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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 foods. 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 additives are manufactured from natural sources, such as corn, beet, and soybean while some are artificial and man-made.

Commonly Used Food Preservatives and Additives

► 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 preservatives so that their quality and flavor is maintained and they are not spoiled by bacteria and yeasts.

► More than 3,000 additives as well as preservatives are available in the market that are used as antioxidants and anti-microbial agents. Salt and sugar are the most commonly used additives.

► Some of the most commonly used food additives and preservatives are aluminum silicate, amino acid compounds, ammonium carbonates, sodium nitrate, propyl gallate, butylated hydroxytoluene (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), canthaxanthin (orange), amaranth (Azoic red), tartrazine (Azoic yellow) and annatto bixin (yellow orange).

Uses

► When the food is to be stored for a prolonged period, use of preservatives is essential in order to maintain its quality and flavor. The excess water in the foods can promote the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeasts.

► The use of preservatives prevents the foods from spoiling due to the growth of bacteria and fungi. They maintain the quality and consistency, palatability and wholesomeness, improve or maintain the nutritional value, maintain appropriate pH, provide leavening and color, and enhance the flavor of the foods.

► 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 products, like salad dressings, baked goods, margarine, cheese, and pickled foods.

► Antioxidants including vitamin C, E, BHT, and BHA are used in foods containing high fats. Chelating agents such as malic, citric, and tartaric acid are used to prevent the flavor changes, discoloration, and rancidity of the foods.

Dangers and Side Effects

Although these additives 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 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 possible dangers of their usage are as follows:

✔ Benzoates can trigger allergies such as skin rashes and asthma as well as believed to cause 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 gives rise to an allergic response affecting the 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 diglycerides can cause birth defects, genetic changes, and cancer.

✔ Caramel is a famous flavoring and coloring agent that can cause vitamin B6 deficiencies. It can also 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, avoid the intake of foods containing additives and preservatives. Before purchasing canned foods, always remember to check the ingredients. Preferably buy organic foods that are free from artificial additives. As much as possible, try eating freshly prepared foods rather than processed or canned foods.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.