Multiple Types of Food Additives

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Food additives have been around for millennia. The most famous traditional food additive being salt which was used mostly to cure meat. There are multiple types of food additives and they all do different things e.g. preservatives make it possible for food to last longer than it initially would, colorants change the color of food to make it more appealing, flavorings change the way food tastes. Over the centuries the way food additives are being used has changed drastically from the original idea which was to make food last longer or healthier for you. Now food additives are being used to enhance the flavor and appearance of food so that you buy more of it.

A lot of artificial food additives have been developed and these are used more than the natural food additives because they are cheaper to make and sell which makes it accessible to a lot of people. This is part of commercial use of food additives – using food additives to boost sales. Domestic use of food additives is using food additives at home. This use of food additives is usually the healthier alternative since most of the additives used are natural. The aim of this essay is to compare the uses of food additives, commercially and domestically, and evaluating the health infringements caused by both on the human body. The hypothesis this essay is based on is that food additives used domestically are healthier than those used commercially. The sources used to implement the research for this essay will be majorly found online, specifically on Health and Food and nutrition websites.

Food additives dominate the food industry. Which means as part of society they are a large part of our lives as well. They determine what we eat and when we eat it, commercially more so than domestically. At home we use different food additives all the time. We use salt, sugar, spices etc. to flavor of improve the taste of our food while vinegar and spices are used as preservatives. 

More work is required to make thickeners and emulsifiers, but it is still possible to use them at home. This is the domestic use of food additives. The food industry uses more complex ways to preserve and enhance our food. The commercial use of food additives is executed using chemicals that will never be used at home. These are used the same as the natural domestic additives, but they are more effective and provide us with good quality food for longer along with pre-prepared food that’s easy to make at home.

Domestic use of food additives is usually adding on to what the manufactures have already added since all manufactured food have additives. It is impossible to avoid since we do not produce our own products and additives are needed to either preserve the food’s nutritional value or stabilize it. Some food additives are good, such as fortification and preserving but most of the modernly developed food additives are unnecessary and harmful to an extent. Take colorants for instance, colorants are used to make food appealing to the eye. Most colorants are artificial. 

This decreases the nutritional value of the food however if food is colored domestically it is common to use other foods with strong pigmentation to make the food more appealing which then increases the nutritional value of the food. Although it is also common to use artificial food coloring at home for food preparation such as cake frosting and decorating cookies, commercially used colorants like tartrazine(E 102) and carmine(E 120) are dominating and those end up causing minor health infringements to those few sensitive individuals in some instances tartrazine is known to cause asthma. Although these food colorants have been tested, hence the E number, they are as dangerous as it is cheap. This is why is it used in everything, including hair products and cosmetics.

Decolorization of food has no definite health infringements. Decolorization is using bleaching agents to make food look purer. The most popular bleached food substance is flour. With flour bleaching is a shortcut to improve the flour. Flour is initially light yellow, aging turns it white. Not only that but it also improves the quality and oxidizes it naturally but that takes time and space which makes production expensive. To make production cheaper which then makes the product affordable for consumers as well, flour is bleached and ‘bromated’ (the process of oxidizing using potassium bromate). This commercial use of additives makes products more economical as well as attractive to consumers.

Food preservation has also evolved drastically from the original idea. Using salt as a preservation is still a popular method and freezing is now only used as an addition to other preservatives which is why foods have months long shelve lives. Some may argue that using natural preservatives is the healthier alternative because natural is associated with healthy but the use of salt and sugar as preservatives is only healthier when the product being produced is candy or salt pork. 

Salt dries the food, eliminating water so that bacteria cannot survive. It is an effective method but only for food that can be eaten dry and salty. Even then it is not advisable as that is usually more salt than your body needs, and consistent consumption may and will cause salt related diseases such as stroke and heart diseases. Sugar blocks out the oxygen in the container so that the bacteria cannot survive but that is only for food with a high sugar concentration. Both these methods are against everything dietician stand for because they use the two ingredients we are constantly told to minimize in our daily diet.

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Acids on the other hand (e.g. Vinegar (E 330) and Ascorbic Acid (E 300)), can be used as flavor enhancers and preservatives, limiting the number of artificial additives that are used in the product. The mentioned acids are used to preserve fruits and vegetables. Consider Beetroot as an example, homemade bottled beetroot has a long shelve live with only vinegar and minimal use of spices as additives. There are other methods of natural preservation, but vinegar is the most common because it is much cheaper and can be used at a large scale with little cost while other methods are suitable for domestic use. For oils, fats and salad dressings other acids are used to keep these products from going rancid and they pose no known threats to human health and can be used on large scale productions.

Most commonly used preservatives include the Sulfites (E 220-228). This range of sulfiting agents is found in beer, wine and fruit products. These artificial preservatives pose no big threat except to sensitive people that then become prone to asthmatic attacks and shortness of breath because of the sulfites.

Although most preservatives have limited side effects and pose minimal threats to few individuals some preservatives are overused on large scale produced products. Among others calcium propionate (E 282) is the most popular. The amount of calcium propionate used in foods is not healthy. Bread can last up to a week without molding, which is good for bread to be consumed by one person and unnecessary for a family of three or more. 

This additive causes a lot of problems including headaches and behavioral changes. The changes almost only affect children. Sleep disturbances, restlessness and inattention are the side effects of calcium propionate. These do not only affect the child physically but socially as well. Children generally spend a fraction of their days in school and the staple food for most breakfasts, teas and luncheons is bread, so these side effects affect their academic progress.

Sweeteners usually taste as sweet as table sugar but with low-caloric value which makes it easy for manufactures to mislead consumers into thinking they are healthy. The low-caloric value allows the product to have almost the same calories as the original product but still adding enhancing the flavor. This does not take into consideration the energy levels. These are usually useful for special dietary needs like diabetic people who must watch their sugar levels but still want sweet foods. The kilojoule build up is usually not taken into consideration which often leads to weight gain and obesity even though the person is “eating healthy” therefore sweeteners are misleading.

Monosodium Glutamate is a flavor enhancer made from water, sodium and glutamate. Msg’s are popular in canned foods and processed meats but are essentially used in almost all processed foods. Msg’s are found naturally in some foods but the commercial use is extreme. Msg’s are used to increase a person’s consumption of the same product by releasing happy endorphins in your brain when you eat that food, so you want more. 

This then makes the person eat more than they need to, therefore increasing their kilojoule intake. Msg’s largely contribute to the causes of obesity which is already a major social issue. The use of msg’s commercially has more cons than pros in terms of health contribution to the everyday individual and only largely benefits the producer. Although there is no definitive proof the used of Msg’s have proven to trigger reaction such as headaches, chest pain, nausea and weakness.

The use of food additives domestically has minimal to no health infringement to the human body while their use commercially benefits the producer more than the consumer. The use of food additive is with the intent to increase sales while spending less money on the production process instead of providing consumers with a healthy diet. Food additives in bulk seem like they have very little effects but when combined with other food with the same food additives the influence it has is a lot more effective and the effect is mostly negative. The domestic use of food additives is the healthier alternative since the additives are mostly natural and measurable while manufactured foods use mostly artificial additives that usually have negative side effects.

Although my research was limited to websites and one book because the food industry is forever evolving and constantly being updated and no first-hand research was done, the hypothesis that food additives used domestically are healthier than food additives used commercially has been proven right. Artificial preservatives have side effects along with flavor enhancers (MSG’s) and food colorants while natural and domestic food additives only improve the taste, flavor and quality of food with minimal to no side effects.

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