What are Preservatives?
Preservatives are a type of additive that keep food fresher for longer. They also prevent foodborne infections by inhibiting nasty moulds, bacteria and yeast from growing in food.
Since prehistoric times, people have used various methods to prevent food from spoiling. Today, we still use a range of preservation techniques, from freezing and fermenting to curing and canning. Although they’re important for hygiene and safety, some chemicals used to preserve food have some concerning effects on our health, from stomach upsets and aggravating symptoms of asthma to causing cancer. So what are preservatives and how much of a risk are they?
What are the different kinds of preservatives?
Antioxidants are among the most common preservatives, which prevent the oxidation process from spoiling food. A widely used antioxidant is ascorbic acid, which is a form of vitamin C. It naturally occurs in lots of fruit and veg, and not only does it prevent food from going bad, it also helps our bodies fight diseases like cancer. You’ll also find these in meat, cheese and cereals. Ascorbic acid hasn’t been linked to serious side effects and is considered safe for consumption.
You may also be familiar with sulphites, which are used in wine, soft drinks and Sauerkraut. Although they have anti-inflammatory properties and keep the gut wall healthy, they can cause sensitivity in people with asthma. However, the risk of adverse reactions in the general population is very low.
What are the risks?
Most preservatives are safe, but some of them have been linked to more worrying side effects. For example, potassium sorbate is found in cheese, wine and baked goods and plays a key role in preventing mould and fungi from growing in food. Although it’s considered to be non-toxic, prolonged and excessive consumption can cause migraines, allergic reactions and hyperkalaemia (too much potassium in the blood).
The biggest concerns are undoubtedly nitrates and nitrites that are used to cure meat. These are naturally occurring chemical compounds that can be found in fruit and veg. They’re also used prevent growth of harmful bacteria, prolong shelf life and enhance the pink colour of meat. They can be converted into N-nitroso compounds in the curing process, some of which can cause cancer. We keep preservatives like nitrates to a minimum in our produce, and we provide alternatives like nitrate-free bacon, which is dry cured using sea salt instead.
Why choose organic?
Here at Graig Farm Organics, we use a variety of natural flavourings to provide you with delicious produce, such as thyme, rosemary and pepper. We believe that synthetics aren't needed to produce great tasting food.
Check out the benefits of organic food and make the switch today.
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