Food Additives Regulation
Mar 03, 2020
Daisy Suo
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1. Definition

The term "food additives" means materials added to or mixed with foods or materials in the process of manufacturing, processing or preserving foods.

(*Note food additive is also used as a term in food contact material standards but for this article we will only deal with food additives as defined by the definition above).

Competent authority

Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, formerly known as Korea Food and Drug Administration, is responsible for the determination and public announcement of

  • Standards for manufacturing, processing, using, cooking or storing food additives;

  • Specifications for food additives.

2. Relevant regulations

  • The Food Additive Code guides the use of all additives in foods in Korea. Food additives should be authorized for use in food and have to comply with the specifications and usages approved in the Food Additive Code.

  • Food Sanitation Act

3. Classification of food additives

Before 2018, South Korea implemented a rather antiquated system in which food additives are classified as either “natural additives” or “synthetic additives”. As of Jan 1st, 2018, Korea started the new classification system for food additives, which will classify food additives into 31 categories regarding difference functions, including

1sweetener17Relsease agent
2anticaking agent18Coagulant
3gum base19Processing agent
4flour improver20Gelling agent
5color former21Thickener
6preservative22Color additive
8acidity regulator24Filler
9antioxidant25Inflating (blowing) agent
10sterilizer26Bleaching agent
11antifoamer27Surface treatment agent
12wetting agent28Coating agent
14Filter aid30Taste and flavor enhancer
15Fortifying nutrient31Enzyme preparation

4. Approval of new food additives

Food additives are approved for use in different food categories or items based on the scientific evidence, toxicological evaluation and the justification for technological need, etc.


5. Labeling of food additives on food products

According to the Labeling Standards of Foods, food additives shall be indicated as follows. 

a) Food additives used directly in the manufacture and processing of foods for purposes specified in Table 4 shall be labeled with their names and uses. 

(Example) Sodium saccharin (sweetener) 

b) Food additives specified in Table 5 shall be labeled with the name published in the “Food Additive Standards and Specifications” or the short name prescribed in the same table.

c) In the case of food additives specified in Table 6, they shall be indicated by the name notified in the “Food Additives Standards and Specifications” or by the short name or main purpose (for the duplicated purpose, the important purpose shall be the main purpose) specified in the same table. However, when the food additive is used for purposes other than the main purposes specified in Table 6, the names or short names of the food additives shall be indicated. 

d) Food additives for mixed preparations shall be labeled with the name of the notified mixed preparations, and all food additives that constitute the mixed preparations shall be indicated in parentheses. In this case, the labeling of the names of food additives, etc. may follow the provisions of b). 

(Example) Noodle-added alkaline agent (sodium carbonate, potassium carbonate)

View more at the Labeling Standards of Foods.