What are preservatives and what are their forms in foods?

The term “preservative” refers to the functional name for a variety of compounds that help slow or prevent the growth of bacteria in a wide variety of products. Including foods, medicines and personal care products.

These compounds can be natural or synthetic. Preservatives play important roles in many products that people use every day. By helping prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms and protecting products from spoilage or contamination.

In this article, we review a lot of information and topics related to preservatives, Such as uses, benefits, its importance in food, and its harms. And other information related to preservatives.



Uses and benefits of preservatives

Preservatives have many different benefits and uses. Here is a list of those uses:

Preservatives in food

Preservatives are added to food to fight spoilage caused by bacteria, mold, fungi and yeast. As preservatives can keep food fresh for longer periods of time, Which extends its shelf life.

Food preservatives are also used to slow or prevent changes in colour, flavor or texture and delay spoilage.

Preservatives in food products in many countries of the world are subject to many studies and monitoring. To not allow its percentage to exceed the safe limit.

Preservatives in food


Preservatives in medicines

Preservatives are commonly used in medications such as acetaminophen, insulin, and cough and cold medicines to help prevent bacterial contamination. Simply, Preservatives help prevent the growth of microorganisms, especially bacteria and fungi, Which may cause disease or infection.

Preservatives in medications are generally considered “inactive ingredients” by the Food and Drug Administration. such as dyes, preservatives, and flavoring agents, Which leads to its lack of effect and effectiveness in the body, This is something that drug regulators around the world stress.

for example, The Food and Drug Administration in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Britain, The National Institutes of Health regularly monitors and conducts research on the safety of vaccines, And the arrival of the safe limit of preservatives for these drugs.


Preservatives in cosmetics

Preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products help prevent contamination and the growth of harmful bacteria in products ranging from sunscreens, lotions, and shampoos to detergents, toothpaste and makeup.

Antimicrobial preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products help prevent the growth of fungi, yeasts and bacteria and protect against contamination that can cause irritation or infection.

Antioxidant preservatives can also help keep personal care products from spoiling by preventing reactions that can occur when certain ingredients in cosmetics or personal care products combine with oxygen in the presence of light, heat, and certain minerals.


Ingredients of food preservatives

Preservatives can be made from “natural” chemicals such as salt or alcohol.

They can also be man-made or synthetic chemicals, As “natural” or “organic” chemicals are not necessarily healthier than synthetic or man-made chemicals.

Actually, Artificial preservatives such as sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate and propionate have long been used in food preparation because they are effective in small amounts.

preservative ingredients


Safe limits for preservatives in foods

Food additives and colors are studied, including preservatives, regulated and monitored more rigorously than ever before, Whether in the United States of America or other countries of the world, The Food and Drug Administration has primary legal responsibility for determining their safe use.

And now, To add a new food preservative to the market, or before using a substance that has already been approved for one use in another application, The manufacturer or other sponsor must obtain written approval from the body responsible for food and food control, and provide scientific data demonstrating that the substance is safe for its intended use.


Benefits of food preservatives

Preservatives are added to foods to help prevent or slow spoilage due to bacteria, mold, fungi, or yeast. In addition to slowing or preventing changes in food colour, flavor or texture, delaying corruption and spoilage, and maintain its freshness.


Benefits of preservatives in vaccines

Preservatives kill, inhibit or slow the growth of microorganisms, especially bacteria and fungi, that may cause illness or infection.

Studies have found that there is no convincing scientific evidence that low-dose thimerosal as a preservative in vaccines causes harm. Except for possible minor reactions such as redness and swelling at the injection site.


The most common preservatives in foods


Sodium benzoate

Sodium benzoate is found in acidic drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices. Sodium benzoate is a preservative and antimicrobial that can inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast.

It is found naturally in cranberries, plums, apples, and some spices. Sodium benzoate can also be used to soften medicine pills and tablets.



Nitrites (such as sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate) are preservatives used to prevent bacteria in lunch and other cured meats.

in a normal diet, 80 percent of nitrates come from vegetables like spinach, radish, and lettuce. Nitrite also deters food poisoning to some extent.

The Food and Drug Administration has stated that the food preservative sodium nitrate can be used safely in or on certain foods.


sulfate substance

Sulfates such as sulfur dioxide are types of salts widely used for their preservative and antioxidant properties.

In the context of food, These are mostly found in dried fruits and vegetables and soft drinks.


Paraben preservative

Parabens are one of the most important preservatives that help protect against the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast.

Parabens are derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA). This substance is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, You see that this substance is among the preservatives, there is no reason for consumers to worry about using cosmetics that contain parabens.



Among the popular preservatives that are put on food, a lot of preserved foods, Formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a simple chemical compound made up of simple molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon atoms.

Formaldehyde is suitable for all forms of life. Which may be represented by bacteria, plants, fish, animals, and humans, Which is what makes it additive in many preserved foods.

Formaldehyde is naturally present and leads to a state of food preservation. Formaldehyde is well known. as a preservative, With its antibacterial properties, This helps prevent the growth of bacteria and other pathogens and extends shelf life when added as an ingredient in a food product.


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