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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Harmful Substances / Habits >>  Preservatives In Diet

Chemical Additives And Preservatives In Food

Additives are referred to as agents that are used to enhance or preserve the flavor of food and preserve the food against microbial attack. Most additives are in the form of preservatives that preserve the food from decay.

Foods do contain nutrients which are essential for the survival of all life forms, including micro organisms. As foods contain moisture, microbes invade and act upon food and moisture catalyzes various chemical reactions accompanying the process. Hence, foods need to be preserved from microbes by hindering the factors that support their growth. The inhibition of moisture in foods is one such way to preserve foods.
As such, preservatives may be anti-microbial or antioxidant in their action.   

Preservatives can be used alone or in conjunction with other ways of food preservation like pasteurization and pickling. Various commonly used food preservatives are sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, disodium EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), and BHA (butylated hydroxytoluene).

Generally, preservatives used in processed foods are chemical substances, which may lead to health concerns like allergies and respiratory tract disorders. As such, it is advisable to use non chemical preservatives and employ homely preservation techniques to lessen the side effects of preservation. Some of the natural preservatives are salt, sugar, vinegar, and oil.

Natural Preservatives And Additives In Food

Some of the major preservation techniques employing non-chemical preservatives are as follows:

Salting: One of the major causes of spoiling of food is the presence of moisture that assists microbes to invade the food substances and survive. As such, salt is used to remove moisture content from foods like meat through the process of osmosis, thereby preserving the food.
Pickling: This technique of food preservation is anti-microbial in nature, wherein food is stored in a liquid with anti-microbial properties. Pickling generally involves the usage of salt water (brine), vinegar, and vegetable oils like olive oil. Pickling may employ other preservation techniques like heating and boiling so as to saturate the food with anti-microbial liquid.  

Sugar: Sugar is also used to preserve foods in liquid form or in crystallized form. Sugar in liquid form is used to preserve fruits like apples, apricots, orange, and mango as syrups or squashes. When used in crystallized form, food substances are boiled in sugar until they crystallize. Such foods include orange peels and ginger.

Other preservation techniques are jellying (wherein foods are preserves as thick jellies), jugging (Stewing the food in an earthenware vessel or jug), irradiation (exposing of foods to high energy radiations like gamma rays), potting, vacuuming, smoking, heating, and freezing.   
As chemical preservatives may have health hazards therefore it is always advised to use naturally occurring or non-chemical preservatives.
Submitted on January 16, 2014