Food preservation forms an important part in the food and beverage industry. A number of preservatives are available for food preservation. The main idea behind preservation is to maintain the desired properties or the nature of the food as long as possible. Mostly, foods having a longer shelf life will be more demanded by consumers. According to Rahman (4), food preservation is important as it ensures that issues of inappropriate planning in agriculture are reduced. Furthermore, it helps provide value added products to the community. Although preservatives serve some useful functions, producers should not put them in food because they may cause cancers, cognitive disorders and other unknown health effects. Focus need to be placed on developing solutions that will enhance the use of preservatives that cause less harm to human health.
The lack of using preservatives may cause spoilage of food. Consumption of spoiled foods may cause food poisoning. According to Roller (183), microorganisms are a major concern currently, especially the ones that contaminate foods and cause food related illnesses. Some organisms cause spoilage of food during food processing, transportation and storage. As such, it becomes important to use preservatives to increase the shelf life of these food products.
However, the use of artificial preservatives has raised concern among various countries. Studies have been conducted that provide some common dangers that emanate from the use of certain artificial preservatives. For instance, sodium nitrate is utilized for preservation of processed meat products such as hot dogs and sausages to ensure that the botulism causing bacteria is removed. However, research indicates that the sodium nitrate used is linked to causing pancreatic and lung cancer. Preservatives are normally applied in the processing of meat products. According to Micha, Michas, Lajous and Mozaffarian (3), preservatives are the major distinction between the processed and unprocessed meats. The processed meats have excess sodium by 400% than unprocessed red meats (Micha, Michas, Lajous and Mozaffarian 3). High sodium content can be related to an increase in blood pressure. Thus, the intake of processed meats such as hot dogs and sandwiches increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This does not necessary mean that unprocessed red meat is better for human health. Focus should be on diets that include cereals, vegetables and fruits.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are preservatives that have been known to cause certain health problems. According to Jeon (1), a number of studies have shown that these two preservatives may worsen disorders such as ADD and ADHD. Further problems of digesting and metabolizing compounds of these two preservatives, may tend to cause behavioral changes. Foulke (10) indicates that high levels of BHA and BHT in studies involving laboratory animals caused development of tumors in their stomachs. Foods that have been preserved with sulfite tend to be harmful to individuals who have been affected by sulfites. According to Foulke (1), the FDA recently banned the use of sulfites on fresh vegetables after it was established that the grocers and restraint owners were using it to maintain color and crispness of fresh produce.
Despite the negative attributes of some of the food preservatives, certain solutions to ensure that health effects are reduced may be detrimental to food safety. Payne (26) indicates that preservatives provide quality, safety and stability in the preservation of food. Without the use of certain preservatives, most of the food products may spoil easily and have a shorter shelf life. A balance needs to be established on the use of food preservatives. Consumers need to be educated on the information regarding preservatives and the quantities recommended by the FDA. The use of food preservatives influences both the retailers and consumers. The lack of using food preservatives by retailers may cause an increase in food wastage as products have a shorter shelf life, and this translates to losses. On the other hand, consumers show preference to fresh products but also indicate the need to have produce that have longer shelf life.
The perceptions consumers have on the use of preservatives mostly borders on the negative rather than the positive. According to Payne (27), most consumers have little or no understanding of the information regarding the different preservatives used in their foods. Those who tend to know about preservatives advocate natural preservatives over the artificial ones. There is a drive to increase preservative free products, which is likely to affect the safety of food products.
In summary, as a consumer one needs to appreciate the value that food preservatives have in the food industry. However, caution needs to be observed in what types of preservatives we as consumers consume. Attitude and perception change about artificial preservatives needs to change to ensure proper information is provided. Manufacturers need to follow clear procedures in labeling the products to ensure consumers receive adequate information regarding preservatives present in the foods they purchase. Additionally, information concerning the benefits and side effects of the preservatives’ present is essential. Furthermore, we cannot support the abolishment of food preservatives as issues such as spoilage, food wastage and safety may be compromised. Alternatively, in the production of new preservatives more developed solutions need to be incorporated to ensure that consumers’ health is not affected.
Foulke, Judith E. "A Fresh Look at Food Preservatives." FDA Consumer 27.8 (1993): 22. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 June 2014.
Foulke, Judith E. "Food Preservatives: What To Know." Consumers' Research Magazine 77.1 (1994): 18. Business Source Complete. Web. 23 June 2014.
Jeon, H.S. "Food Additives and Preservatives | Hemato-Centric Life Institute." HematoCentric Life Institute RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2014. <http://www.hcli.com/food-additives-and-preservatives/>.
Micha, Renata, et al. "Processing Of Meats And Cardiovascular Risk: Time To Focus On Preservatives." BMC Medicine 11.1 (2013): 1-4. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 June 2014.
Payne, Helen. "Reducing Preservatives - Implications For Food Safety." Food & Drink Technology 13.4 (2013): 26-27. Business Source Complete. Web. 23 June 2014.
Rahman, Shafiur. Handbook of food preservation. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2007. Print.