Food additives are substances added intentionally to foodstuffs to perform certain technological functions, for example to colour, to sweeten or to help preserve foods.
In the European Union all food additives are identified by an E number. Food additives are always included in the ingredient lists of foods in which they are used. Product labels must identify both the function of the additive in the finished food (e.g. colour, preservative) and the specific substance used either by referring to the appropriate E number or its name (e.g. E 415 or Xanthan gum). The most common additives to appear on food labels are antioxidants (to prevent deterioration caused by oxidation), colours, emulsifiers, stabilisers, gelling agents and thickeners, preservatives and sweeteners.