The pressing issue to feed the increasing world population has created a demand to enhance food production, which has to be cheaper, but at the same time must meet high quality standards. Taste, appearance, texture, and microbiological safety are required to be preserved within a foodstuff for the longest period of time. Although considerable improvements have been achieved in terms of food additives, some are still enveloped in controversy. The lack of uniformity in worldwide laws regarding additives, along with conflicting results of many studies help foster this controversy. In this report, the most important preservatives, nutritional additives, coloring, flavoring, texturizing, and miscellaneous agents are analyzed in terms of safety and toxicity. Natural additives and extracts, which are gaining interest due to changes in consumer habits are also evaluated in terms of their benefits to health and combined effects. Technologies, like edible coatings and films, which have helped overcome some drawbacks of additives, but still pose some disadvantages, are briefly addressed.
Future trends like nanoencapsulation and the development of “smart” additives and packages, specific vaccines for intolerance to additives, use of fungi to produce additives, and DNA recombinant technologies are summarized.