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Preservatives are added to foods to prevent decomposition from chemical changes and microbial growth. They keep food from spoiling during shipment and prolong shelf life.
Common food preservatives act as either antioxidants or antimicrobials. Antioxidants prevent the oxidation of constituents in food, keeping it from becoming rancid or from developing black spots when exposed to oxygen (like an apple does when you cut it open). Antimicrobial preservatives kill or prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Some preservatives used in food can be considered to fit into the same classification as poisonous drugs. They are harmful to the body and can cause a number of health problems, especially if consumed in large amounts. Some common food preservatives used in the United States have been banned in some other countries because of the harm they can cause.
and gives us info on Common food preservatives,
their harmful effects, and foods commonly used:
Benzoates can trigger allergies and may cause brain damage. Foods include pickles, flour, margarine, fruit purees, fruit juices, and beer.
Bromatescan destroy nutrients and cause diarrhea. White flour and bread are common foods that contain this preservative.
BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene) are the two most widely used synthetic antioxidants in foods. These preservatives have caused cancers in rats; however, some studies show they may actually protect against the development of cancers. BHA can be found in meats, baked goods, cereals, snack foods, and beer. BHT is often found in pre-packaged food.
Glutamates may cause headaches, palpitations, dizziness, and cancer. Almost all convenience foods contain this harmful preservative.
Mono- and Di-glycerides may cause birth defects and cancer. You can find these preservatives in many foods, such as cookies, cakes, pies, bread, peanut butter, dry roasted nuts, vegetables packaged with sauce, shortening, and margarine.
Nitrates and Nitrites are known carcinogens. These harmful preservatives are used to preserve meat.
Propyl gallate may cause birth defects and damage the liver. This preservative is mostly found in meat products, vegetables packaged with sauce, pickles, vegetable shortening and oils, and even in chewing gum.
Sulfitesare also common food preservatives and may cause headaches, joint pain, heart palpitations, allergies, and cancer. Foods include fruit, dried fruit, jarred olives and peppers, corn syrup, cornstarch, wine vinegar, and wine.
To avoid harmful effects of preservatives, read all food labels closely!