Labels and Packaging


Are you mystified by unrecognizable names in lists of ingredients? These names are required by law to let you know exactly what the food contains. These substances are added to food for different purposes — and they all meet Canadian standards. Some may be added to fortify the food with essential nutrients, some are food additives such as preservatives or colours, and some add flavour or texture to the food.

Enrichments and Fortifications

When vitamins and minerals are added to a processed food, they ‘enrich’ the food by replacing nutrients lost during processing. When added to a food, they ‘fortify’ the item by adding a level of nutrition not normally found in that food.


Preservatives are additives that preserve and stabilize a food, keeping it palatable, and inhibiting normal spoilage.

Flavours and Colours

Some flavours and colours are natural; others are artificial. Manufacturers add colour to make foods more attractive, meeting consumer expectations. Imitation flavours are used when the actual flavour cannot be successfully introduced.




Because most flour is bleached and the milling process removes nutrients, flour is enriched with vitamins B1 (thiamine mononitrate), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and iron.

Cured Meats


Chemical nitrites and nitrates, plus salt, preserve and enhance the flavour of cured meats. These substances also impede the growth of the bacterial spores that cause botulism.



Some pasta is fortified with folic acid for women of childbearing age, in order to decrease the risk of birth defects.

Folic Acid (external link: Health Canada)

Butter Colour Comparison Scales, ca. 1950
Chr. Hansen’s Laboratory Inc., Little Falls, N.Y.; Toronto, Ontario
Artifact no. 1979.0295

Since the colour of butter changes with a cow’s diet, dairies once used this scale to colour butter to make it more attractive.

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