Many foods available in the market contain different types of additives and preservatives. These chemicals can give rise to certain health problems. Here is some useful information about the dangers of food additives and preservative and how to minimize the risk.
When we need to store any food for a longer time, it should be properly processed. During this processing, some substances and chemicals, known as additives, are added to the food. Additives consistently maintain the high quality of foods. In addition, we also need to add some preservatives in order to prevent the food from spoiling. Direct additives are intentionally added to foods for a particular purpose. Indirect additives are added to the food during its processing, packaging and storage. Food Preservatives are the additives that are used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, molds and yeasts in the food. Some of the additives are manufactured from the natural sources such as corn, beet and soybean, while some are artificial, man-made additives.
Commonly Used Food Additives and Preservatives
Nowadays, most people tend to eat the ready-made food available in the market, rather than preparing it at home. Such foods contain some kind of additives and preservatives, so that their quality and flavor is maintained and they are not spoiled by bacteria and yeasts. More than 3000 additives and preservatives are available in the market, which are used as antioxidants and anti-microbial agents. Salt and sugar the most commonly used additives. Some of the commonly used food additives and preservatives are aluminum silicate, amino acid compounds, ammonium carbonates, sodium nitrate, propyl gallate, butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), monosodium glutamate, white sugar, potassium bromate, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, etc. Some artificial colors are also added to the foods to give them an appealing look. These coloring substances are erythrosine (red), cantaxanthin (orange), amaranth (Azoic red), tartrazine (Azoic yellow) and annatto bixine (yellow orange).
Uses of Food Additives and Preservatives
When the food is to be stored for a prolonged period, use of additives and preservatives is essential in order to maintain its quality and flavor. The excess water in the foods can cause the growth of bacteria, fungi and yeasts. Use of additives and preservatives prevents spoiling of the foods due to the growth of bacteria and fungi. Additives and preservatives maintain the quality and consistency of the foods. They also maintain palatability and wholesomeness of the food, improve or maintain its nutritional value, control appropriate pH, provide leavening and color, and enhance its flavor.
Additives are classified as antimicrobial agents, antioxidants, artificial colors, artificial flavors and flavor enhancers, chelating agents and thickening and stabilizing agents. Antimicrobial agents such as salt, vinegar, sorbic acid and calcium propionate are used in the products such as salad dressings, baked goods, margarine, cheese and pickled foods. Antioxidants including vitamin C, E, BHT and BHA are used in the foods containing high fats. Chelating agents such as malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid are used to prevent the flavor changes, discoloration and rancidity of the foods.
Dangers of Food Additives and Preservatives
Although additives and preservatives are essential for food storage, they can give rise to certain health problems. They can cause different allergies and conditions such as hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder in the some people who are sensitive to specific chemicals. The foods containing additives can cause asthma, hay fever and certain reactions such as rashes, vomiting, headache, tight chest, hives and worsening of eczema. Some of the known dangers of food additives and preservatives are as follows:
* Benzoates can trigger the allergies such as skin rashes and asthma as well as believed to be causing brain damage.
* Bromates destroy the nutrients in the foods. It can give rise to nausea and diarrhea.
* Butylates are responsible for high blood cholesterol levels as well as impaired liver and kidney function.
* Caffeine is a colorant and flavorant that has diuretic, stimulant properties. It can cause nervousness, heart palpitations and occasionally heart defects.
* Saccharin causes toxic reactions and allergic response, affecting skin, gastrointestinal tract and heart. It may also cause tumors and bladder cancer.
* Red Dye 40 is suspected to cause certain birth defects and possibly cancer.
* Mono and di-glycerides can cause birth defects, genetic changes and cancer.
* Caramel is a famous flavoring and coloring agent that can cause vitamin B6 deficiencies. It can cause certain genetic defects and even cancer.
* Sodium chloride can lead to high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke and heart attack.
To minimize the risk of developing health problems due to food additives and preservatives, you should avoid the foods containing additives and preservatives. Before purchasing the canned food, you must check its ingredients. You should buy organic foods, which are free from artificial additives. Try to eat the freshly prepared foods as much as possible rather than processed or canned foods.