Food safety and quality
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OnLine Help

Searching for an additive 


The OnLine Edition of the JECFA Compendium of Food Additive Specifications permits searches for specific additives using five criteria: 


  • By additive name – Enter the additive’s name or synonym, or any portion of either, and then click SEARCH or press ENTER on your keyboard. For example, if you enter “potas”, the result page would list all additives and synonyms with that text string in their names. (See also the Note below regarding searches by additive name).

  • By browsing an alphabetical list of additives – Click on the link “Browse Alphabetically” and the results page will give an alphabetical list all food additives. Clicking on a letter at the top (e.g. “F”) will take you to that part of the list. Clicking on “Show Synonyms” will toggle adding synonyms to the alphabetical list. If synonyms are added, they are identified with an asterisk (*).

  • By INS number – The International Numbering System (INS) is used by Codex to identify food additives. It is not a unique number for each additive, as INS numbers may be applied to groups of additives with a similar function (e.g. alpha-amylases). When an INS number is entered, the results page will list the additive(s) with that assigned number.

  • By CAS number – A registry number may be given to an additive or to a component of an additive by the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS). It is a unique identifying number for that additive or component. When searching by CAS number, the entire three-part number must be used. A partial number will not provide a return.

  • By functional use – The functional uses for an additive in a JECFA specification are its technological functions when added to foods or when used in food processing. Many additives have more than one functional use. The drop-down list includes all functional uses listed in specifications in this database. Highlight the use you wish to search for and click SEARCH or press ENTER for a listing of those additives having that technological function.


Some notes on searching by additive name 


  • If the additive sought is an enzyme, it may be faster to use the “Functional Use” drop-down list and click on “Enzyme Preparations” for a complete listing of all enzymes in the database.  

  • If the additive has a number preceeding the name (e.g. 4-hexylresorcinol), entering the number (e.g. 4) rather than a portion of the name should give a faster search. 

  • If the additive has a greek letter preceeding the name (e.g. alpha-Cyclodextrin) the greek symbol is not used in the database. The letter is spelled out (e.g. alpha, beta, gamma, etc.). 


The food additive specification 


Once a list of one or more additives and/or synonyms are obtained by use of the above search criteria, simply click on the name of the additive or synonym that you desire and you will go to the final results page. That page will list the additive using the name JECFA has assigned it, as well as all of its synonyms. The specification for the additive will be a file in pdf format that, when clicked on, may be viewed online or printed. The designation to the left of the additive pdf icon will indicate when the specification was published. “52 2nd” refers to publication in the combined second edition of  Food and Nutrition Paper 52. Specification pdf files for new addtives or for existing additives whose specifications have been revised, will be designated by the year of preparation or revision (e.g. “2006”).


If that specification has been adopted by the Codex as an Advisory Specification, then a box advising this will appear. Clicking on the INS number link will take you to the website for  Codex General Specifications for Food Additives.


Other information 


The interface of this online edition is in all five official languages of FAO – English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. The food additive specifications, however, are only in English.