Food Additives and Preservatives

What Are Preservatives?

Ever wonder how some cakes, cookies and boxed foods can stay on the shelf for so long? If you actually think about it, they can last for at least a year before they expire. This is due to preservatives or food additives.

Preservatives are a wonder of nature. While foods used to go bad in a few days or even a few hours, preserving methods other than refrigeration has allowed foods to last much longer. In today’s standards, that translates into more profit for food companies.

Some common preservatives in the past have been salt and sugar. Have you seen hams hanging from rafters in the general store? They were “curing” or being preserved using salt, sugar or nitrates (found in hot dogs and lunch meat). The preservatives used today are a combination of chemicals that can be harmful in large doses (some, in small ones) in the body.

Harmful Effects of Preservatives and Food additives

Sugar and salt are simple compounds. They can be found in nature and the body is used to them. The substances that are used today as sugar substitutes and salt-like additives are a different story. Here are a few examples.

* Glutamates – Specifically, MSG (monosodium glutamate) has caused quite a stir. It is quite salty and can raise the blood pressure. It has been removed from many foods because it can cause palpitations, headaches and dizziness. Some food companies still use it as a meat tenderizer.

* Nitrates – These are used to preserve meats like luncheon meat and hot dogs. The additive also tastes kind of salty. Too many nitrates or nitrites have been known to be a carcinogen.

* Sulfites – These are found in jarred foods, wine and vinegars. They can lead to headaches, allergies, palpitations and joint pain.

* Artificial sweeteners – We have all heard about aspartame, but what about Splenda or acesulfame K? Some sweeteners that claim to be as sweet as sugar without the extra calories are using a mixture of harmful chemicals in the creation process. Using these chemicals can lead to allergies and also obesity.

* Dyes – If you’ve ever read a food label you might see at least one dye mentioned. There are reds, blues and yellows. These dyes might not be as innocent as first thought. They have been suspected as carcinogens, growth retardants and also producing allergies.