Food preservatives
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Food preservatives - Scuola Statale Italiana di Madrid

Food preservatives

Chemistry in our life

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All food products except the

ones growing in your kitchen

garden have food preservatives.

Every manufacturer adds food

preservatives to the food during

processing. The purpose is

generally to avoid spoilage

during the transportation time.

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Why food preservation?

Food Preservation is basically done for

three reasons:

• To preserve the natural characteristics of


• To preserve the way food looks

• To increase the shelf value of food for


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Methodology to preserve food

Food is so important for survival, so

food preservation is one of the oldest

technologies used by human beings

to avoid its spoilage. Different ways

and means have been found and

improved for this purpose.

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Natural Food Preservatives

• Boiling, freezing and refrigeration, pasteurizing,

dehydrating, smoking, pickling are the traditional

few and are considered to be the natural ways

of preserving food.

• Sugar, salt, alcohol, vinegar are also often used

as food preservatives. Sugar and salt are the

earliest natural food preservatives that very

efficiently drop the growth of bacteria in food.

To preserve meat and fish, salt is still used as a

natural food preservative.

• Coffee powder and soup are dehydrated and

freeze-dried for preservation.

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Artificial Preservatives

• Nuclear radiation is also being used now

as food preservatives.

• Modified packaging techniques like

vacuum packing and hypobaric packing

also work as food preservatives.

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Chemical Food Preservatives

Chemical food preservatives have also been used for quite some time now.

They seem to be the best and the most effective for a longer shelf life and

are generally food proof for the preservation purpose. These food

preservatives are the chemical substances that:

• stop or delay the growth of bacteria and spoilage

• keep foods from becoming rancid or developing black spots

• suppress the reaction when food comes in contact with oxygen,

heat, and some metals

• prevent the loss of some essential amino-acids and some vitamins

• enhance the food flavours and colours

These artificial preservatives can be added to the food or sprayed on the


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Antimicrobial agents

Antimicrobial agents: they inhibit the activity of or kill the bacteria,

molds, insects and other microorganisms.

• Benzoates: Sodium benzoate, Benzoic acid.

This group of chemical food preservative has been banned in Russia

because of its role in triggering allergies, asthma and skin rashes. It

is also considered to cause brain damage. This food preservative is

used in fruit juices, tea, coffee.

• Sorbates: such as Sodium sorbate, Potassium sorbate.

• Nitrites: such as Sodium nitrite, commonly used as preservative for

ham, bacon, sausages and bologna, it gets converted into nitrous

acid when consumed and is suspected of inciting stomach cancer.

Germany and Norway have banned the use of this harmful food

preservative after declaring it a toxin.

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Antioxidants: that act as free radical scavengers.

• Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Pine Bark Extract, Grape Seed Extract

and Apple Extract Tea (all these natural)

• Sulfites Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), the common food

preservatives for fruits, dried fruits, canned olives and peppers, corn

syrup, cornstarch, wine vinegar, and wine have side effects in form

of headaches, joint pain, heart palpitations, allergies, and cancer.

• Sodium Erythorbate

• Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Succinate

• Sodium Dehydro Acetate

• Succinic Acid and Ascorbic Acid

• Parabens

• Erythorbic Acid

• Proplyphenols

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Chelating agent

Chelating agent: work on enzymes and disrupt their

metabolism leading to the preservation.

• Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA),

is one of the most commonly used preservatives for a

number of packaged foods, it has multiple negative

impacts and associated allergy and reaction cases.

Though use in a lot of food products and cosmetics it is

known to cause skin allergies and reactions, besides

aggravated asthma problems and kidney damage.

• Polyphosphates

• Citric acid

• Ascorbic acid.

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Food Flavourings

Food Flavourings: Artificial flavouring agents are used for enhancing

food flavours. Salad dressings and a lot of other packaged foods use

artificial food flavour enhancers.

• Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

• Disodium Guanylate

• Disodium Inosinate is one of the most dangerous chemicals to

look out for, as it is often disguised under different names. All three

together are quite notorious for their harmful effects. They are

known to cause and aggravate problems like kidney stones, nausea,

headaches, obesity and burning sensations in the stomach.

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We must read the labels!

• To regulate the additives, and inform consumers, each additive is

assigned a specific number, termed as "E-number", which is used

in Europe for all approved additives. This numbering scheme has

now been adopted and extended by the Codex

Alimentarius Commission to internationally identify all additives,

regardless of whether they are approved for use.

• E numbers are all prefixed by "E", but countries outside Europe use

only the number, whether the additive is approved in Europe or not.

For example, acetic acid is written as E260 on products sold in

Europe, but it is simply known as additive 260 in some countries.

Additive 103, alkanet, is not approved for use in Europe so it does

not have an E-number, although it is approved for use

in Australia and New Zealand.

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• E 100–199 Colours:

100–109 yellows; 110–119 orange; 120–129 reds;

130–139 blues & violets;

140–149 greens; 150–159 browns & blacks;160–199

gold and others

• E 200–299 Preservatives:

200–209 sorbates; 210–219 benzoates; 220–229


230–239 phenols and formates (methanoates); 240–

259 nitrates;

260–269 acetates (ethanoates); 270–279 lactates;

280–289 propionates (propanoates);

290–299 others

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• E 300–399 Antioxidants and acidity regulators:

300–305 ascorbates (vitamin C); 306–309

Tocopherol (vitamin E);

310–319 gallates and erythorbates; 320–329 lactates;

330–339 citrates and tartrates; 340–349 phosphates;

350–359 malates and adipates; 360–369

succinates and fumarates; 370–399 others

• E 400–499 Thickeners, stabilisers and emulsifiers:

400–409 alginates; 410–419 natural gums; 420–429

other natural agents; 430–439

polyoxyethene compounds;

440–449 natural emulsifiers; 450–459 phosphates;

460–469 cellulose compounds; 470–489 fatty acids and

compounds; 490–499 others

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• E 500–599 pH regulators and anti-caking agents:

500–509 mineral acids and bases; 510–519

chlorides and sulphates; 520–529

sulphates and hydroxides;

530–549 alkali metal compounds; 550–559 silicates;

570–579 stearates and gluconates; 580–599 others

• E 600–699 Flavour enhancers

620–629 glutamates; 630–639 inosinates; 640–649


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• E 700-799 Antibiotics

• E 900-999 Miscellaneous

900–909 waxes; 910–919 synthetic glazes; 920–929

improving agents; 930–949 packaging gases; 950–969


990–999 foaming agents

• E 1100–1599

Additional chemicals, new chemicals that do not fall into

standard classification schemes

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