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Preservatives

Preservatives keep food shelf-stable for longer because they cause food to withstand heat, light, transportation, and time. Airtight packaging, vacuum packing, inert gases like nitrogen, and refrigeration can help preserve food. Manufacturers also use chemical additives to make food appear more attractive on the shelf. Natural methods of preserving food include fermentation, canning, drying, and freezing. Chemical preservatives include sodium benzoate, antioxidants, BHA, and BHT.

Sodium benzoate

A widely used food preservative, sodium benzoate is made from the salt of benzoic acid. Benzoic acid occurs naturally in low levels in cranberries, prunes, cinnamon, cloves, and apples.

What is it used for? Preserving food, especially highly acidic productsthree pickes

Found in: Salad dressings, carbonated drinks, jams, pickles, condiments, fruit juices

Considerations:

  • When sodium benzoate is consumed in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), benzene (a known carcinogen) is formed
  • Heat, light, and shelf time increase the rate at which benzene is formed
  • Research suggests that consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colors and sodium benzoate are associated with increased hyperactivity in children
Antioxidant

An antioxidant is a molecule that blocks and neutralizes free radicals (the waste molecules produced when your body breaks down food). Antioxidants can be synthetic or can occur naturally in vegetables and fruits. Antioxidants are added to food to slow the rate of oxidation to keep it from spoiling or going rancid. Citric acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are natural antioxidants used to preserve food, while BHA is a chemical antioxidant that prevents oxidation.

What are they used for? Antioxidants are used as preservatives in foods and cosmetics. They prevent food discoloration and help regulate pH in jams and jellies. Vitamin C can be added to food to replace nutrients that are lost in processing.

Found in: Jam, dried potatoes, canned fruit, cheese, dried soup; ascorbic acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits

Considerations:

  • Artificial preservatives are made with synthetic chemicals and not recommended for babies
  • Natural antioxidants aid in a healthy immune system, lower your risk of infection, and can assist in the prevention of certain diseases
  • Studies show that overabundance of antioxidants can suppress key signaling mechanisms necessary for muscles to function effectively
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

BHA is a stabilizer, preservative, and an antioxidant. It prevents the oxidation of fats and oils, thus protecting them from spoilage.

What is it used for? Primarily used as a preservative in food, food packaging, and cosmetics.

Found in: Beverages, butter, ice cream, baked goods, chewing gum, snack foods, dry breakfast cereals, instant mashed potatoes

Considerations:

  • Not permitted in infant food
  • Listed as a carcinogen in California
  • National Institutes of Health reports that BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” based on numerous animal tests.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

BHT is a stabilizer, preservative, and an antioxidant. It prevents the oxidation of fats and oils, thus protecting them from spoiling.

What is it used for? BHT is primarily used to preserve food odor, color, and flavor. It is also utilized in food packaging and cosmetics.

Found in: Beverages, butter, ice cream, baked goods, chewing gum, snack foods, dry breakfast cereals, instant mashed potatoes

Considerations:

  • BHT residues remain in human fat cells over extended periods
  • Studies show possible negative developmental effects at high doses
  • Extensive research shows that high doses of BHT lead to lung, liver, thyroid, and kidney damage
  • Known human skin and respiratory toxicant and allergen
  • Banned in U.S. baby food for potential association with hyperactivity in children
Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers keep water and oil mixed together without separating in products such as peanut butter, mayonnaise, ice cream, and homogenized milk. An emulsifier coats the oil droplets so that they can be dispersed in the water. Some natural emulsifiers used in foods are lecithin, egg yolks, and agar agar. Chemical emulsifiers that are commonly added to commercial food products include diglycerides and monoglycerides.

What are they used for? Used to keep oil and water–based ingredients from separating by interacting with fatty acids, protein, and water.jar of peanut butter

Found in: Processed foods such as extruded snacks, biscuits, bread, breakfast cereals, cakes, soft drinks, margarine, fruit preserves, “jelly” candy, ice cream, puddings, custards, dried potatoes, chocolate coatings

Considerations:

  • May cause allergic reactions
  • Monoglycerides and diglycerides (hydrogenated oils) are synthetic emulsifiers and contain trans fats
Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. Guide
By Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide. ™

A comprehensive and accessible resource for natural baby care. Nurture your baby with nature's principles for a radiant life. Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide is a complete resource for parents to give their babies a healthy beginning for the first three years.

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