Distribution and patterns of use of food additives in foods and beverages available in Brazilian supermarkets†
The growing consumption of ultra-processed foods and beverages has drawn attention to the use of different food additives in these products. The use of these additives for different purposes in food products is permitted under specific legislation. The objective of the present study was to assess the distribution and patterns of occurrence of the different categories of food additives present in packaged foods and beverages sold in Brazil. A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted based on data from lists of ingredients used in foods and beverages sold in supermarkets in Brazil, collected by photographing product labels. The number, technological purpose and proportion of food additives in 9856 items (25 groups) were assessed. Exploratory factor analysis was employed to derive the patterns of food additive categories. Linear regression models were used to assess the association between the patterns and food items analyzed. Only 20.6% of the products analyzed contained no food additives, while 24.8% contained ≥6 additives. The use of food additives was high, particularly cosmetic additives, predominantly flavoring agents, colorings and stabilizers. Five patterns of food additive categories were identified and associated with ultra-processed foods and beverages. The results revealed that food additives are highly prevalent in several types of food items sold in the Brazilian market. Also, the same additive category was common to several different food groups, as were specific food additive combinations. This exposure is potentially harmful to human health, given the known deleterious effects associated with the consumption of these substances.