Differences between Additives and Preservatives

In the food industry, the use of additives and preservatives is very common, which are organic or inorganic substances that are added to food to affect some of its characteristics, whether its color, flavor, texture or to prolong its durability. However, many times we do not know the characteristics of additives and preservatives, so we usually use both words interchangeably.

Despite this, additives differ from preservatives based on their composition and the role they play in food manufacturing, which is why in this article we will explain the differences between them, based on their definitions.


Basically, additives are organic or inorganic substances that are added to foods in order to affect, enhance, improve, modify and/or change their characteristics such as texture, appearance, flavor, color and vitamin content. Thus, additives can be classified into two main types: direct and indirect additives where direct additives are those that are added directly to food and indirect additives are those to which the food is exposed but are not intentionally added.

It should be noted that the additives are not harmful to humans in the concentrations allowed by various associations and organisms. In this sense, the product identification label usually indicates the additive and its concentration, so that the consumer is aware of the additive he consumes. These additives are usually obtained from natural sources such as monosodium glutamate, which is derived from salt and is used as a thickener.

Finally, according to their function, additives can be classified into:

  • Texture modifiers : thickeners, gelling agents, emulsifiers and stabilizers.
  • Flavor modifiers : sweeteners and flavors.
  • Flavor modifiers : flavorings.
  • Consistency modifiers : defoamers, binders, raising agents and humectants.
  • Acidity modifiers : acidifiers and acidity regulators.
  • Nutritional supplement : calcium, vitamins, ferrous sulfate, omega 3, iodine, among others.


We can say that preservatives are organic or inorganic substances that are added to foods with the aim of preserving them and keeping them from microorganisms present in them, so that they increase the time the food takes to expire or expire. Therefore, its only function is to prolong the shelf life of food.

In this way, preservatives are used to slow down microbial spoilage, and at other times they are used to preserve the appearance of food from age-related problems, such as food color change (oxidation). In this sense, there are two main types of preservatives, antioxidants (prevent oxidation) and preservatives by nature (prevent food deterioration).

To conclude, preservatives can be extracted from different sources such as silver chloride, chlorine and potassium iodide that have the function of eliminating parasitic organisms. These preservatives, in permitted concentrations, are not harmful to health, while in high concentrations they can become quite toxic and even poisonous.

According to what was previously stated, the main differences between additives and preservatives will be highlighted below:

additives preservatives
They are substances that are added in order to affect, enhance, improve, modify or change the characteristics of a food. They are substances that are added in order to preserve a food, prolonging its durability.
According to their function, there are six types of additives: texture modifiers, acidity modifiers, aroma modifiers, flavor modifiers, consistency modifiers and nutritional supplements. According to their function, there are two types of preservatives: antioxidants and preservatives.

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