Without any doubt, in the 21st century humans can observe a considerable increase in food containing chemicals. In this case, chemicals have significantly modified the way food is produced. Thus, it is distinctly apprehended that food additives have a profound impact on human lives; however, this influence is not always positive. To begin with, human stark reality indicates that food additives have totally increased in their number. According to statistics, five billion food-products are produced annually, thus this number is constantly increasing. This means that people have gained access to a large amount of food; however, its quality can be different. Consequently, it is highly recommended to investigate the nature of food additives and their influence on humans.
According to the definition, a food additive is identified as a chemical substance or mixed substance chemicals that are added to food during processing, production, and packaging. It is generally true that food additives can be classified into two groups, such as intentionally and unintentionally added food additives (Ensminger 1995). Intentionally added food additives are used for certain purposes, such as food processing or packaging. These additives can be classified into two categories, such as man-made and natural additives. A good example of natural additives can be seasoning that are added to food in order to preserve meat. Unintentionally added food additives can be found in food for the following reasons, such as disorder of packaging, or pesticide residues.
In the framework of identifying advantages and disadvantages of food additives, it is highly recommended to analyze a historical origin of these substances. Indisputably, the use of food additives is not a modern concept. According to history, food preservation goes back to the Early Stone Age when man first discovered fire and learned how to preserve food. During the Neolithic Period, humans invented salt that was used in order to preserve meat without cooking. Ancient history indicates the use of cloves with the aim to prevent meat from the spread of bacteria. The Egyptians used flavorings and different food seasonings, spices, and colors in order to attract customers and develop international trade. During the Middle Ages, the culture of spices began, since humans used seasoning in everyday life. However, in the 1700s, there was seen a new historical turning point, such as the establishment of the Spartan life in the USA. This style of life is famous for consumption of food right from the field. The denial of food additives at that time can be amplified by a farm-type life when people showed preference for fresh food. During the period of industrialization, one can investigate a distinct improvement of farm mechanization that is associated with the cross-country transportation systems, the invention of canning and refrigeration. Nowadays, food additives can have different functions, such as sweeteners in low-calorie products, emulsifiers in margarine, and various antioxidants that prevent food expiry (Smith & Hong-Shum 2007).
On the one hand, food additives can fulfill different useful functions that should be taken for granted. The adoption of food additives can be amplified by the technological development, since they help to keep food. Additives are good for food for five main reasons:
- They preserve the nutrient value. For instance, such food as margarine, butter, and milk need to be enriched with additives that help to preserve the vitamins of this food.
- They ensure food consistency. For example, food manufacturers use emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners in order to give products a consistent smooth uniform texture.
- They improve palatability of the products. In this case, preservatives are an integral part of fight against food spoilage caused by bacteria, fungi, and mold. It is generally true that bacterial contamination is a constant threat to humanity, since it can cause deterioration of health and the rise of botulism. Moreover, antioxidants prevent fats and oils in baked products from the effect of rancidity.
- They control the acid- level (alkalinity) of food and its leavening. According to the law of chemistry, during the heated temperature, leavening agents’ release, thus they significantly react with baking soda and influence the rise of baked products (cakes, biscuits, and others).
- They enhance flavor and improve the way food looks. It is undoubtedly true that synthetic flavors considerably influence gustatory receptors and give food a desirable taste (Boris & Mandel 1994).
On the other hand, food additives can cause serious deterioration of human health and lead to death. For example, the 2008 Chinese milk scandal indicates the disadvantages of food additives and cast doubt on their functions of preservation of dairy products. The main issue in this scandal was an excessive use of melamine in dairy products. Thus, almost 300, 000 people suffered from this additive and there were six cases of children’s lethal outcome. Moreover, the high intake of food additives can cause cancer due to the increased level of the mutant cells. Furthermore, people who are suffering from phenylketouria should strictly avoid some of the additives, such as aspartame (a sweetener), since it can have a serious side effect, commonly known as tissue damage tissue (Stanley, 2004). Additionally, food sweeteners can lead to adiposity. The following diagram represents the danger list of food additives and diseases associated with them:
(U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2003).
Moreover, many scholars claim that food additives dramatically influence conditions of human health, since they can cause children’s hyperactivity, rashness, allergies, and nervous trepidation (Hodgson 2004). The following diagram will show dramatic figures of the influence of food addictives on children under age 18:
(Boris & Mandel 1994).
According to history of the USA, the level of obesity has grown after the invention of artificial sweeteners. It is mistakable to reflect that artificial sweeteners can decrease the level of calories in human organisms. Scientists point out that people will always feel hunger if they do not take the appropriate amount of nutrients (Rowe & Rowe 1994). Thus, nothing can substitute nutritious qualities of regular sugar. However, humans should not misuse sugar, since it can cause different heart diseases and obesity. Moreover, the supporters of healthy way of life proclaim that nothing can substitute fresh food. In this case, food additives considerably decrease the number of vitamins in food. Additionally, people should be aware of the fact that most of the canned food contains an increased level of salt, thus it can cause heart attack or stroke (Cruz & Bahna 2006). Finally, food additives can have a bad impact on environment, since preservation and processing of food require an excessive use of energy. Consequently, food additives dramatically influence environment contamination and contribute to the carbon greenhouse gases.
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Indisputably, the level of food additives in food is under authoritative control of such organizations as World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the USA. On the regular basis the U.S. Food and Drug Administration checks the level of additives in food. Any products that have a consumption standard concerned are generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Moreover, this institution elaborates a list of food additives (about 700 items) that are recognized as safe products for consumption (IFIC & FDA 2004). Moreover, in 1957 government adopted the Food Additives Amendment which guaranteed total safety of food and its labeling (Wender & Lipton 1980). The introduction of this Amendment considerably changed the way of manufacturing and expansion of food on the market. According to it, government has a right to prohibit manufacture of certain products if they are recognized as unsafe. Furthermore, in 1960 the United States Congress passed a new legislative system concerning coloring of food in order to demonstrate its safety (U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2003). Additionally, legislative practices, commonly known as Good Manufacturing Practices, thoroughly control the level of additives in food and their influence.
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All in all, advanced technology and global modernization have a significant impact on the growth of food additives in products. It is generally true that food additives have both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, they protect humans from various bacterial diseases. On the other hand, they can dramatically infringe biochemical balance. Humans should know that no food additives can substitute the effectiveness of food and its nutritious values. Thus, people should daily consume fresh vegetables and fruits, and reduce the level of consumption of semi-finished products. Indisputably, the role of government is inalienable in the process of verifying food additives. In this case, the authorities need to adopt fully-fledged norms and regulations of food additives in order to provide healthy consumption.
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