A food additive is a chemical substance that is added to food for the purpose of achieving a specific effect. Our Health Department regulates what additive and how much of it is deemed safe. If shopping for food when you travel, beware that food additives are not called the same way from one country to the next and the regulation on what is regarded as safe or not varies.
Additives can be used in food as preservative to maintain its nutritive quality or enhance its keeping quality – sometimes for a ridiculously long time. Sometimes the reason is purely cosmetic; a colouring agent might make the food more attractive. Or practical: anticaking agents are added to powdered or granulated food to keep them free running. Taste enhancement is a major reason and in this category enters artificial sweeteners and flavours. Economic and logistic reasons are most common, to aid in processing, packaging or storage.