On this page, we would like to inform you about the use of additives in the cafeterias and dining halls of the Chemnitz-Zwickau Student Union.
We primarily use fresh ingredients at our facilities and try to avoid using ready-made products wherever possible, as these often contain additives. Nevertheless, to ensure that we are able to provide you with food that is of a consistent quality (appearance, aroma, taste) in a timely manner, the inclusion of these products in our recipes is often unavoidable. For example, the use of ready-made ingredients allows us to respond flexibly to peaks in demand. When buying our ingredients, we place a great deal of focus on choosing products that contain as few additives as possible, and ideally, none at all.
Generally, additives are only permitted if:
1. They are not hazardous to health in any way
2. They are required for technical reasons
3. They are not used to mislead consumers
Some people are unable to tolerate certain additives or have difficulty tolerating them. Therefore, the use of these substances must be clearly indicated to consumers. The additives contained in our recipes can be seen as a number on the meal plans. The meanings of the numbers are also printed on the meal plan or can be found in a list in the cafeterias. We would like to take this opportunity to explain why we need to use some additives and the purposes they serve in the notes below.
(1) Contains colouring agents
One of the reasons behind the use of colouring agents is to replace the colour loss that occurs during food processing due to the effects of air, light, temperature and moisture. Colouring agents are also used to make food look more attractive, for example, by reflecting the flavour of that particular food. The red colour in jelly combines with the strawberry flavour to create a harmonious overall appearance. Without the addition of colouring agents, jelly would be a grey mass. Colouring agents are also used to correct natural or seasonal fluctuations in the appearance of raw ingredients. For example, the yellow colour of winter butter is achieved by adding colouring agents. Otherwise, winter butter would be pale white due to the lack of green fodder in the cows’ diets. Using colouring agents to mask low-quality foods is prohibited.
(2) Contains preservatives
Preservatives help to keep food that cannot be heated up (such as salads and dressings) fresh and safe. Preservatives slow down the spoilage of hygienically safe foods by impeding the growth of yeasts, moulds and some bacteria. This increases the shelf life and safety of foodstuffs (protection against pathogenic micro-organisms) and makes it possible for us to store ingredients. A particularly important group of preservatives are the nitrate curing salts used in sausages and meat products.
(3) Contains antioxidants
Antioxidants protect foodstuffs against oxidative spoilage caused by atmospheric oxygen. Citric acid is a natural antioxidant which is added to freshly sliced fruit to prevent discolouration. Antioxidants also prevent fats and oils from becoming rancid, which is why they are often used in high-fat foodstuffs, margarines and cooking oils.
(4) Contains flavour enhancers
Flavour enhancers, particularly monosodium glutamate, are arguably the most controversial additives. Monosodium glutamate – which is also known as the fifth basic taste “umami” in Asian countries – is believed by some consumers to cause symptoms of food intolerance. This additive also causes consumers to eat more, which is extremely alarming from a nutritional perspective. Flavour enhancers are added to foodstuffs to give them a particular sensory characteristic, to improve the way they taste or to enhance their natural flavour. Flavour enhancers can often be found in sauces and sausage products.
Sulphur dioxide and sulphites prevent the discolouration of dried fruits and vegetables. For example, sulphites are used to prevent the discolouration of horseradish or dried potato products and help them to retain their typical colour.
Ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate are used to blacken olives that have not yet achieved their black colour through ripening. Unripe, blackened olives must be labelled accordingly.
As a method of preventing reductions in quality, e.g. drying out and loss of aroma in fruit, foodstuffs are often coated with wax (beeswax or shellac). This method is used for fresh citrus fruits, melons, apples and pears. The wax layer can be completely removed with thorough washing.
(8) Contains phosphate
Thanks to their ability to bind water, phosphates are used to make it easier to process meat into sausage products. Traditionally, sausage products are made using freshly slaughtered ingredients that are still warm. In industrial meat production, this is no longer possible. Phosphate makes it possible to process meat in cold conditions and may therefore be permitted to be added in precisely defined quantities. The use of phosphates in meat products must be clearly indicated on the product labels.
(9) Contains sweeteners
Sweeteners are used to give foods a sweet taste while using no sugar or less sugar. Sweeteners have a sweetening power up to 500 times higher than that of natural sugar. Some of them are calorie free, while others have a significantly lower caloric value than standard carbohydrates. Sweeteners are frequently used in desserts, cakes or reduced-calorie products.
(10) Contains phenylalanine
Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that plays a particularly significant role in hormone synthesis in humans. People with the disease phenylketonuria (PKU) do not possess sufficient levels of the enzyme responsible for the metabolism of phenylalanine. These people must pay special attention to their dietary intake and must not consume phenylalanine. As a result, the presence of this amino acid must be clearly indicated. For everyone else, phenylalanine is harmless and even essential.