Preservatives -

The proper control of the methods of preparing and marketing food products is indisputably of vital importance to the general health. The statutes applying to the subject are not yet perfect in either detail or operation, but recent legislation has appreciably raised the general standard by lessening the use of many chemical preservatives that are more or less detrimental to the human body and by greatly diminishing the sale of unsound foods.

It should, however, be borne in mind that the mere fact that a preservative is a "chemical," does not necessarily signify that it is harmful to the human system. The average consumer has an aversion to the idea of "chemicals" being added to his food - yet salt, which is freely and willingly used by everyone, which is and always has been used as a preservative, and which is acknowledged by both legislative and medical authorities to be harmless, is itself a "chemical." It is probably only the centuries of custom behind its use that prevents it from seeming obnoxious to the average individual - if it had only recently been discovered and had been used only as a "chemical" preservative of foods, consumers generally would almost certainly object to it as a possible menace to health. The advance of scientific research has disclosed other chemicals more suitable for use as preservatives for some foods than salt, and just as free from any obnoxious features - and their use, after proper analysis and experiment, should not be prohibited merely because of their more recent discovery.

The public has some reason for its attitude, for investigations have disclosed the unjustifiable use of many undesirable articles designed to remedy the defects of unsound foods, but it will readily see the unreasonableness of condemning all preservatives if properly enlightened on the difference between between those which are harmful and those which are not, and if convinced of the proper control of the use of those innocuous to the human system.

It must also be remembered that though many foods can be kept good for a long time by the use of salt, sugar, vinegar, spices, etc., and, generally, almost indefinitely by heating or cooking before or during the process of canning, there are others which are not so readily amenable to those processes - or which by their use are liable to lose much of their distinctive flavor or qualities. Further, the natural fermentation which is liable to take place in foods that are not properly preserved, will often produce poisons far more dangerous than even the most pernicious of chemical preservatives.

One of the strongest incentives to the use of unnecessary preservatives, coloring matter, etc., is the desire to retain or imitate the color of the fresh article. Some items are liable under ordinary conditions to change color during preparation, and the packer naturally desires to prevent or remedy this because he knows that appearance counts for a great deal with the average consumer. A big impetus will be given the manufacture of pure food products when the public in general understands that though color and general appearance are excellent points by which to judge fresh food, they are not always reliable in estimating the quality of preserved food. Unreasoning or too keen desire for fine color in the latter may act as a direct temptation to indulge in sophistication, for it is often much easier to put up a fine-looking article by the use of preservatives and coloring matters or bleaches, than to produce a less showy but much more wholesome result without any artificial aids.

To sum up, one may state that food manufacturers should be limited to the use of only such preservatives as have been proved harmless to the human system, and in only such quantities as are necessary to protect good sound food from disintegration. They should not be permitted to avail themselves of any preservatives which do not come within that description, nor to employ even harmless preservatives to conceal or counteract the use of unsound foods - but neither should the food supply of the country be limited to only those articles which can be preserved by salt, sugar or heat, just because we are better accustomed to those three methods.

Arround Preservatives in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

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