The addition of such substances prevents adverse changes such as such as bacterial and mold growth, darkening or caking. Preservatives are those that added to the product in small doses prolong its durability – they inhibit the growth of microorganisms.
Manufacturers decide to add preservatives, because it extends the shelf life, protects the consumer from food poisoning, prevents losses and gives more time to the product to the consumer.
Good to know
Usually the more the product is processed, the more it contains additional substances. If the product contains a preservative, it is mentioned in the composition printed on the packaging (usually under the name and the symbol E together with the appropriate number). Although additives used in preserving food are approved for use, they may have a negative effect on the human body in excess. If they “harm” bacteria and molds, are they completely harmless to us? There is no unambiguous answer to this question, so be careful.
To be aware of what is under the name or symbol of the preservative on the packaging, we give below a brief description of some of the most commonly used preservatives in the industry.
E-200 sorbic acid and its salts: potassium sorbate E-202 and calcium sorbate E-203.
They work at low pH, inhibiting the growth of mold and yeast. They are used in the production of cheese and in margarine packaging as a fungicide. In the human body, sorbic acid, like fatty acids, undergoes the β-oxidation process. These substances are considered safe for health.
E-210 benzoic acid and its salts: sodium benzoate E-211, potassium benzoate E-212, calcium benzoate E-213.
They have an effect similar to sorbic acid, but they can leave a strange aftertaste or cloudiness in some products. They are quickly absorbed in the digestive tract and are excreted in the urine. In allergy sufferers, they can cause allergic reactions, whereas people sensitive to aspirin may have disorders in the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Benzoic acid occurs naturally in some berries. It is not toxic – only a one-time intake of over 40 grams manifests itself with headache and vomiting.
Esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid: ethyl E-214 and methyl E-218.
They work on all types of microorganisms regardless of the pH of the product. Their toxicity is low, after saponification in the small intestine, the esters are excreted in urine. Interestingly, their consumption causes local anesthesia of the oral mucosa, which may affect the perception of taste.
Sulfur dioxide E-220.
It is effective against lactic and acetic bacteria and mold. It prevents browning and loss of vitamin C. It is not used in the dairy and meat industry, because it causes the breakdown of thiamine, or vitamin B1. Unfortunately, sulfur dioxide can cause allergic reactions or irritate the digestive tract. Jams with the addition of sulfur compounds are of inferior quality compared to those preserved by other methods.
It is an antibiotic produced by strains of lactic acid bacteria. Is a health-safe relationship. Used in the production of cheeses, it inhibits the growth of some bacteria and prevents butter fermentation.
E-280 propionic acid.
Its preservative properties are limited. It is mainly used in the production of bread (sliced pre-packaged bread or rye bread), it works at low pH. The metabolism of this acid in the body is the same as fatty acids, it is not harmful to the body. It occurs naturally in fermented foods.
Where are no preservatives?
The aforementioned Ordinance specifies products to which additional substances are not applicable. These include: unprocessed food, animal and vegetable oils and fats, butter, milk, natural fermented milk drinks, mineral waters, coffee, tea in leaves, sugar, dry pasta, natural buttermilk.
These products, with some exceptions, do not contain any preservatives.
Keep your head cool!
Although we know that it is worth choosing products without preservatives, it should be remembered that they are necessary for the production of certain products.
Taking care of your and your loved ones’ health, let us try to choose low-processed products from sources we trust. As always, common sense should be maintained in this situation. Preservatives allow us to eliminate food poisoning, however, consumed in excess can harm our health.