Have You Ever Wondered

  • if cereal fortified with 100% Daily Value for nutrients is always your best choice? It's certainly one choice. But you may not need "100%" if you're already getting enough variety and balance in your day's food choices. Breakfast cereals fortified at a lower level may offer enough nutrition for you.
  • how "natural" and "artificial" additives differ? So-called natural ingredients come from natural sources, such as soybeans or corn to make lecithin for product consistency, or beets to make food coloring. Others are man-made because they can be produced with greater purity, consistent quality, and perhaps more economically. For example, vitamin C made in a lab or from fruit is the same. Whatever their source, additives must follow the same standards for safety.

from rancidity. Working as antioxidants, they help protect naturally present nutrients in foods: essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acids) and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Studies verify the safety of BHA and BHT as GRAS ("generally recognized as safe") substances.

  • Citric acid, a natural component of citrus fruits, works as an antioxidant, helping food keep its color. Coating sliced apples with lemon juice does the same thing—keeping the apple from turning brown. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) does this, too.
  • Sulfites help prevent color and flavor changes in dried fruits and vegetables. They're used to inhibit bacterial growth in wine and other fermented products. Some baked foods, snack foods, and condiments also may contain sulfites. Most people have no adverse reactions to sulfites. But packaged and processed foods containing sulfites are labeled for the small percentage of the population who are sulfite-sensitive. For more on sulfites, see "For the Sulfite-Sensitive. . ." in chapter 21.
  • Calcium propionate, produced naturally in Swiss cheese, is a preservative that keeps bread and other baked foods from getting moldy too quickly.
  • Sodium nitrite, used as a preservative in processed meats such as ham, hot dogs, and lunch meat, keeps the meat safe from botulism bacteria. It also adds to the flavor and pink color. For more on botulism, see "Bacteria: Hard Hitters" in chapter 12.

What foods have additives for freshness?

  • Antimicrobials (to prevent spoilage from mold, bacteria, and yeast) . . . in baked foods, beverages, bread, cheese, cured meats, fruit juice, fruit products, margarine, pie filling, table syrup, and wine, among others.
  • Antioxidants (to prevent rancidity or discoloration) . . . in baked goods, cereals, fats, oils, processed foods, salad dressings, and high-fat foods such as chips and doughnuts, among others.
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