Additives and Preservatives In Food
You have probably heard that food additives and preservatives are harmful to your health, but you may only have a vague notion of what these substances are, what they are used for, and what foods contain them. In this article we are going to take a look at the dangers of food additives and preservatives, and which, in particular, are especially dangerous to health.
- 1 What is a food additive?
- 2 When did they start to be used?
- 3 How are the additives identified?
- 4 What is a preservative?
- 5 Natural ways to keep food
- 6 Are food additives and preservatives dangerous?
- 7 Additives and consumers
- 8 Effects of additives and preservatives
- 9 The antioxidant additives
- 10 How to avoid additives and preservatives?
What is a food additive?
A food additive, as the name suggests, is a substance that is added to food to preserve its flavor, improve its flavor, or improve its appearance.
Simple additives, for example spices, salt or vinegar
When did they start to be used?
From the second half of the 20th century, food additives became more complicated. Instead of natural additives that had been used for centuries, laboratories began to create synthetic additives, some belonging to a branch of natural products and others are totally artificial.
These new additives are for example food colors and artificial sweeteners, along with a number of other additives and preservatives.
The additives and preservatives help keep the food longer in our fridge, but now there has been a boom in the use of natural additives, are better for health and are more effective than artificial.
How are the additives identified?
In Europe, the letter “E” is used to identify additives, which in turn are marketed in almost the entire continent, as part of the measures taken by the European Union through its Scientific Committee, to standardize the use of these components.
What is a preservative?
A preservative is a substance that is added to foods to prevent them from spoiling, preventing the appearance of mold, or losing flavor. Other food additives are not technically preservative, but nevertheless, they prevent the food from drying out, keeping them in perfect condition.
These additives as preservatives include:
- Moisturizers: Prevent food from drying out
- Coating agents: Give foods a bright coat
- Color retention agents: added to help a food maintain its color
- Emulsifiers: Prevent water and oil from separating into mayonnaise, ice cream, homogenized milk, etc.
Natural ways to keep food
We can recommend some, by means of fairly simple techniques, in case you are wary of artificial additives. Among them we find:
- Oxygen-free packaging: Air can bring bacteria that decrease the preservation properties of food. In this way, you can keep food for several days and even months if it is refrigerated.
- Brine use: It is the best technique for the preservation of meats and mixtures. Adding a certain amount of salt to foods will keep them safe from the presence of bacteria that can break them down.
- Fermentation: It is carried out mainly with oils and beverages, they are not uncovered and kept in controlled environments, so that they remain for a long time. It maintains the food components of the products and sometimes, they even have a better flavor when they are left to ferment.
- Freezing: It is the classic technique and the most used, which consists in leaving the food at high temperatures so that it does not get damaged.
- Dehydration: Dry food and remove all traces of water from them, so they do not rot. Mainly, it is the best for fruits and vegetables.
- Vinegar use: Keep the pickles and other foods.
- Baia de Maria: Consists of preserving food for a long time, is done by placing them inside a glass container filled with water and once it is well covered, boil the bottle for about an hour and let it cool naturally without removing from the pot where it boiled. In this way, we will take care of our food for almost a year.
- Herbs preservatives: We can prolong the life of our food through certain herbs and other spices such as rosemary, sage, pepper, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, ginger and garlic.
Are food additives and preservatives dangerous?
All these food additives and preservatives might not be so bad if consumed in small quantities. However, the consumption of fast foods, frozen foods and processed foods has grown exponentially since they were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s, and so has our intake of food additives.
Additives and consumers
Today, consumers are very concerned about what they are consuming, so it is important that they become informed about this issue, because some additives can cause some effects in people who do not tolerate them too much because of the elements that form them.
The purpose of additives is to give new flavors and aromas to foods, and they were born as an important part of the demands of people who demanded that food and products be more varied.
Effects of additives and preservatives
They are the best known and there are several series that identify them:
- E-100: return and maintain the color of the food;
- E-200: avoid the presence of bacteria and other germs;
- E-300 : are the antioxidants;
- E-400, E-1200 and E-1400 : help retain water and its components to hydrate food;
- E-420, E-900, E-620 and E-635 : these are the sweeteners and those that maintain the flavor of the food for longer.
Since they are not all of a natural nature, some can cause unwanted effects on people, which is the main cause of distrust in their use.
