Food preservatives – can we avoid them?

We are paying more attention to the labels of the products we buy. We want them to contain no harmful artificial additives. We are particularly afraid of preservatives.

What is food preservation?

Food preservatives are generally defined as additives that inhibit unwanted bacterial growth or chemical changes. You probably use food preservation on a daily basis without even knowing it. There are two categories of that: chemical and physical preservation. When you dry mushrooms or freeze meat, you use physical method of protection.

Pickling is an example of Chemical protection, using vinegar. Modern distribution systems have resulted in the need to extend the shelf life of products. Consumer expectations about low prices, food safety and shelf life before consumption have a huge impact on the amount of chemicals intentionally added to food.

List of the most dangerous preservatives

Which preservatives require special attention because of their harmful properties?

  • Nitrites can be identified by symbols from E-249 to E-252. In the food industry they are used, among others when pickling meats. Nitrites also prevent the production of botulinum toxin. However, it is worth knowing that they can lead to the production of nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.
  • Sulphites in food have numbers from E-220 to E-228. Delivering them to the body with food contributes to severe headaches and the destruction of valuable vitamin B1.
  • Potassium benzoate, or E-212, consumed in excessive amounts leads to allergic reactions. It is mainly used in margarines and jams.
  • Benzoic acid, known as E-210, contributes to itchy rashes as well as irritation of the intestines and stomach mucosa. These preservatives are found, among others in soft drinks and beer.
  • Sodium benzoate, or E-211, may form carcinogenic benzene in combination with vitamin C. For this reason, it is considered extremely dangerous. How to avoid it? Look for E-211 symbol on labels of canned fruit, carbonated drinks, and vegetable preserves.
food preservatives

Natural preservatives

  • Garlic
    Fights microbes not only in the body but also in food. Adding it to meat products like sausages or dishes like sauces or soups will help keep them fresh longer.
  • Oregano and thyme
    Both spices are perfect for preserved raw meat. You can combine them with salt. This will prevent the growth of mold, fungi and bacteria.
  • Rosemary
    It contains over 20 strong antioxidants, including rosemary acid and carnosic acids, which prevent food from rotting. Recently, rosemary extract hidden under the name E-392 is used in the industry for preserving fats, meats, dietary supplements, breads, and soups.
  • Sage
    This is another spice with antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Many cultures use sage as a natural preservative for meat, sausages and cheese. Thus, if you expect a party, it is good to cover sliced ham or cheese with sage leaves to keep them 100 % fresh before your guests come.
  • Vinegar
    Acetic acid kills microbes and inhibits food spoilage. Added to your food will not only make it stay fresh longer, but also will add flavor. As an addition to dishes, balsamic and fruit vinegars are used, mainly apple- and the best vinegar is of course the homemade one.
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