Preservatives are used in a variety of items from package goods to meats to wine. The general idea of products having preservatives is to preserve shelf life and prevent items from spoiling. The more shelf life a product has, the more marketable it becomes. The use of preservatives makes products stay fresher longer and give more time for products to be used.
The use of preservatives in foods is not new. Methods of preserving foods the old way included boiling, freezing, pasteurization and dehydration. These methods were used to prevent food from spoiling during transport.
Ways to preserve foods and other products have become more sophisticated. High-tech preservation methods like hypobaric packaging is where foods are stored in air under low pressure, low temperature and high humidity. Hypobaric packaging was introduced by Stanley Burg in 1960. However the use of hypobaric packaging is limited.
Vacuum packaging is another modern method of preserving food. This is where food is stored in an airless environment that packs items tightly to prevent fungi or aerobic bacteria, which causes food to spoil faster.
The most common modern preservatives are chemical preservatives. Some of the most common chemical preservatives are benzoic acid, sulfur dioxide and sulfites, potassium nitrite and sodium nitrite, sorbic acid and propionic acid and its salts. Over 80 products or items have these preservatives in them.
Sorbic Acid and Benzoic Acid
Sorbic acid and its salts are naturally occurring substances. These preservatives are most important in industrialized countries. Sorbic acid gives no flavor or added taste to products. Sorbic acid is used in numerous food and drinks. Some products include dairy products, fish and seafood, fat-based products, fruit and vegetable packaged products and baked goods and confectionery items.
Benzoic acid is a preservative used in countries that are developing. It is used only in acidic products that can spoil because of bacteria from being fruit based.
Sulfur Dioxide and Sulfites
This method of chemical preservation comes from Romans, Ancient Greeks and Egyptians. They used this method to preserve wine. These act in many functions as a preservative, antioxidant and color stabilizer. Sulfur dioxide is important to control bacteria growth. Sulfur dioxide is used for packaged soup, dried bananas, apricots, tinned crab meat, sausage meat, beer, wine and quick frozen chips and jams.
Potassium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrite
Potassium and sodium nitrite are synthetic additives and perform as flavorers, preservatives and stabilizers. If these preservatives were not used, there would be many more deaths from botulism. Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by botulinum toxin, which is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Potassium and sodium nitrite is used in preserving many cured meat products.
Propionic acid and its salts are another example of a natural preservative. Propionic acid are present in baked goods like bread because it delays the products from molding.
Besides preventing spoilage and promoting a longer shelf life, preservatives also prevent the loss of many essential vitamins and amino acids. This in turn promotes a healthy body. When these vitamins and acids are preserved, they give skin and body the needed rejuvenation.