Are all types of food preservatives harmful?
(02.21.2008)

1. The necessity to prevent food decay

When fresh food is stored for long periods, the cell organization decomposes and creates a suitable environment for the reproduction of microorganisms. Food is oxidized by air, light and heat, resulting in a peculiar smell and peroxides which can cause disease. Meat is contaminated by microorganisms, causing the discomposure of protein and producing harmful substances such as putrescence, histamine, tryptamine, etc., which is the main cause of food poisoning. If the food is stored in the refrigerator without a fresh-keeping treatment, it still will decay, only that the speed is slower. In order to prevent the attack of microorganisms, food must go through an anti-decay treatment; the difference lies in the method that eliminates, kills, prevents, or restrains the bacteria.

2. The use of chemical preservatives is safe

Among the various preservatives used in the world, the dominant varieties include sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate and propionate. The standards of the limited usage amount prescribed in China are much stricter than international standards.

3. Mistakes in understanding preservatives

Up to now, there has been a mistaken attitude towards anti-decay and the methods of keeping food fresh. Many people think pure natural food should have no anti-decay or anti-oxidization preservatives added at all.

In fact, all processed food has undergone anti-decay treatment of some sort, only differing in the treatment methods that prevent food from decaying. For example, canned foods have gone through the process of high temperature sterilization and evacuation sealing, so no preservatives are needed. Preserved fruit can be pickled with sugar and dried cabbage can be pickled with salt; because of the high density of sugar and salt, this causes dehydration in the cells of the microorganisms and they cannot reproduce in these foods. Yogurt is formed from fermented milk by lactic acid bacteria; it contains anti-decaying lactic acid and bacteriocin from lactic acid bacteria, so no preservatives are needed. All the above foods do not need to have any preservatives added, so it is not necessary to mark on the package "no preservatives are contained in this product". Some consumers drink international famous-brand colas, but they may not know that all the colas in the world contain the preservative sodium benzoate.