Additives could be the most frequent word in the food industry. Oh, those numerous food additives… They put them literally in everything! One of the key characteristics of the modern human diet is the fact that nothing comes without some sorts of additives. At the same time, we consume processed foods as if it was something totally natural. Our food is conserved, frozen or pre-cooked. These food-alike products have intensive colours, taste, and appearance. In order to achieve longer maintenance, they undergo several specific processes. Interestingly, most of the companies rely on additives for the commercial success of their products.
Who are they trying to preserve?
Preservatives belong to the biggest category of additives. They are nothing more than chemical substances added to food and beverages. In the past, they have been less harmful and not so many were added to the same product. But today, it seems like a larger percentage of a product is made of additives. Unfortunately, they do more harm than good to our health. They serve as colourants, antioxidants, or reinforcing agents such as flavour enhancement. And then there are those money-stealing bulking agents. As the name says, they just bulk the product but don’t increase its nutritional value. On the contrary, they make the products quite unhealthy.
What’s hidden behind the E additives?
These substances are coded under the letter “E” followed by a number. Interestingly, they are mandatory on the food packaging labels. A numbering plan is determined by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Unfortunately, modern society is based on marketing, not human wellbeing. Very few people spend their time reading the labels and learning about the additives. Let’s see some of the food additives authorised for use in the European Union:
- Gelling agents
- Blocking agents
Additives and preservatives
The coded additives with the numbers between E200-E299 have the main purpose to prolong the shelf-life of a product. Some of these additives are natural dyes, for example, alpha-carotene and riboflavin. Others are safe old-fashioned preservatives like salt, vinegar, baking soda or citric acid. There are artificial dyes like tartrazine and others! Furthermore, there are preservatives like the infamous nitrates and benzoic acid. Of course, there are other categories such as stabilisers, sweeteners and antioxidants. Moreover, vitamins, as tocopherol (Vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (artificial vitamin C), are often added. The most dangerous are those laboratory-made additives that usually come with a side-effect waring. They are the ones you should pay the most attention to when reading a label.
Why the food has to last longer?
Preservatives are preserving the food, extending its life. They are preventing it from being chemically, physically or biologically altered. In ancient times, people used salt, oil and vinegar. Also, they used techniques such as drying, dehydration, smoking, later cooling and canning.
The main reason for the usage of preservatives by the food industry is to ensure the “safety” of these foods. They like to say that it is to avoid the adverse effect of various microorganisms. In order to obtain approval, there should be appropriate evidence of the necessity. Existing scientific data is important but often not given.
I would like to add a personal opinion here. Just how safe are these approved substances? I think everybody should avoid the consumption of products loaded with industrial additives. Furthermore, colourful jelly products, puddings, juices and sweets with one million additives should never be given to the small ones. On this website, we are writing about the Keto Mediterranean lifestyle! For years now, we are not consuming industrially processed food and we never felt healthier. It’s actually quite easy to make treats for the whole family at home!
Let me give you an example: Why would you buy a canned coconut cream or milk when you can make it at home? The date of the can production can be years before you bought it. Be smart, try to shop in local butcher shops, organic stores, farmers markets or small farms. Buy organic and locally produced goods as often as possible! If you must shop at a supermarket, try to read labels twice before you put products into your basket.
How can we know what’s behind each E code?
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know all the E-additives by heart. The best way is to search for the meaning of each of them on the Internet. There are websites that can help you explore and find out what stands behind each E-number. Then, you can decide if you want to consume them or not.
At the European level, the consumer simply relies on competent bodies. Those are the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Commission, etc. They have adopted rules and laws that concern the evaluation of conservative safety. The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have an international role.
What about organic unprocessed food?
Organic foods, in recent years, are definitely coming back! Cooking with ingredients that contain no additives to preserve or improve flavour, aroma or appearance are becoming more and more present on the market. The consumers are looking for the best quality and this is a very core of the Keto Mediterranean diet. People around the globe are waking up and seeking to protect their health. Organic and natural foods are difficult to find and are often pricey. But, with just a little change in your lifestyle, you might live a healthier and longer life. Here on Greek Goes Keto, you can learn all about organic and unprocessed ingredients for delicious Keto recipes. Explore our categories and make a passionate turnover in your life. However, very soon you will notice the improvement in your mental and physical health and this will be just the beginning.