The E-102 and E-120, are the most common for people to have allergies, since they are the dyes tartracina and carmina, respectively. The allergy that can cause can be urticaria, on the skin or cover the nasal passages, but the experts point out that these effects are very rare and occur in approximately 1 in 10,000 consumers.
Those asthmatic and allergic patients, should avoid eating foods or beverages preserved with sulfites: sodium sulfite, potassium methylsulfite or potassium bisulfite, which contain sulfur dioxide. Some wines and fruits contain sulfites to prevent bacterial growth and fermentation. Unfortunately, sulfites cause allergic reactions in many people, and in rare cases, this reaction can be fatal. Beginning in the 1980s, Congress began to urge the FDA to ban sulfites in raw fruits and vegetables. They can produce asthma and digestive irritation.
Monosodium glutamate or MSG
The additives that enhance the flavor, are harmful for those who suffer frequent headaches, since they contain monosodium glutamate that is found in those foods that are of high duration. Monosodium glutamate apart from these pains can cause nausea and / or vomiting in sensitive people.
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
Also known as “trans fats,” hydrogen atoms are added to regular vegetable oils to increase their saturation. As a result, they are easier to bake and have a longer shelf life. Trans fats are known to increase the risk of heart disease and raise cholesterol levels, but many products still contain them.
Aspartame (E-951), Cyclamic acid (E-952), Saccharin (E-954) and Acesulfame K (E-950). It can negatively influence the metabolism and some have been associated with cancer, headaches, dizziness and hallucinations
Potassium bromate (E-924)
It is added to breads and buns to increase the volume, potassium bromate has been banned all over the world except for the United States and Japan, because it has been shown to cause cancer in animals.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
High fructose corn syrup is particularly harmful. In 2010, researchers from Princeton University demonstrated a clear relationship between obesity and HFCS. Rats whose diets included HFCS gained more weight than rats that did not ingest the sweetener, even though their calorie intake was the same.
It prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi, but it is one of the most dangerous preservatives there is, that even the giant food industry Coca Cola is committed to gradually eliminating its use. When sodium benzoate is mixed with vitamin C or ascorbic acid, a compound called chemical benzene, a known carcinogen, is formed.
Sodium nitrate (E-251), sodium nitrite (E-250), potassium nitrate (E-252) and potassium nitrite (E-249), are used as preservatives in meats and sausages to preserve their color and flavor. They destroy red blood cells and are carcinogenic.
It is a substitute for fat with a lipid base. It is known to cause abdominal pain, gastrointestinal problems, and inhibits the absorption of important vitamins.
BHA and BHT (E-320 and E-321)
They are compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid. It can lead to hyperactivity, angioedema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, urticaria and tumors. They can affect the balance of estrogen in the body.
Propylgalate is another preservative that should be dispensed with. It is used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling and is often used in combination with BHA and BHT. Sometimes it is found in meat products, chicken soup bases and chewing gum. It has not been proven that propylgalate is carcinogenic, but studies done with animals have indicated that there could be a relationship between its use and cancer, and therefore it is recommended to be alert.
The antioxidant additives
They are the most recommended for consumption, so we will describe them below and indicate their properties:
- E-300 : It is not harmful to health and its name is ascorbic acid, or known as Vitamin C. It is used to exalt and improve the properties of flour and is very common in the bread we consume.
- E-306 : Tocopherol or natural Vitamin E. It is used to stabilize the components of food and is one of the best natural antioxidants.
- E-308 : Synthetic Gamma-tocopherol or Vitamin E of synthetic origin. It fulfills the same function as the E306, only that we can find more its presence in products used to lose weight.
- E-325 : Sodium lactate. Reduces the presence of acids in food, is purely chemical, but not harmful to health.
- E-326 : Potassium lactate. It has the same properties as E325 and comes from lactic acid.
In addition to those mentioned, there is a wide list of additives that do not harm health. As consumers, we must be very aware of what we are buying for ourselves and our families. Many timesdue to ignorance about the allergic reactions of our bodies, we can suffer bad moments due to the intake of products harmful to our health.
How to avoid additives and preservatives?
The long list of ingredients to avoid may seem overwhelming, but there is a simple way to eliminate all these ingredients from your diet :
“Stop eating processed foods”
Instead, focus on consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, whole organic grains, fresh farm eggs, and fresh meat and dairy products. If they come in a vacuum sealed package, in a bag, or in a can, they most likely contain one or more of the ingredients listed above.