Food With Preservatives Examples


Food with preservatives examples? Food with preservatives is a treat for the eyes and tongue. Some people find that they don’t enjoy eating foods with artificial coloring or flavoring as much, while others are just fine with it. One thing everyone agrees on, however, is that if you’re going to eat something with chemicals in it there’s no better way to make sure that it doesn’t have any harmful side effects than to consult a doctor before you eat them.

It is important to use food preservatives that are good for us and safe. There are many types of food preservatives, each with different benefits of preservatives. This article will discuss the best preservative for food and how they can be used.

Food With Preservatives Examples

1) Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid. , Sodium benzoate is one of the most food preservatives used in processed foods and drinks to prevent spoilage, acting as as an antifungal preservative in pharmaceutical preparations and foods.

You can find it in acidic products such as sauerkraut, jellies and jams, and sauces; however some foods, like cranberries, cinnamon, prunes and apples, naturally contain it. It has been suggested that it may help treat hyperammonemia in terms of medication.

Food labels typically reference it as sodium benzoate. Alternative names: benzoic acid, potassium benzoate, benzoate.

2) Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrite is usually found in preserved meat products like sausages, cured meats and canned meats.

A recent study found that methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder in which an abnormal amount of methemoglobin is produced, was found in in an adolescent girl and her father after ingesting homemade beef jerky that contained sodium nitrate.

Both experienced palpitations, dyspnea, and visible mucosal cyanosis. Concerns of this preservative are that too much may cause pancreatic cancer and other health problems.

Look for sodium nitrate on the food labels. Alternative names: sodium nitrite, nitrate, nitrite.

Top Foods with Preservatives to watch out for

3) Sodium Sulfite (E221)

According to the FDA, as many as one in 100 people is sensitive to sulfites in food.  The majority of these individuals are asthmatic, suggesting a link between asthma and sulfites. Individuals who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death by closing down the airway altogether, leading to cardiac arrest.

Found in wine and dried fruit.

4) Sulfur Dioxide (E220)

The Food and Drug Administration have prohibited the use of sulfur dioxide on raw fruit and vegetables as they can be toxic.

Adverse reactions to include bronchial problems, particularly in those prone to asthma, hypotension (low blood pressure), flushing, tingling sensations or anaphylactic shock. It also destroys vitamins B1 and E. Long term exposure could result in a number of health issues. 

The International Labour Organization says to avoid E220 if you suffer from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease.

Found in beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, and potato products.

Not recommended for consumption by children.

6) Propyl Paraben

With a federal study showing that 91 percent of Americans had propyl paraben in their urine, this is one of the more common preservatives. It can be found in foods such tortillas, bread products and food dyes. However, it sometimes shows up in beverages, dairy products, meat and vegetables due to cross contamination

This is of concern since propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that is “Generally Recognized as Safe.”

In 2002 researchers at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health discovered that propyl paraben decreased sperm counts in young rats at and below the concentrations which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers safe for human consumption in food (Oishi 2002; 21CFR184.1670).

Other researchers have confirmed propyl paraben’s effects on the endocrine system. It acts as a synthetic estrogenic compound and can alter hormone signaling and gene expression (Routledge 1998; Terasaka 2006; Vo 2011; Wróbel 2014). A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that exposure to propyl paraben might be associated with diminished fertility (Smith 2013).

Look for propyl paraben on the food labels to avoid it. You can also check this database to see which foods contain it. 

Alternative names: 4-Hydroxybenzoesäurepropylester; propyl paraben; propyl p-hydroxybenzoate; propyl parahydroxybenzoate; nipasol; E216

7) BHA And BHT (E320)

The Chemistry of BHA and BHT

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are commonly found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils.

This common preservative keeps foods from changing color, changing flavor or becoming rancid. Affects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has a potential to cause cancer.

At high doses, BHA has been proven to cause cancer in rats, mice and hamsters, but it does this exclusively in the forestomach, an organ that humans don’t have. In the low levels used in food preservatives, however, many researchers consider it perfectly safe, especially given our lack of forestomachs. In fact, the same antioxidant effects that BHA has on fats can also neutralize the threat of other carcinogens.

Found in potato chips, gum, cereal, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy, jello.

Best Preservative for Food

Food preservation has been around for centuries. It began in ancient times with the use of salt on meats and fish. Later, sugar was used in canned foods and humans began pickling vegetables. While all of those older methods are OK in moderation, today’s new chemical means of preservation are growing more and more abundant and are harmful to our bodies.

There are many benefits to food preservation, such as the ability to prevent deterioration and spoilage from mold, yeast, botulism and other means of food poisoning. Preservation also reduces food cost and extends shelf life.

When it comes to preserving foods, there are two methods: physical and chemical. Drying, refrigerating and freezing are examples of physical preservation. Chemical preservation involves adding ingredients to food in order to prevent oxidation, rancidity, bacterial growth, etc. Chemical preservation involves “additives.” Although there are preservatives that occur naturally, such as salt, sugar and lemon juice, big companies frequently use synthetic chemicals, making them artificial preservatives.

