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Chemical Additives in Foods

The use of chemicals as food additives is an ancient practice. Sodium chloride was the first to be used. Food additives are currently a part of our way of eating especially in the industrialized world.

According to an estimate, as many as 10,000 compounds or combinations of compounds find their way into foods during processing, packaging or storage. These include unintentional additions also e.g. residues of pesticides used to treat crops, minute amounts of drugs fed to animals (hormones, antibiotics) and chemicals that seep out of plastics and other packaging materials.

Additives are generally used for solving complex problems of storing, cleaning, handling, heating and packaging commercially prepared foods. Some additives are merely used to preserve the natural colour of the foods (e.g., addition of nitrate to meat to preserve the pink colour. The additives that are most commonly used are: Preservatives, Buffers, Emulsifiers, Neutralizing agents, Sequestering agents (or chelating agents), Stabilizer, Flavouring and Colouring agents.

In addition, some additives are used as nutritional supplements to increase the nutritive value of foods such as potassium iodide and vitamins. But, before using them they are tested on experimental animals, one at a time.


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