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Natural vs. Artificial Food Preservatives
Transcript of Natural vs. Artificial Food Preservatives
Introduction: Food Preservatives
Food additives/preservatives refer to any substances that are added to change food in some way before it is consumed. Additives include preservatives for extending shelf life, flavoring and coloring for improving taste and appearance, and nutritional supplements such as vitamins and minerals. The contaminants from manufacturing, storing and packaging processes are also considered as indirect food additives.
Preservatives are used to protect your food from microbes that might contaminate it or cause it to rot. Foods that have a long shelf life often contain preservatives. Preservatives protect you from food poisoning and keep your food looking and tasting fresh. But many preservatives used today are chemical in origin and might have dangerous side effects. Here are some healthy, safe food preservatives to look for:
· Folic acid
· Ascorbic acid
· Sorbic acid
Why does salt work as a preservative?
Salt draws water out of cells via the process of osmosis, which makes the food too dry for molds and harmful bacteria to grow. Organisms that decay food and cause disease are killed by a high concentration of salt. Some food products are preserved using fermentation. Salt is used to regulate and aid this process. One serving of McDonald's french fries has enough salt to prevent them from ever spoiling or molding.
Natural food additives, such as salt, sugar and vinegar and natural spices are also considered as food additives. However, the main concerns of using food additives are mostly related to chemical substances and artificial ingredients.These chemicals are usually added to prevent oxidation of fats and oils in food. Oxygen tends to react with BHA and BHT before oxidizing fats, which in turn keeps the food from going rancid.
Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin. Since 1998, it has been added to cold cereals, flour, breads, pasta, bakery items, cookies, and crackers, as required by federal law. Foods that are naturally high in folic acid include leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce), okra, asparagus, and fruits (such as bananas, melons, and lemons). Folic acid is safe for people. Most adults do not experience any side effects when consuming the recommended amount each day, which is 400 mcg. Folic acid may be added to manufactured foods and drinks, or taken as a vitamin supplement because of its use as a natural and safe food preservative.
Ascorbic acid is a naturally occurring organic compound with antioxidant properties. It is a white solid, but impure samples can appear yellowish. Ascorbic acid, more commonly known as vitamin C, is a preservative that stops foods from continuing to ripen, an aging process that leads to decay. Manufacturers preserve canned fruit with ascorbic acid.
BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and the related compound butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are phenolic compounds that are often added to foods to preserve fats.BHA and BHT are antioxidants. Oxygen reacts preferentially with BHA or BHT rather than oxidizing fats or oils, thereby protecting them from spoilage. Both BHA and BHT have undergone the additive application and review process required by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, the same chemical properties which make BHA and BHT excellent preservatives may also be implicated in health effects. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA and BHT may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorigenicity.
Sodium nitrate, a preservative that's used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk. It's thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes. Therefore they are unhealthy synthetically produced preservatives.
In January 1996, the FDA approved olestra as a food additive. It was introduced as a fat-free, zero-calorie additive and preservative. But olestra proved to be a greedy chemical. It not only removed unwanted fat from foods but also negated the body's ability to absorb essential vitamins. Side effects included cramps, gas and loose bowels, turning fat-free French fries into a foiled business fad. The FDA has kept olestra as a legal food additive to this day, though, leaving its health implications in the hands of individual consumers.
Unhealthy/ Synthetic Preservatives:
Many preservatives that appear in our foods are controversial in their affect on health. Though many of these preservatives are well known to be unhealthy, they are still used in foods for their food-preserving qualities.
Nitrites in Food
Nitrite Salts are used as a food additive in cured meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and ham. The nitrite ion serves two functions as an additive First, it retards spoilage by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, specifically Clostridium botulinum. It also preserves the appetizing flavor and red color of meat. Debate over the continued use of nitrites in cured meat products arises because HNO2 can react with amino acids to form compounds known as nitrosamines. These have shown to produce cancer.
-Monosodium glutamate (MSG) for enhancing flavor
-Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine, and sodium cyclamate
-Preservatives in oily or fatty foods such as BHA, BHT, and sodium benzoate
-Preservatives in fruit juices such as benzoic acid
-Sulfites for stopping fermentation of beer, wine, and packaged vegetables
-Nitrates and nitrites in hot dogs and other meat products for color retention
-Antibiotics given to food producing animals
-Food stabilizers and emulsifiers such as lecithin, gelatins
-Anti-foaming agent for reducing the formation of foam in the industrial process of liquids
Common food additives include:
Preservatives are a type of food additive added to food to prolong shelf life and keep the products from being broken down by microorganisms. Mold, bacteria, and yeast can cause food spoilage and are found practically everywhere (including the air we breathe). And these modern additions have certainly made an impact. In fact, some researchers believe preservatives have changed eating habits and food production patterns more than any other type food additive.
Sugar acts as a preservative because it inhibits the growth of microorganisms, like salt. High concentration of sugar makes bacteria lose water which makes them unable to grow or divide. Thus, foods with high amount of sugar have longer shelf-life.Sugar is used to preserve fruits, either in an anti-microbial syrup with fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums or in crystallized form.
The preservative action of vinegar is based upon its acetic acid content. It reduces the thermal death time of microorganisms and either inhibits or kills microorganisms, depending on the concentration used. Pickling is a common method of using vinegar as a preservative.Pickling is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation.
Sulfites are also a common preservative. Sulfites are prohibited to be used in foods that provide the nutrient vitamin B1 because it can destroy this vitamin. Furthermore, some people are sensitive to sulfites and respond with adverse reactions. Due to the reports of adverse reactions, the FDA banned the use of sulfites on fruits and vegetables in 1986, and is still reviewing whether it should be banned from other uses.
Trans-fatty acids are an example of what can happen to essential nutrients when a food is processed. Also called hydrogenated fats, these fatty acids are found in margarine, vegetable shortenings, crackers, cookies, snack foods and numerous other processed foods. Trans-fats are produced by a chemical process in which hydrogens are added to an unsaturated fatty acid. The food industry uses this process because it converts a liquid fat to a soft solid form, like margarine, and also because it increases the shelf-life for fats.
In conclusion, food preservatives and additives have become a necessary ingredient in today's foods. They serve many purposes and most importantly extend the expiration of foods. However, one must be cautious when buying foods from supermarkets because many preservatives are known to wreak havoc on the body. One should stick to natural/healthy preservatives such as salt, sugar, folic acid, and ascorbic acid as well as stay away from chemical preservatives.
Graph for Trans Fat Amounts in foods:
By Liza Ptitsyna and Amber Cumiskey