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Popular Preservatives

Food preservation has been an important part of food manufacture and production for decades. Food was first preserved using salt on meats and fish. Later, sugar was used in canned foods and vegetables were pickled using vinegars. Whilst these simple methods do the job, modern chemicals have made preserving food both more effective. Some chemicals are controversial and are not recommended for use in some countries.

However, there are many benefits to food preservation, such as the ability to prevent deterioration and spoilage from mould, yeast, botulism and other types of food poisoning. Preservation also reduces food cost and extends shelf life.

When it comes to preserving foods, there are two methods: physical and chemical. Drying, refrigerating and freezing are examples of physical preservation. Chemical preservation involves adding ingredients to food in order to prevent oxidation, rancidity, bacterial growth, etc. Chemical preservation uses “additives.”

Although there are many naturally occurring preservatives such as salt, sugar and lemon juice, big companies use synthetic chemicals, making them artificial preservatives.

Here are a list of most commonly used modern preservatives:

· Benzoates

· Sorbates – including potassium sorbate, calcium sorbate and sodium sorbate

· Propionates

· Nitrites

· Antioxidants that inhibit oxidation:

· Sulfites, including sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium

bisulfite and potassium metabisulfite.

· Vitamin E (tocopherol)

· Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

· Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – a waxy solid used in the preservation of butter, lard,

meats, etc.

· Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – the powder form of BHA

· Chelating agents that bind metal ions to prevent oxidation:

· Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) – used in food processing

· Polyphosphates – used in dips as well as peeled fruits and vegetables

· Citric acid – naturally found in citrus fruits

While food authorities around the world approve most of these preservatives (in moderate consumption), some are more harmful than others for example sodium nitrite/nitrate used in processed meats and may have cancer-causing effects, especially if consumed in high amounts. Sodium benzonate and artificial food colourings might heighten hyperactivity in children. BHT has been banned in some countries as a carcinogen.

Chemgrit Food sources and supplies preservatives to the food and beverage industry industry. For information contact Chemgrit Food.



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