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Understanding the Basic Types of Food Additives and Preservatives

Throughout history, one of the biggest concerns of every group of people around the world has been finding ways to preserve food produced.  Food preservation has advanced side by side with agriculture since ancient times, and over the centuries, we have found more and more ways to keep food edible for ever-longer periods.

This exploded with the birth of industrial chemistry in the 20th Century, leading to a huge range of new food additives and preservatives being discovered.  Today, people around the globe rely on these preservatives when seeking safe food to eat.   However, it is still useful to understand what these preservatives are, and the various methods by which they work.

The Major Types of Food Additives and Preservatives 

Fundamentally, there are two basic types of food preservation: physical and chemical.  Physical methods involve processes such as freezing or drying, often making significant changes to the food itself.  Chemical methods are designed to preserve the food in its original state, as best as possible.

Chemical preservatives come in several different types:

  1. Anti-microbial preservatives

 The most direct way to preserve food is to simply prevent it from spoiling.  Anti-microbial agents prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and other microbial life which would render the food unsafe to eat.  These include benzoates, sorbates, propionates, and nitrates.

All of these are either acids, or salts derived from those acids.  Acidic environments resist bacterial growth but can easily affect the flavor of the foods being preserved.

  1. Antioxidants 

Another common method for preserving food is to prevent oxidation – the process of decay accelerated by exposure to oxygen in the atmosphere.  Antioxidants are the most varied of the “families” of food additives and preservatives.  These include vitamins (E and C), sulfites, and butylated hydroxyanisole.

Antioxidants are particularly effective at suppressing unwanted odors that can be caused by decay but cannot prevent bacterial growth.

III. Chelating agents

These are a sub-set of antioxidants that act via different means.  Rather than directly inhibiting oxidation, chelating agents bind metal ions within foods to prevent decay.  The most widely used chelating agent is citric acid, which is also the most common preservative in the world.  This also includes most polyphosphates, which are effective anti-browning agents for fruits and vegetables.


FBC Industries are leaders in providing food additives and preservatives to industries around the world, with an emphasis on creating highly reliable supply chains.  Contact us to learn more.

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Everything You Need to Know About Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is among the most commonly used artificial preservatives in food and medicine today.  It is also well-studied and considered to be Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, allowing it to be used a wide variety of products.

In this article, we’ll cover what sodium benzoate is, where it comes from, its uses, and any potential health issues that might arise from overuse.

  1. The Basics of Sodium Benzoate 

Sodium benzoate is an odorless white power, created by combining benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide (lye).  Sodium benzoate is not naturally occurring and must be created in a lab, although its primary ingredient – benzoic acid – is natural.  This acid can be found in many commonplace plants, such as tomatoes, cloves, cinnamon, apples, and cranberries.  It is also produced as a byproduct of some fermenting processes, such as the creation of yogurt.

Benzoic acid is already a good preservative on its own.  The addition of sodium hydroxide makes it more readily soluble, and therefore easier to use in a wider variety of products.

  1. Uses of Sodium Benzoate 

Sodium benzoate was among the first artificial preservatives approved by the FDA and is therefore used widely throughout the food and beverage industry.  It actively inhibits the growth of molds and bacteria, allowing for significantly extended shelf lives for treated products.

Being based in an acid, the preservative does have a noticeable sharp flavor.  Therefore, it is most commonly used in products which are themselves acidic or salty, such as sodas, citric juices, pickles, salad dressing, and soy sauce.

Sodium benzoate also sees significant use in the health and beauty industries.  It is commonly used as a preservative for liquid medications, such as cough syrup, and is also utilized in a wide variety of cosmetics.

III. Potential Health Issues from Sodium Benzoate

While sodium benzoate itself is harmless, in certain circumstances it can convert into benzene, which is known to be a carcinogen.  This is most likely to happen when in the presence of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid).  However, the process is inhibited when sugars are present, so the biggest danger is from diet sodas and fruit juices.  The industry generally avoids using sodium benzoate in diet/sugar-free drinks for this reason.

Otherwise, sodium benzoate is considered entirely safe when used in proper quantities.

FBC Industries

FBC Industries wants to supply your preservatives!  We’re trusted by brands around the world – contact us for free samples.


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Calcium Chloride Improves Many Food Products

The best food additives and preservatives don’t merely extend a product’s shelf life – they actually help improve the product and bring more enjoyment to the consumer.  Calcium chloride is an excellent example of this.  Calcium chloride is a common salt, one deemed extremely safe, particularly in the concentrations commonly seen in food products.  Due to this, it’s widely used and brings benefits to many different types of products. (more…)

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How the World Benefits from Food Additives and Preservatives

In recent years, there has been a “back to basics” movement within food culture, with movements promoting matters such as organic growing or raw food consumption.  While there is nothing wrong with these movements in and of themselves, some have begun to take the matter too far by attacking all food additives and preservatives, without differentiation. (more…)

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A Quick Guide to Citric Acid

Today, citric acid is one of the most common preservatives used around the world, likely only surpassed by salt.  Citric acid is all-natural, entirely harmless to humans even when ingested in large quantities, and even has a pleasant taste when added to many dishes.  There’s little wonder why so many food and beverage companies turn to it, when they need a preservative for their products. (more…)

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Common Uses of Sodium Benzoate

If you’ve recently begun in the commercial food industry, you may have heard a lot about sodium benzoate but are still unsure of exactly what it does. It may surprise you, but sodium benzoate is actually an integral part of commercial food production, adding flavor at times and keeping products in great shape for consumers. (more…)

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Common Uses for Food Additives & Preservatives

It might not seem like it, but the majority of consumer food products contain a wide range of different additives and preservatives. These components are designed to both enhance certain flavors, as well as prevent the food from premature spoilage. Many preservatives also actively combat the growth of certain bacteria. (more…)

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