What is the difference between natural and artificial ingredients? Is a naturally produced ingredient safer than an artificially manufactured ingredient?
Natural ingredients are derived from natural sources (e.g., soybeans and corn provide lecithin to maintain product consistency; beets provide beet powder used as food coloring). Other ingredients are not found in nature and therefore must be synthetically produced as artificial ingredients. Also, some ingredients found in nature can be manufactured artificially and produced more economically, with greater purity and more consistent quality, than their natural counterparts. For example, vitamin C or ascorbic acid may be derived from an orange or produced in a laboratory. Food ingredients are subject to the same strict safety standards regardless of whether they are naturally or artificially derived.
Natural vs. Artificial Food Preservatives
Introduction: Food Preservatives
Food additives/preservatives refer to any substances that are added to change food in some way before it is consumed. Additives include preservatives for extending shelf life, flavoring and coloring for improving taste and appearance, and nutritional supplements such as vitamins and minerals. The contaminants from manufacturing, storing and packaging processes are also considered as indirect food additives.
Preservatives are used to protect your food from microbes that might contaminate it or cause it to rot. Foods that have a long shelf life often contain preservatives. Preservatives protect you from food poisoning and keep your food looking and tasting fresh. But many preservatives used today are chemical in origin and might have dangerous side effects.
Here are some healthy, safe food preservatives to look for:
· Salt – The only “preservative” we use at Boulder Sausage
· Folic acid
· Ascorbic acid
· Sorbic acid
Why does salt work as a preservative?
Salt draws water out of cells via the process of osmosis, which makes the food too dry for molds and harmful bacteria to grow. Organisms that decay food and cause disease are killed by a high concentration of salt. Some food products are preserved using fermentation. Salt is used to regulate and aid this process. One serving of McDonald’s French fries has enough salt to prevent them from ever spoiling or molding.
Natural food additives, such as salt, sugar and vinegar and natural spices are also considered as food additives. However, the main concerns of using food additives are mostly related to chemical substances and artificial ingredients. These chemicals are usually added to prevent oxidation of fats and oils in food. Oxygen tends to react with BHA and BHT before oxidizing fats, which in turn keeps the food from going rancid.
At Boulder Sausage, we are simply premium pork and spices, and nothing else. EVER! No preservatives & no additives. We don’t even freeze the products. Salt is included in our spice blend, serving as a natural preservative. While our commitment to Always Fresh & No Preservatives does limit our shelf life, we don’t see this as a problem. Meat (and food in general) wasn’t meant to last forever. 6 month old meat? No way, NEVER at Boulder Sausage.
Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin. Since 1998, it has been added to cold cereals, flour, breads, pasta, bakery items, cookies, and crackers, as required by federal law. Foods that are naturally high in folic acid include leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce), okra, asparagus, and fruits (such as bananas, melons, and lemons). Folic acid is safe for people. Most adults do not experience any side effects when consuming the recommended amount each day, which is 400 mcg. Folic acid may be added to manufactured foods and drinks, or taken as a vitamin supplement because of its use as a natural and safe food preservative.
Ascorbic acid is a naturally occurring organic compound with antioxidant properties. It is a white solid, but impure samples can appear yellowish. Ascorbic acid, more commonly known as vitamin C, is a preservative that stops foods from continuing to ripen, an aging process that leads to decay. Manufacturers preserve canned fruit with ascorbic acid.
BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxy anisole (BHA) and the related compound butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are phenolic compounds that are often added to foods to preserve fats. BHA and BHT are antioxidants. Oxygen reacts preferentially with BHA or BHT rather than oxidizing fats or oils, thereby protecting them from spoilage. Both BHA and BHT have undergone the additive application and review process required by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, the same chemical properties which make BHA and BHT excellent preservatives may also be implicated in health effects. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA and BHT may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorigenicity.
Sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk. It’s thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes. Therefore, they are unhealthy synthetically produced preservatives.
In January 1996, the FDA approved olestra as a food additive. It was introduced as a fat-free, zero-calorie additive and preservative. But olestra proved to be a greedy chemical. It not only removed unwanted fat from foods but also negated the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins. Side effects included cramps, gas and loose bowels, turning fat-free French fries into a foiled business fad. The FDA has kept olestra as a legal food additive to this day, though, leaving its health implications in the hands of individual consumers.
