Food preservatives — a list of their species (safe, dangerous, prohibited), use in the food industry
Preservatives — Special food additives that significantly increase the shelf life of products. Their action is to prevent the development of pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, mold and yeast), protecting food from spoilage.
The technology of canning began to be used by the ancient people who did not have access to modern refrigerators and vacuum packaging, but still had to make seasonal preparations and preserve food for a long time. For this traditionally used table salt, honey, wine and wine vinegar, as well as ethyl alcohol. For a while, used various spices, spices, their oils and petroleum products. The most well-known preservation procedure is mummification, for it used wax, extracts of aromatic plants and oil.
At the beginning of the 20th century, along with natural additives, synthetic materials were also created, which began to be actively used in the food and cosmetic industry. Interestingly, antibiotics were initially considered as preservatives, but rather quickly noticed a large number of side effects.
Today, innovative additives are being developed that are balanced mixtures of a variety of preservatives that have the maximum effect, while causing minimal damage to the human body. The EU Codification System has assigned substances indices in the range from E200 to E297. This group includes directly preservatives that act on the cells of microorganisms and substances that have a preservative effect due to the regulation of the acid-base medium and oxygen concentration.
Methods of application of funds are also different, for example, some are introduced into the composition of products, others are processed surface of food products and packaging, in which they are packed.
Modern society has high quality requirements for food products and additives that it uses:
- harmless to human life;
- chemical neutrality with respect to packaging;
- preservation of nutritional value and taste characteristics.
However, some natural preservatives give the taste characteristic of their food. For example, sugar for preparation of cooking and jams, vinegar for marinades, salt.
Types of these substances: dangerous and safe, harmful and useful
Types of preservatives are divided into two groups — natural and synthetic. To say that natural substances can not have a harmful effect on humans is not worth it. All of them are harmless only when used in moderation.
The same can be said about synthetic preservatives, but there are still a number of substances with a “dubious reputation”, so their use in some countries is completely prohibited. Most substances can harm a person and his health because of their gradual accumulation in the body. The consequences of their large clusters are very diverse:
- Benzoic acid or benzoates — used for products sold in plastic packaging (drinks, fish), can cause allergic reactions and increase the manifestation of bronchial asthma.
- Sorbic acid is a practically harmless and quite effective substance.
- Sodium nitrite is a preservative, showing the qualities of a color enhancer, is considered a highly toxic component, therefore its content is strictly standardized. It is used mainly in sausages and smoked products, in which the risk of botulism spores is high.
- Antioxidants — prevent oxidation by oxygen in the air; citric, ascorbic, lactic acids, lecithin and tocopherol, which are harmless, are best suited for these purposes. But there is synthetic sulfite, which can cause significant harm to the body, besides, manufacturers often prefer not to mention its content in the product. Detect antioxidants can be in smoked sausages, butter and vegetable oils, snacks, wine and dried fruits.
- Diphenyl, orthophenol, thiabendazole — wax-like substances that are applied to citrus fruits for long-term storage during transportation. Therefore, it is necessary to thoroughly wash off the wax with each fruit.
It is enough to reduce the amount of synthetic products in your diet, especially those that are ready to eat, and also carefully read the label.
What effect do preservatives have on the human body?
Preservatives have the most controversial effects on the human body. On the one hand, they allow us to preserve the products we need for a long time, so we have the opportunity during the “icy winter season” to enjoy tasty and vitamin berries and vegetables. Moreover, these substances and recipes exist for thousands of years, during which there was no doubt about their necessity.
On the other hand, in recent times, rumors have been heard more and more that preservatives are carcinogenic and are real poisons, and their use results in multiple diseases and effects on genetics. However, studies do not fully confirm this fact, with the exception of approved bans.
Each of the food preservatives, one way or another, affects the human body — some destroy vitamins, others cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, prevent the cells from saturating with oxygen, which can lead to a decrease in the immune system. On the other hand, no effect on the digestive processes, the assimilation of proteins, fats and carbohydrates was observed.
Another problem is that in most products add whole complexes of preservatives, leading to a significant increase in shelf life, but for humans the consequences of such «long-playing» products are very disappointing.
And yet to abandon the preservatives today is impossible. Most of the products that make up our daily ration are full of additives that protect against the formation of toxins and mold in the whole food industry:
- cheese and dairy products;
- confectionery, chocolate;
- butter and margarine;
- fish products;
- sauces — mayonnaise, ketchup;
- soft drinks and juices;
- instant soups and more.
As a result, it may turn out that without the use of preservatives, humanity will one day have nothing to eat.
Preservatives are found in almost all foods that can be purchased in stores today. In the table below we suggest that you familiarize yourself with the most common additives and their use.