Course:FNH200/Lessons/Lesson 04/Page 04.0

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Food Standards, Regulations and Guides - Food Additives

04.0 Overview

This lesson will introduce you to the concept of food regulation and you will become familiar with "standards of identity",  standards and quality grades for foods, as well as the major governmental agencies that have a role in regulating the safety and quality of the food supply. You will learn about the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations of Canada, and the regulations that govern labelling and advertising as they apply to food. We will also discuss regulations governing grade standards for various food commodities that are administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

At one time or another, most people have been in a conversation where food additives have been the topic of discussion. Few people know what food additives are, what their purpose is, and what regulations govern their use. In this lesson we discuss and compare the Canadian and United States definitions of a food additive. We also discuss the classes of food additives and their functions in food systems. We review Canadian labelling requirements as they pertain to food additives and discuss the concepts employed in the evaluation of safety of food additives. We end the lesson with a discussion of aspartame and nitrites as examples of food additives that have generated much controversy in the recent past.


After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • discuss how regulations are established, to ensure the quality and safety of the Canadian food supply
  • identify which governmental agencies are responsible for regulating the safety and quality of the food supply
  • define what a food additive is
  • interpret the function of food additives that are listed on the labels of ingredients of food you consume
  • explain the basis upon which safety of food additives is determined; and
  • articulate your set of values as they pertain to the use of food additives in foods
  • compare and contrast the definition of a food additive in Canada and United States
  • demonstrate the ability to do research and extract information about the Canadian food acts and regulations

Optional Readings

  • Hotchkiss, J.H. and Cassens, R.G. 1987 [April]. Nitrate, nitrite and nitroso compounds in foods (A scientific status summary). Food Technology, 41(4):127-136.
  • Kroger, M, Meister, K. and Kava, R. 2006. Low-calorie sweeteners and other sugar substitutes: A review of the safety issues. Please see this link INSTEAD; Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 5: (read only pp. 37-39). NOTE: this is the same article as required in lesson 3.