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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Food Composition and Labelling

Food additives are used to change the characteristics of food. They are used in the production, processing, treatment, packaging, transportation and storage of food. Additives perform a variety of useful functions in foods including:

  • improving and maintaining nutritional value (vitamins and minerals)
  • maintaining palatability and wholesomeness (preservatives)
  • enhancing flavour and desired colour (spices, natural and synthetic flavours and colours)

NMI can assist clients with analysis for the following food additives:

  • preservatives (sulfur dioxide, sorbic acid, benzoic acid, nitrate/nitrites)
  • synthetic colours
  • caffeine
  • artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sodium cyclamate, saccharin and acesulphame-K)
  • antioxidants (BHA, BHT, tBHQ, polyphenols)

For further information please contact 722 845 or use our on-line form.


Vitamins are essential nutrients that your body requires in small amounts to work normally. There are two types of vitamins fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins are found mainly in fatty foods such as animal fats, vegetable oils, dairy foods, liver and oily fish. Your body requires these vitamins every day to work properly. However foods containing them need not be consumed every day due to reserves stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Fat-soluble vitamins include retinol (vitamin A), carotenes (alpha and beta), ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), tocopherol alpha (vitamin E) and phylloquinone (vitamin K).

The body does not store water-soluble vitamins, so consumption of foods containing them needs to be more frequent. Excess water-soluble vitamins pass out in urine. Foods containing water-soluble vitamins include fruit, vegetables and grains. Water-soluble vitamins can be destroyed by excessive heat and exposure to the air. Subsequently we can lose a significant amount of these vitamins when cooking food. Water-soluble vitamins include thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, cobalamin (vitamin B12) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).

Minerals and Trace Elements

Minerals are essential nutrients that your body requires in small amounts to work normally. Minerals are necessary for building strong bones and teeth, regulating internal/external cellular fluids and converting food into energy. Good sources of minerals are foods such as meat, cereals, fish, milk and dairy foods, vegetables, fruit and nuts. Essential minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur.

Trace elements are also essential nutrients that your body needs to work properly, but in much smaller amounts than vitamins and minerals. Trace elements are sourced from foods such as meat, fish, cereals, milk and dairy foods, vegetables and nuts. Essential trace elements include boron, cobalt, copper, chromium, fluoride, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon and zinc.


The term proximates is derived from the fact that the sum of the analytical values (expressed as a percentage) for moisture (water), carbohydrates, protein, fat and ash will approximate 100% for most foods. These values along with energy, sugars, saturated fats, sodium (salt) plus values for any claimed nutrients (e.g. fibre and calcium) make up the basic data for nutritional labelling. With this analysis NMI can assist clients formulating their nutritional information panels. Additional analysis is available for selected food components many consumers and manufacturers consider to be beneficial, e.g. omega 3 fatty acids and specific vitamins and minerals.

Food Authenticity

Of concern to the food industry is the ability to authenticate food products. Consumers are deceived by misdescription and it can create unfair competition with honest manufacturers. Misdescription can be present as:

  • adulterations (undeclared additions of generally cheaper materials)
  • provenance (false statements relating to products source – geographical, plant or animal origin)
  • inaccurate claims regarding specific product ingredient levels

NMI can analyse for misdescriptions in orange juice, meat, fish, olive oil, wine and spirits.

Species Identification

NMI can analyse several meat and plant products including genetically modified foods.