What Are the Negative Effects of Food Preservatives? Home News Industry News
What Are the Negative Effects of Food Preservatives?

Food Preservatives as a food additives are used to keep food from spoiling. They provide a way to keep food in storage longer by reducing the production of toxins created from spoilage. Salt, vinegar and sugar have all been used as preservatives throughout history. The majority of preservatives used today are artificial rather than naturally made, but several have negative and potentially life threatening side effects. Its important to be aware of which preservatives can have serious side effects in order to make healthier choices when grocery shopping.


Sulfites, appear in food production as sulfur dioxide, sulfur bisulfate, sodium or potassium sulfite, bisulfite and metabisulfite. These chemicals are preservatives often found in wines to prevent bacterial growth. Sulfites can also be found in many processed foods such as dried fruits, cheese and processed potatoes. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sulfites can destroy vitamin B-1. Additionally, some people are very allergic to sulfites and have severe reactions, especially people with asthma. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that sulfites can produce a sulfur dioxide gas that can be inhaled while eating. This can in turn cause a sensitive asthmatic to have a severe bronchospasm, or constriction of the lungs. The Center for Science in the Public Interest determined that one out of eleven asthma sufferers are sensitive to sulfites. Twelve deaths associated with sulfites occurred in the 1980s prior to stricter regulation of this additive. In non-sensitive individuals, sulfites are considered safe. However, sensitive individuals are recommended to avoid this preservative.


Nitrites and nitrates are used to preserve and maintain color in meats such as bacon, ham, and luncheon meats. Nitrates are considered nontoxic. However, studies report that nitrates can be converted to nitrites in the body and can react with hemoglobin to create methemoglobin. Methemoglobin is unable to bind to oxygen. As a result, the reduced transport of oxygen to tissues leads to methemoglobinemia, which in severe cases can result in death. Infants are more susceptible to this type of nitrate/nitrite poisoning than adults, and all related deaths have occurred in infants. However, long-term exposure to nitrites can cause increased urine, starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen. In addition, nitrites can also react with other food proteins and form N-nitroso compounds in the body, which animal studies have shown to have carcinogenic effects. Finally, nitrites can also react with food components and form nitrosamines that have also caused cancer and other toxic effects in animals.


Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA; and butylated hydrozyttoluene, or BHT, are preservatives (Foodchem) added to oil and fats to prevent them from becoming rancid. Both BHT and BHA are found in cereals, potato chips, chewing gum and cooking oils. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, BHA and BHT have caused cancer in animal studies. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has labeled BHA a potential human carcinogen, the Food and Drug Administration continues to allow its use. Propyl gallate is also used to prevent oils from spoiling. It is often combined with BHA and BHT. Although propyl gallate hasn been proven to cause cancer, many animal studies suggest its carcinogenic potential.


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