Unhealthy/ Synthetic Preservatives:
Many preservatives that appear in our foods are controversial in their effect on health. Though many of these preservatives are well known to be unhealthy, they are still used in foods for their food-preserving qualities.
Nitrites in Food
Nitrite Salts are used as a food additive in cured meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and ham. The nitrite ion serves two functions as an additive First, it retards spoilage by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, specifically Clostridium botulinum. It also preserves the appetizing flavor and red color of meat. Debate over the continued use of nitrites in cured meat products arises because HNO2 can react with amino acids to form compounds known as nitrosamines. These have shown to produce cancer.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) for enhancing flavor
- Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine, and sodium cyclamate
- Preservatives in oily or fatty foods such as BHA, BHT, and sodium benzoate
- Preservatives in fruit juices such as benzoic acid
- Sulfites for stopping fermentation of beer, wine, and packaged vegetables
- Nitrates and nitrites in hot dogs and other meat products for color retention
- Antibiotics given to food producing animals
- Food stabilizers and emulsifiers such as lecithin, gelatins
- Anti-foaming agent for reducing the formation of foam in the industrial process of liquids
Common food additives include:
Preservatives are a type of food additive added to food to prolong shelf life and keep the products from being broken down by microorganisms. Mold, bacteria, and yeast can cause food spoilage and are found practically everywhere (including the air we breathe). And these modern additions have certainly made an impact. In fact, some researchers believe preservatives have changed eating habits and food production patterns more than any other type food additive.
Sugar acts as a preservative because it inhibits the growth of microorganisms, like salt. High concentration of sugar makes bacteria lose water which makes them unable to grow or divide. Thus, foods with high amount of sugar have longer shelf-life. Sugar is used to preserve fruits, either in an anti-microbial syrup with fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums or in crystallized form.
The preservative action of vinegar is based upon its acetic acid content. It reduces the thermal death time of microorganisms and either inhibits or kills microorganisms, depending on the concentration used. Pickling is a common method of using vinegar as a preservative. Pickling is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation.
Sulfites are also a common preservative. Sulfites are prohibited to be used in foods that provide the nutrient vitamin B1 because it can destroy this vitamin. Furthermore, some people are sensitive to sulfites and respond with adverse reactions. Due to the reports of adverse reactions, the FDA banned the use of sulfites on fruits and vegetables in 1986, and is still reviewing whether it should be banned from other uses.
Trans-fatty acids are an example of what can happen to essential nutrients when a food is processed. Also called hydrogenated fats, these fatty acids are found in margarine, vegetable shortenings, crackers, cookies, snack foods and numerous other processed foods. Trans-fats are produced by a chemical process in which hydrogens are added to an unsaturated fatty acid. The food industry uses this process because it converts a liquid fat to a soft solid form, like margarine, and also because it increases the shelf-life for fats.
In conclusion, food preservatives and additives have become a necessary ingredient in today’s foods. They serve many purposes and most importantly extend the expiration of foods. However, one must be cautious when buying foods from supermarkets because many preservatives are known to wreak havoc on the body. One should stick to natural/healthy preservatives such as salt, sugar, folic acid, and ascorbic acid as well as stay away from chemical preservatives.
All food products except for the one growing in your kitchen garden has food preservatives in them. Every manufacturer adds food preservative to the food during processing. The purpose is generally to avoid spoilage during the transportation time.
Food is so important for the 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 the purpose.
Boiling, freezing & refrigeration, pasteurizing, dehydrating, pickling are the traditional few. Sugar, mineral salt and salt are also often used as preservatives food. Nuclear radiation is also being used now as food preservatives. Modified packaging techniques like vacuum packing and hypobaric packing also work as food preservatives.
Food Preservation is basically done for three reasons
- To preserve the natural characteristics of food
- To preserve the appearance of food
- To increase the shelf value of food for storage.
Natural Food Preservatives
In the category of natural food preservatives comes the salt, sugar, alcohol, vinegar etc. These are the traditional preservatives in food that are also used at home while making pickles, jams and juices etc. Also the freezing, boiling, smoking, salting are considered to be the natural ways of preserving food. Coffee powder and soup are dehydrated and freeze-dried for preservation. In this section the citrus food preservatives like citrus acid and ascorbic acid work on enzymes and disrupt their metabolism leading to the preservation.
