthier food choices without sacrificing great taste. With innovative ingredient solutions and technological expertise, our industry supports food and drink manufacturers in creating great-tasting, healthier products, ie for low-calorie or fortified products that can be used as part of a varied diet and healthy lifestyle.
Moreover, adding essential nutrients to food and beverages can help reduce age-related risk factors and deficiencies. For example:
- calcium and vitamin D help maintain normal bones;
- OMEGA 3 (such as DHA) contribute to maintenance of normal brain function;
- Chicory inulin supports a healthy digestive system;
- Isomaltulose lowers blood glucose rise.
For more information, please download our infographic ‘HOW SPECIALTY FOOD INGREDIENTS HELP MEET SPECIFIC DIETARY NEEDS’.
The specialty food ingredients’ industry works with food manufacturers to improve their formulas and make progress in the area of health and nutrition. Recipe changes can help address and manage non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors without compromising on taste, choice and convenience. For example:
- Alternative sweeteners allow for sugar-reduced or sugar-free products that have fewer calories, are tooth-friendly and don’t affect blood glucose levels;
- Ingredients such as fibres, starches, seaweed extracts and gelatine help reduce fat while providing pleasant texture and mouthfeel;
- Flavour enhancers allow for full-flavoured foods with less salt.
Alternative innovative ingredients offer consumers a wider choice of products. For example, novel recipes can be used to create tasty, gluten-free or lactose-free foods for people with food allergies or intolerances.
Moreover, plant-based ingredients are also developed to respond to varied and flexible dietary choices.
No, food processing is any action that help transform a fresh food into a food or drink product, including through the use of specialty food ingredients. Actually, food processing has been present since the discovery of fire and, thanks to continuous innovation, have hugely benefited our diets. For example, food processing:
- helps create edible food, as some products such as wheat cannot be consumed in their natural state;
- can contribute to safety of food and drink products, i.e. the use of preservatives can prevent undesirable micro-organisms from growing;
- broadens the access to many convenience foods that can be readily available for consumption in modern lifestyles (such as chilled and frozen prepared meals or canned food and vegetables) while still delivering on good nutrition, food safety, taste and texture quality;
- together with food reformulation can enrich nutrient density of food and drinks, and reduce risk of excessive intake of other;
- contributes to the creation of a diverse range of food and drink products that can be enjoyed safely according to our preferences.