Antibacterial agents that destroy bacteria or prevent mold growth are:

  • Benzoates
  • Sorbates – including potassium sorbate, calcium sorbate and sodium sorbate
  • Propionates
  • NitritesAntioxidants that inhibit oxidation:
  • Sulfites, including sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite and potassium metabisulfite.
  • Vitamin E (tocopherol)
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – a waxy solid used in the preservation of butter, lard, meats, etc.
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – the powder form of BHAChelating agents that bind metal ions to prevent oxidation:
  • Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) – used in food processing
  • Polyphosphates – used in dips as well as peeled fruits and vegetables
  • Citric acid – naturally found in citrus fruits

While the FDA approves of these preservatives in moderate consumption, some are known to be more harmful than others. Sodium nitrite/nitrate is the preservative used in processed meats and may have cancer-causing effects, especially if consumed in high amounts. Sodium benzonate and artificial food colorings might heighten hyperactivity in children. BHT has been banned in some countries as a carcinogen.

All processed foods should be consumed in extreme moderation. It’s best to stick to foods that have been minimally processed for optimal health.

Preservatives in Processed Foods

Food preservatives are specific additives to prevent deterioration from enzymes, microorganisms, and exposure to oxygen. All chemical preservatives must be nontoxic and readily soluble, not impart off-flavors, exhibit antimicrobial properties over the pH range of the food, and be economical and practical.

Sugar, salt, nitrites, butylated hydroxy anisol (BHA), butylated hydroxyl toluene (BHT), tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), vinegar, citric acid, and calcium propionate are all chemicals that preserve foods. Salt, sodium nitrite, spices, vinegar, and alcohol have been used to preserve foods for centuries. Sodium benzoate, calcium propionate, and potassium sorbate are used to prevent microbial growth that causes spoilage and to slow changes in color, texture, and flavor. Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate both prevent spoilage by inhibiting mold and yeast. Sodium benzoate may be in foods such as salad dressings, soft drinks, canned tuna, and mixed dried fruit. Potassium sorbate is found in cheese, wine, and dried meats. BHA and BHT are antioxidants that prevent rancidity of fats and are added to shortening, margarine, and fried snacks such as potato chips.

Consumers have raised concerns about the use of preservatives in foods that have complicated chemical names that make them seem more appropriate for a chemistry experiment than a meal. Sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, and TBHQ have especially been targets of consumer apprehension. These compounds have been approved for their safe use in foods and have not been linked to any human illness or complications for the general public. As is the nature of scientific inquiry, reports of adverse effects of these compounds can be found in the literature. The abundance of evidence suggests that the risks of these compounds, which are used in small amounts, to human health are insignificant. And, in contrast to having a negative impact on health, BHA and BHT have been linked with having a positive effect due to their antioxidant capacity. Weighing the risk/benefits of using these chemicals in foods is an ongoing debate and the FDA, food companies, and consumers must all participate. No food, additive, or ingredient will be 100% safe for 100% of the people. Using scientific thinking to consider these complicated decisions is essential to avoid emotional reactions based on misinformation.

Types Of Food Preservatives

Food additives are ingredients used to improve and increase the usefulness of food. Here are a few types of food preservatives to prevent food from spoiling.

types of food preservatives

A preservative is a substance or chemicals that is added to food substances or beverages to prevent decomposition of microbial growth or to avoid undesirable chemical changes. Food preservation is an ancient technique that is practiced to preserve food products. This is practiced in different forms. Here are different types of food preservatives.

Food Preservatives is basically done for three reasons:

  • To preserve the natural characteristics of food
  • To preserve the appearance of food
  • To increase the shelf value of food for storage

Natural food preservatives

Sugar and salt are the earliest natural food preservatives that very efficiently drop the growth of bacteria in food. To preserve meat and fish, salt is still used as a natural food preservative.

Other natural preservatives in the category are alcohol, vinegar, etc. These are the traditional preservatives in food that are also used at home and while making pickles, jams and juices, etc. The freezing, boiling, smoking and salting also considered being the natural ways of preserving food. Coffee powder and soup are freeze-dried for preservation.

Chemical food preservatives

Chemical food preservatives have also been used for quite some time now. They seem to be the best and the most effective for longer shelf life. According to the International Institution of Health, here are some of the chemical food preservatives that are widely used-

  • Benzoates (such as sodium benzoate, benzoic acid)
  • Nitrites (such as sodium nitrite)
  • Sulphites (such as sulphur dioxide)
  • Sorbates (such as sodium sorbate, potassium sorbate

Antioxidants are also the chemical food preservatives that act as free radical scavengers. In this category of preservatives in food comes Vitamin C, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), bacterial growth inhibitors like sodium nitrite, sulfur dioxide, and benzoic acid.

