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Abook questions

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Bulat Mishin
Bulat Mishin


Preservatives are substances, both natural and artificial, that are added to a variety of goods in order to prevent premature decomposition and to prolong their shelf life. It is common to find preservatives in a large variety of foods and cosmetics. But what some may not know is that preservatives are also added to non-conventional items such as pharmaceuticals and wood.


Artificial/chemical preservatives are man-made substances that are added to numerous products to extend their shelf life. While they too are created to prevent foods from spoiling and help them retain their shape and color, they are oftentimes filled with chemicals. Common examples of chemical preservatives include:

Intaking too many artificial preservatives, no matter where they come from can lead to numerous health complications such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is why it is important to limit or avoid these foods entirely when trying to mitigate reflux or control symptoms.

Insects and mold can damage wood over time. Treating wood with pesticides can prevent wood from rotting as quickly. Treated wood is commonly used to build telephone poles, road signs, and marine pilings, as well as decks, play structures, and raised garden beds. Several wood preservatives are registered with the EPA, each with different uses and potential risks.

The role of preservatives is to protect consumers from harmful bacteria, keeping makeup and personal care products free from potentially dangerous, often unsightly or smelly contamination. Preservatives are required in any product that contains water, typically one of the first ingredients listed in many shampoos, creams and lotions on store shelves.

But some preservatives still pose potential health concerns. Formaldehyde, for instance, is classified as a known carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. And some studies have linked certain parabens with hormone disruption, harming the male and female reproductive systems.

One solution is for personal care product regulators and manufacturers to rely on these multitasking chemicals for preservation but without classifying them as preservatives, a label that triggers separate regulatory oversight. The ingredients need to be tested for safety but, ideally, not as preservatives, because few will be permitted for that use in products.

Preservatives, as the name suggests, help keep things fresh. We use preservatives to help protect our products from bacteria, yeasts and moulds. Without them, our products could start to smell unpleasant, change colour or grow mould.

We assess each of our products to select the best preservative or combination of preservatives, considering factors such as the type of product, how it will be used and where it will be stored. For example, with skin creams we see if the repeated dipping of fingers into the product will contaminate it.

In addition to complying with applicable laws and regulations, we conduct our own safety assessments and monitor emerging scientific research. We only include preservatives when they are needed, and carefully control the amount we use. This ensures we use preservatives safely and responsibly.

Preservatives, as the name suggests, help keep things fresh. As well as being made synthetically, preservatives are found in nature, for example, blueberries, cucumbers, cherries and honey contain parabens, while all healthy human, animal and plant cells produce and use formaldehyde.

Each preservative has different qualities. Some preservatives work better against different types of bacteria, yeasts and moulds than others or work better with certain ingredient combinations. In deciding which preservative to use, we consider questions such as: How will the product be manufactured and transported? What is the climate of the country where it is sold? How is the consumer likely to store it?

If it is a personal care product, is it a leave-on product, like face cream, or a rinse-off item, such as shower gel?If it is a home care product, what kind of surfaces will it be used on, or is it used to wash clothes by hand or in a washing machine? The answers to these questions help determine which preservative or combination of preservatives is most suitable.

Thermal process treatment consists of immersing wood alternately in separate tanks containing heated and cold preservative, either oil- or waterborne (or in one tank which is first heated than allowed to cool). During the hot bath, air in the wood expands and some is forced out. Heating improves penetration of preservatives. In the cold bath, air in the wood contracts, creating a partial vacuum, and atmospheric pressure forces more preservative into the wood. Temperature is critical; only use preservatives that can safely be heated.

In the double diffusion process, green or partially seasoned wood is soaked first in one water-borne preservative, then in another. The two chemicals diffuse into the wood and then react to form a combination that is highly resistant to leaching. The process converts leachable preservatives into stable ones.

Cosmetic formulas have all the key factors needed for microbial growth including water, nutrients, and energy. At a suitable pH and temperature, it will be like a microbial cocktail party. Preservatives stop growth by killing cells and spores (usually by disrupting cell membranes) or by making the system hostile to growth. See this article for more about cosmetic preservatives.

There are some preservatives that are able to kill a wide range of microbes (e.g. Alcohol, Parabens, Formaldehyde donors). That is why these ingredients are so popular with formulators. Other ingredients like Sodium Benzoate or Potassium Sorbate are only effective against certain types of microbes. They are more active against yeasts and molds but have a lower activity against bacteria. One way to compensate for the ineffectiveness of one compound is to include another compound that has the ability to kill other organisms. By combining preservatives, you increase the spectrum of microbes that your formula can withstand.

Many chemicals will killmicro-organisms or stop their growth but most of these are notpermitted in foods; chemicals that are permitted as foodpreservatives are listed in Table 5.3.1. Chemical foodpreservatives are those substances which are added in very lowquantities (up to 0.2%) and which do not alter the organolepticand physico-chemical properties of the foods at or only verylittle.

Preservation of food productscontaining chemical food preservatives is usually based on thecombined or synergistic activity of several additives, intrinsicproduct parameters (e.g. composition, acidity, water activity)and extrinsic factors (e.g. processing temperature, storageatmosphere and temperature).

The concept of combinations ofpreservatives and treatments to preserve foods is frequentlycalled the hurdle or barrier concept. Combinations of additivesand preservatives systems provide unlimited preservationalternatives for applications in food products to meet consumerdemands for healthy and safe foods.

Chemical food preservatives areapplied to foods as direct additives during processing, ordevelop by themselves during processes such as fermentation.Certain preservatives have been used either accidentally orintentionally for centuries, and include sodium chloride (commonsalt), sugar, acids, alcohols and components of smoke. Inaddition to preservation, these compounds contribute to thequality and identity of the products, and are applied throughprocessing procedures such as salting, curing, fermentation andsmoking. Lactic acid. This acid isthe main product of many food fermentations; it is formed bymicrobial degradation of sugars in products such as sauerkrautand pickles. The acid produced in such fermentations decreasesthe pH to levels unfavourable for growth of spoilage organismssuch as putrefactive anaerobes and butyric-acid-producingbacteria. Yeasts and moulds that can grow at such pH levels canbe controlled by the inclusion of other preservatives such assorbate and benzoate. Sorbic acid is generallyconsidered non toxic and is metabolised; among other common foodpreservatives the WHO has set the highest acceptable daily intake(25 mg/kg body weight) for sorbic acid. The use of chemicalpreservatives MUST be strictly limited to those substances whichare recognised as being without harmful effects on human beings'health and are accepted by national and international standardsand legislation.

Artificial preservatives generally use different chemicals to keep packaged and fresh food from spoiling. These artificial preservatives are deemed safe in the amounts they are currently used. The bigger issue is that they are often associated with processed, pre-packaged foods that are generally less healthy than whole, minimally-processed foods.

There are many reasons why food additives and preservatives are so prevalent in packaged, processed foods. For one, they help keep food fresh longer and reduce the risk of contamination. In some cases, like vitamin fortification in cereal, additives can enhance the nutrient value of foods.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are preservatives found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. This common preservative keeps foods from changing color, changing the flavor or becoming rancid. Affects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has a potential to cause cancer. BHA and BHT are oxidants that form cancer-causing reactive compounds in your body.

(e) A food shall be exempt while held for sale from the requirements of section 403(k) of the act (requiring label statement of any artificial flavoring, artificial coloring, or chemical preservatives) if said food, having been received in bulk containers at a retail establishment, is displayed to the purchaser with either (1) the labeling of the bulk container plainly in view or (2) a counter card, sign, or other appropriate device bearing prominently and conspicuously the information required to be stated on the label pursuant to section 403(k).


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