Preservative food additives can be used alone or in conjunction with other methods of food preservation. Preservatives may be anti microbial preservatives, which inhibit the growth of bacteria or fungi, including mould, or antioxidants such as oxygen absorbers, which inhibit the oxidation of food constituents. The benefits and safety of many artificial food additives (including preservatives) are the subject of debate among academics and regulators specializing in food science, toxicology, and biology.
Natural substances such as salt,sugar, vinegar, alcohol, and diatomaceous earth are also used as traditional preservatives. Certain processes such as freezing, pickling, smoking and salting can also be used to preserve food. Another group of preservatives targets enzymes in fruits and vegetables that continue to metabolise after they are cut. For instance, citric acids and ascorbic acids from lemon or other citrus juice can inhibit the action of the enzyme phenolase which turns surfaces of cut apples and potatoes brown.
Some modern synthetic preservatives have become controversial because they have been shown to cause respiratory or other health problems. Some studies point to synthetic preservatives and artificial colouring agents aggravating ADD & ADHD symptoms in those affected.
Allergenic preservatives in food or medicine can cause anaphylactic shock in susceptible individuals, a condition which is often fatal within minutes without emergency treatment. Therefore, uses of preservatives should be kept to a minimum.
* Denotes no longer in use as an additive
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