Oh, those numerous additives. They put them literally in everything. One of the key characteristics of the modern diet is the constant fresh and nutritious foods rejection. At the same time, we consume processed foods. They are conserved, frozen or pre-cooked. They have intensive colours, taste, and appearance. In order to achieve longer maintenance, the foods undergo several specific processes. Interestingly, most of the food producers rely on additives for the success of their products.
Who are they trying to preserve?
Preservatives belong to the biggest category of additives. They are nothing more than substances added to foods, beverages, refreshments. These little poisons are operating beyond conservative. They serve as colourants, antioxidants, or reinforcing agents such as flavour enhancement.
These substances are coded under the letter “E” followed by a number. 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 scientific facts. Very few people actually read the additives on the back of the package. 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 life of the food. Some of these additives are natural dyes as alpha-carotene and riboflavin. Others are quite familiar preservatives as salt and vinegar. There are artificial dyes like tartrazine too. 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 (Vitamin C), are often added. The most dangerous are artificial preservatives. They are the ones you should pay the most attention to.
Why the food has to last longer?
Preservatives are preserving the food, extending its life, and preventing it from being chemically, physically or biologically altered. In ancient times, people used salt, sugar 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 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.
I would like to add a personal opinion here. Just how safe are these approved substances? I think everybody should avoid the consumption of meat products with nitrates. Furthermore, colourful jelly products, puddings, juices and sweets with one million additives. In this website, I am talking about keto lifestyle – a real and clean one. I am not consuming processed food of any type. 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 far in the past. Be smart, try to shop in organic stores or small farms. Buy organic as often as possible. Try to read labels twice before you put products into your basket.
How can we know what’s behind each E?
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. Then, you can decide if you want to consume them. At 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?
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 grounded. The consumers are looking for the best quality of nutrition. They are seeking to protect their health. Organic and natural foods are difficult to find. But, with just a little change in your lifestyle, you might live healthier and longer.