What Doesn't Make It On Food Labels?

What Doesn't Make It On Food Labels?
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What Doesn't Make It On Food Labels?

Companies are not required to include everything used in creating your food on the food label. Find out what is being left out.

Image Credit: Nancy R. Cohen/Getty Images

Incidental Additives

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, incidental additives are elements added to your food at small levels that "do not have any technical or functional effect in that food." These make up for a large category of additives not included on your ingredient label. Food Safety News notes that these can be anything from "oil for fish filets to anti-caking agents for seasonings."

Processing Aids

This group of incidental additives are additives used in the process of making your food such as a citric acid wash used to clean apples. Three types of ingredients can be considered processing aids.

Processing Aids Part 1

An ingredient can be considered a processing aid, and thus not included on an ingredient label, if it is added for the benefit of the food but then taken back out. Food Safety News offers the example of charcoal used to remove impurities.

Image Credit: Jay B Sauceda

Processing Aids Part 2

An additive is also a processing aid if it transforms into something already present in the food (think a chemical that alters the pH of food but ultimately transforms into salt).

Processing Aids Part 3

Lastly, processing aids also include ingredients that have technical and functional purpose during processing but not in the final product. This includes items like "rennet" which helps milk hold together to make cheese.

What else is considered a processing aid?

According to Food Insight, decoloring agents (used in sugar), strengthening agents (used in frozen waffles) and scalding agents (used to remove feathers from chicken) are some other examples of common processing aids in our foods.


Interestingly, any preservative added to products to increase shelf life must be included on food labels. These fall just outside the bounds of incidental additives as they do continue to have a functional effect on food.

Image Credit: Getty Images


We look to food labels for many things. We hunt down the calorie count if we are watching our weight, we check out the serving size, we skim through the ingredients to make sure we are not allergic to any of them and we often peer down the ingredient list to make sure there aren't too many chemicals.

While food labels do house so much important information about our groceries, they often don't tell us the full story. Brands are not required to put certain ingredients on the label that you may want to know about.

Check out the slideshow above to learn which ingredients may be left off food labels and why.

More from Kitchen Daily:
10 Ways To Keep Food Fresh Longer
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