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Chemical Food Preservatives and their Roles


Food preservation is defined as the process of treating and handling food to stop or slow down food spoilage, thus allow for longer food storage. It allows for the food to be eaten at later times, reducing costs in purchasing new food and allowing consumers to save money while eating at less of a risk. Benzoates, Nitrites, Sulfites. We see them so often in the ingredients of our favorite foods.




The primary reason for using preservatives is to make food safer by eliminating the influence of biological factors. Without the food being preserved, it could become spoiled or become toxic from the bacteria, yeasts, or molds present within it. Some of these bacteria can release toxins that can pose potentially fatal threats to human health.


In order to avoid the effects of the bacteria and mold within food, anti-microbial substances are used which inhibit, delay or prevent the growth of these organisms. Sulfur compounds such as the sulfites mentioned before are used to stop the growth of bacteria. These are most commonly present in wine, dried fruits, and some shellfish. Sorbic acid, which is a naturally occurring compound that's become the most commonly used food preservative in the world, is highly effective at inhibiting the growth of mold. It can be used for many different purposes, including the preservation of potato products, cheese and jam.


The nitrate and nitrite compounds are used as additives in meat products such as ham by slowing or stopping the growth of bacteria as the meat is curing, specifically botulism.


Benzoic acid is commonly used within antibacterials and antifungals in foods such as pickled cucumbers, low sugar jams and jellies, dressings, condiments.

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