Sugar and salt are the earliest natural food preservatives that very efficiently drops the growth of bacteria in food. To preserve meat and fish, salt is commonly used as a natural food preservative, although often many other preservatives are added to the list. Boulder Sausage likes to keep it simple, all-natural, and follow the same authentic recipe rooted in Germany and set forth by our founder – premium pork & spices only.
Chemical Food Preservative
Chemical food preservatives are also being used for quite some time now. They seem to be the best and the most effective for a longer shelf life and are generally fool proof for the preservation purpose.
Examples of chemical food preservatives are:
- Benzoates (such as sodium benzoate, benzoic acid)
- Nitrites (such as sodium nitrite)
- Sulphites (such as sulphur dioxide)
- Sorbates (such as sodium sorbate, potassium sorbate
Antioxidants are also the chemical food preservatives that act as free radical scavengers. In this category of preservatives in food comes the vitamin C, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), bacterial growth inhibitors like sodium nitrite, sulfur dioxide and benzoic acid.
Then there is ethanol that is a one of the chemical preservatives in food, wine and food stored in brandy. Unlike natural food preservatives some of the chemical food preservatives are harmful. Sulfur dioxide and nitrites are the examples. Sulfur dioxide causes irritation in bronchial tubes and nitrites are carcinogenic.
Artificial preservatives are the chemical substances that stops of delayed the growth of bacteria, spoilage and its discoloration. These artificial preservatives can be added to the food or sprayed on the food.
Types of Artificial Preservatives Food
- Antimicrobial agents
- Chelating agent
- In antimicrobial comes the Benzoates, Sodium benzoate, Sorbates and Nitrites.
Antioxidants include the Sulfites, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) Chelating agent has the Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), Polyphosphates and Citric acid
Harmful Food Preservatives
Although preservatives food additives are used to keep the food fresh and to stop the bacterial growth. But still there are certain preservatives in food that are harmful if taken in more than the prescribed limits.
Certain harmful food preservatives are:
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 the brain damage. This food preservative is used in fruit juices, tea, coffee etc.
This chemical food preservative is expected to cause high blood pressure and cholestrol level. This can affect the kidney and live function. It is found in butter, vegetable oils and margarine.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
BHA is expected to cause the live diseases and cancer. This food preservative is used to preserve the fresh pork and pork sausages, potato chips, instant teas, cake mixes and many more.
Caramel is the coloring agent that causes the vitamin B6 deficiencies, genetic effects and cancer. It is found in candies, bread, brown colored food and frozen pizza.
In addition to this there are many other harmful food preservatives. These are Bromates, Caffeine, Carrageenan, Chlorines, Coal Tar AZO Dies, Gallates, Glutamates, Mono- and Di-glycerides, Nitrates/Nitrites, Saccharin, Sodium Erythrobate,ï¿½Sulphites and Tannin
Preservatives Food Additives
All of these chemicals act as either antimicrobials or antioxidants or both. They either inhibit the activity of or kill the bacteria, molds, insects and other microorganisms. Antimicrobials, prevent the growth of molds, yeasts and bacteria and antioxidants keep foods from becoming rancid or developing black spots. They suppress the reaction when foods comes in contact with oxygen, heat, and some metals. They also prevent the loss of some essential amino acids some vitamins.
Some common preservatives and their primary activity
|Chemical Affected||Organism(s)||Action||Use in Foods|
|Sulfites||Insects & Microorganisms||Antioxidant||Dried Fruits, Wine, Juice|
|Sodium Nitrite||Clostridia||Antimicrobial||Cured Meats|
|Propionic Acid||Molds||Antimicrobial||Bread, Cakes, Cheeses|
|Sorbic Acid||Molds||Antimicrobial||Cheeses, Cakes, Salad Dressing|
|Benzoic Acid||Yeasts & Molds||Antimicrobial||Soft Drinks, Ketchup, Salad Dressings|
There are other antioxidants like Sodium Erythorbate, Erythorbic Acid, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Succinate, Grape Seed Extract, Pine Bark Extract, Apple Extract Tea Proplyphenols, Succinic Acid and Ascorbic Acid and food preservatives like Parabens and Sodium Dehydro Acetate used frequently for preservation.