Written by OZiva

Eating healthy is easy as long as it concerns fresh produce and whole foods however, it can become a challenge to choose healthy foods among the packaged kinds.

How many times have you found yourself reaching for that packet of healthy digestives or gulped down a can full of pulpy fruit juice thinking it was all healthy but never really paid attention to the ingredients list?

It so happens, that no matter whatever “healthy” packaged food you go for, there are is a greater chance of you consuming a lot more than the food of your interest. Although, preservatives are not all bad and some are even necessary for certain products, how do you as a consumer avoid the harmful ones?

What are Preservatives?

By definition according to FSSAI, preservatives are the compounds used to prevent and retard the microbial spoilage of food. A substance which, when added to food is capable of inhibiting, retarding or arresting the process of fermentation, acidification or other decomposition of food.

What are Class 1 Preservatives?

Class 1 preservatives are common prophylaxes that are located in the general kitchen. These are natural preservatives that include salt, vinegar, sweets, seasonings & nectar.

What are Class 2 Preservatives?

Class 2 Preservatives are generally man-made & they are unnatural. They include chemicals like sodium benzoate, sodium meta-sulfide, Sorbates, etc. There are several restrictions in using Class II preservatives and more limitations are there in its practice.

Classification of Class I and Class II preservatives:

Class I preservatives

Class II preservatives

Common salt

Benzoic acids and its salts


Sulphurous acids and its salts


Nitrates/ Nitrites of Sodium or Potassium


Sorbic acid


Propionates of Ca, Na, lactic acid




Methyl/ Propyl parahydroxy Benzoates Sodium Diacetate

Edible vegetable oils

Although, there is no restriction on the usage of any of the Class I preservatives, not all of Class II preservatives are harmless.

Suggested Read: Sugar Vs Sucralose Vs Stevia: What Is The Difference?

In any case, food preservatives are used only:

  • To preserve the natural characteristics of food
  • To preserve its appearance
  • To increase the shelf life and value of food for storage purpose

Furthermore, the preservatives are classified into various categories depending upon their nature and use.

  • Natural food preservatives: These include the class I preservatives that are traditional preservatives and are also used in any home-produced food items. Freezing, boiling, smoking, salting etc are also considered as some of the natural ways of preserving foods.
  • Chemical food preservatives: This category can be a mix of certain naturally occurring chemicals as well as synthetically generated chemicals such as Vitamin C, Antioxidants, etc. Most of the class II preservatives would come under this category, which are considered the best kind in terms of prolonging the shelf life of food.
  • Artificial preservatives: These are the substances used to prevent spoilage, discolouration and growth of bacteria in food. Types of artificial preservatives would include antimicrobial agents, antioxidants and chelating agents.

Suggested Read: 3 Easy Ways to Make your Salads Interesting While Keeping Them Healthy with Protein

Which Preservatives you must avoid?

Although, preservatives are added to prolong the shelf life of food, certain preservatives when taken in excess can cause more damage.

  • Benzoates: Usually used in tea, juices this particular preservative has been associated with triggering allergies, skin rashes, asthma and also brain damage in the long run.
  • Butylates: Found in butter, vegetable oils, spreads, etc. is known to cause high blood pressure and increase cholesterol levels.
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole: Used in fried chips, instant teas, instant cake mix, etc is expected to cause liver disease and can be carcinogenic in the long run.
  • Caramel: the colouring agent caramel can cause Vitamin B deficiencies, genetic defects.

Takeaway note:

While a lot of these preservatives have been deemed safe for consumption, some may be unsafe for long term consumption. And that is why it is a must that everyone read food labels. Reading food labels is a good way for consumers to educate themselves about various contents of a product and enables them into making healthier and safer choices.

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