Then there is ethanol that is one of the chemical preservatives in food, wine, and food stored in brandy. Unlike natural food preservatives, some of the chemical food preservatives are harmful. Sulfur dioxide and nitrites are examples. Sulfur dioxide, reportedly, causes irritation in bronchial tubes and nitrites are carcinogenic.

Artificial preservatives

Artificial preservatives are the chemical substances that stop the growth of bacteria, spoilage, and discoloration. These artificial preservatives can be added to the food or sprayed on the food


Sodium Benzoate


Sodium benzoate is a food preservative that is labeled by the E number E211 in several processed food items available in the market. It is specifically added to prolong the shelf life of acidic food items such as vinegar, cold drinks, fruit juices, yogurt, etc. In chemical terms, Sodium benzoate is salt with the chemical formula {C}_{6}{H}_{5}{COONa}C6​H5​COONa, and it is an odorless crystalline powder produced by reacting benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide. Sodium benzoate acts as a preservative by inhibiting the growth of several microorganisms including moths, fungi, and bacterias. In particular, sodium benzoate gets absorbed into the cell of growing microorganisms and shifts the pH of the intracellular water to make it acidic. This, in turn, decreases the anaerobic fermentation of glucose inside the cell of the microorganism, thereby inhibiting its growth. Apart from food items, sodium benzoate is also used as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care items, such as hair products, baby wipes, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Although sodium benzoate is safe to ingest on its own, it has been connected to several health risks when combined with vitamin C, which has the potential to convert it into the well-known carcinogen benzene.



Table salt, otherwise known as Sodium Chloride, is one of the most common preservatives that one can come across in the kitchen. It has been used for ages to both add flavor and to preserve foods such as meats, pickles, salmon, etc. The features that make it a prominently used preservative are its inexpensive and nontoxic nature.  The chemical action by which salt preserves food is known as osmosis. Essentially, adding enough salt to the food items increases the salinity or salt concentration outside the cell wall of the pathogenic microorganisms. To stabilize the salt concentration, enough water moves through the cell wall and makes the microorganism inefficient to survive. Nonetheless, this method is not effective for all microbial growths. For instance, a 20% salt concentration is effective to kill bacterial growth; however, some organisms such as halophilic (salt-loving) bacterias thrive under extreme concentrations of salt.

Nitrogen Gas

Most of us are familiar with a bag of chips filled with nitrogen gas. Nitrogen, an inert gas accounting for 79% of the atmosphere, is one of the most widely used preservatives in the food industry. The food companies use this distilled nitrogen in their packaging processes to prolong the shelf life and quality of their products. This method is known as nitrogen flushing in technical terms. Bacterias, such as mold and mildew, rely on oxygen for their growth. Nitrogen flushing is the method in which oxygen-rich air is flushed out of the bags and nitrogen gas is immediately filled as a preservative. Unlike oxygen, inert nitrogen does not react and spoils the food. Moreover, Nitrogen also provides cushioning to the chips and prevents them from undergoing any wear and tear during their transit.

Nitrate and Nitrites


In our previous example, we discussed that nitrogen is used to get rid of oxygen to preserve food; however, the compounds of nitrogen and oxygen known as nitrates ({NO}_{3}NO3​) and nitrites ({NO}_{2}NO2​) are widely used in the food industry as preservatives. Nitrates and nitrites are naturally occurring molecules in the human body and some foods; however, they are added to processed food items like bacon to preserve and extend their shelf life.. Nitrite inhibits the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a harmful bacterium, and it may also have antimicrobial properties against other pathogenic microorganisms. Furthermore, nitrite develops the flavor and color of cured meats while also preventing rancidity, off-odors, and off-flavors from developing during storage. The characteristic pink color of preserved meats is also due to nitrite. The most commonly used nitrites and nitrates are sodium and potassium nitrite and sodium and potassium nitrate. These substances have been attributed E numbers E250, E249, E251, and E252 respectively, which can be easily found on the ingredient label of several food items including bacon, ham, sausages, and hot dogs.

Benefits of Preservatives

1. Preservatives Preserve

As one might assume, preservatives (whether they are in food or other organic material) preserve the content of a product. A preservative acts as decomposition-preventer by actively working to prevent microbial growth. Any sort of change to the composition of a food item, for example, could greatly harm consumers by getting all kinds of bacteria, microbes and diseases into their system.

2. Preservatives Are Often Natural

What many people don’t know is that preservatives often naturally occur in nature. Natural sugars and salts are preservatives in and of themselves. Foods can develop these preservatives to prevent their own decomposition or invasion by predator species. While this isn’t the case for the vast majority of all preservatives found within a given product, natural preservation definitely does exist and occur outside anthropogenic means.

3. Food Preservatives Enable Mass Production

While wealthy countries like the United States, Britain, France and the rest of the western world might have the option of organic food without preservatives, less fortunate countries might not. Preservatives enable food to be processed and stored for long periods of time so as to feed millions or even billions of people with cheap production costs. That being said, synthetic food is not feeding the world’s hungry people currently (although future speculation can be made).

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