Food preservation using additives - what you should be aware of (2021)
Any chemical that helps in food preservation or to keep food fresh without going stale or enhances properties like texture, colour (cochineal or tartrazine) or flavour (MSG- Mono Sodium Glutamate) food is considered to be a food additive.
People are usually unaware if they are sensitive to food additives (used for food preservation) or not. So is it challenging to find the presence of food additives in the food products you consume?? No, actually, you can find these food additives listed on the food labels of the particular food product along with all other ingredients.
Flavours are given an exception where they are not required to be revealed on the food labels. Primarily the food additives are assigned a code number like Coloring (120) for Cochineal and Preservative (221) for Sodium Sulphite rather than specifying their real names, which is noticed in rare cases.
Many consumers have a view that food additives are a significant food threat. When compared to health effects, food additives come towards the end after food-borne illness caused due to microorganisms like Salmonella, environmental contaminants, unsafe eating habits, improper hygiene, and toxins that occur naturally.
Safety Tests additives for Food Preservation
Animals are usually used as a medium to test food additives before approval for human consumption. A series of Toxicological tests are carried out to determine the dose or quantity of a particular additive that is the safe limit and beyond which limits it would cause harmful effects on health.
If the approving body has any additives, they don’t approve that for human consumption. If a food additive has been approved and was later found to be harmful with scientific evidence and research, then the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should ban that food additive for human consumption.
Each food additive is tested individually to know its exact effects on health rather than in combinations of additives together. Therefore the side-effects of consumption of a mixture of many food additives are unknown in the longer run.
Types of Additives for Food Preservation
There are many food additives used in the food industry. Here we will highlight a few common food additives and their role or purpose for food.
- Anti-caking Agents: Prevents ingredients like flour from forming lumps.
- Antioxidants: Prevents rancidity (oxidation of fats leading to stale foods), or oxidation results in unpleasant colour change as in cut apple pieces exposed to air.
- Artificial Sweeteners: Enhances the sweetness of food.
- Emulsifiers: Prevents the clotting of fats together.
- Food Acids: Helps in maintaining the correct acidity level in foods.
- Colors: Adds or improvises the already present colour in food.
- Humectants: Helps in keeping foods moist.
- Flavors: Addition of any flavour like fruit flavours for ice-creams.
- Flavor Enhancers: Strengthens the effect of flavour in food.
- Foaming Agents: Helps in incorporating air uniformly inside a food like in cake batters.
- Mineral Salts: Elevates flavour and texture.
- Preservatives: Prevents the multiplication of microbes and preventing food spoilage.
- Thickeners and Vegetable Gums: Stabilizes consistency and texture of the food.
- Stabilizers and Firming Agents: Keeps the food evenly dispersed.
- Flour Treatment: Improves the quality of baking.
- Glazing Agent: Enhances the appearance and protects foods.
- Gelling Agents: Enables gel formation and improves the texture of certain foods like jelly.
- Propellants: Enables food to propel from a container.
- Raising Agents: Aids in increasing the volume of food through mixing in gases like in flour batters.
- Bulking Agents: Increases the food volume with alteration in energy content of the food.
Food Additives in Processed Foods
Many people have this misconception that any processed food will have added chemicals like food additives. But, certain foods like extended shelf-life milk, frozen and canned foods are all processed foods without any necessity to add extra chemicals.
When unsure of the presence of food additives, it is always recommended to check the food labels where the ingredients would be listed, and as already discussed, certain additives might not be listed like margarine, which itself has food additives.
Food Additives and Health Effects
For some individuals, food additives probably won’t be unsafe in the short term, yet some of the food additives presently endorsed were discovered to be unhealthy for a long time.
Additives are the key components that enhance customers’ desire to purchase products through colour, flavour and other presentation qualities obtained through food additives. Specific hypersensitive reactions include:
- Digestive Disorders: colicky pain and diarrhoea
- Nervous Disorders: insomnia, irritability and hyperactivity.
- Respiratory Problems: sinusitis, asthma and rhinitis.
- Skin Problems: rashes and hives, swelling on skin and itching.
The dermatologist must confirm this allergic response through specific sensitivity tests, which can avoid unnecessary restriction of consuming certain foods in fear of allergic reactions due to food additives without confirmation.
Though allergy is not typical for food additives, certain people experience allergic symptoms when consuming certain additives like hives (rashes on skin anywhere on the body) or diarrhoea. However, avoiding food additives is practically not possible as almost all packaged foods contain these chemicals.
Certain additives added in foods are from natural sources like Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG), which naturally occurs in Parmesan Cheese, Tomatoes and Sardines. Those having food allergies or intolerances are more prone to be sensitive to these chemical additives, which occur naturally in some foods like shellfish and nuts.
Common Food Additives causing Problems:
- Flavor Enhancers: MSG-621
- Food Colorings: tartrazine-102, sunset yellow-FCF110, cochineal-120, yellow-2G107.
- Preservatives: sulphites-220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225 and 228, benzoates-210, 211, 212, 213, nitrates-249, 250, 251, 252.
- Artificial Sweeteners: aspartame-951
Food Additive Sensitivity
Food additive sensitivity does not have a different set of symptoms but is as same as many other disorders. Therefore consulting a doctor is very important. The process would be to keep a personal food diary, where you must note down all the foods you consume throughout the day and keep track of any adverse symptoms or effects after consuming certain foods.
If an unsafe or unhealthy food additive is determined, people must avoid foods containing that additive to prevent health complications. Suppose there were a group of additives that led to a sensitive reaction.
In that case, all those foods which led to an undesired response/allergy should be eliminated from the diet. Removing allergenic foods is suggested to be done under medical supervision as some symptoms like asthma could be severe.
Food Additives during Pregnancy and Lactation
Healthcare specialists found many food additives to be having adverse effects on the growth and development of the babies, their hormonal balance, especially when consumed by pregnant and lactating mothers. A few additives which are recommended to be avoided during pregnancy and lactation are:
- Biphenols: primarily found in plastic bottles, bags and cans.
- Phthalates: also found in plastics
- Perfluoroalkyl Chemicals (PFCs): these are found in cardboard and fast food packaging, microwave, popcorn and non-stick pots and pans.
- Perchlorate: found in dry packed foods like rice, cereals for babies.
- Artificial Food Coloring: found in certain drinks, sweets and candies
- Nitrates/Nitrites: found in processed and cured meats.
- Food additives are chemicals or natural elements used to enhance and prevent the spoilage of foods. It can cause sensitivity in certain people with adverse health complications and specific symptoms that could worsen if not treated properly.
- You can usually find the food additives present in foods by looking at the food labels’ ingredients section through real names or code numbers.
- Many food additives are approved as safe for human consumption with various functional properties in the food in which they are added.
- Food elimination and reintroduction processes can avoid potential sensitivity causing food additives with medical supervision and prescription.
- Pregnant and lactating mothers are advised to be more cautious in consuming certain foods, and they should avoid storing foods in plastics.
Disclaimer: This is article is not sponsored by any brand or company. The information contained on Target100years is provided for general and educational purposes only and must never be considered a substitute for medical advice from a qualified medical professional. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription medicines, are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals before beginning any nutrition or lifestyle programme. Target100years does not take responsibility for possible health consequences for any person following the information in the educational content.