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Chemicals In Food

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Chemicals In Food - Lesson Summary

Chemicals are added to food for various reasons, such as enhancing its appeal (or) nutritional value and to preserve it.

There are various categories of food additives:

A sweetener is a food additive that adds the basic taste of sweetness to food. Sweeteners are classified into two types.


→ Natural Sweeteners

  •  Sucrose
  •  Maltose
  •  Glucose
  •  Honey

→ Artificial Sweeteners

  •  Aspartame
  •  Alitame
  •  Saccharin
  •  Sucralose

Saccharin is one of the most popular sweetening agents, which is used to sweeten products such as drinks, candies, medicines and toothpaste. It is about 550 times sweeter than cane sugar but has an unpleasant bitter (or) metallic after-taste at high concentrations.

Aspartame is a methyl ester of the dipeptide formed from the amino acids, aspartic acid and phenyl alanine. It is a non-saccharide sweetener about 200 times sweeter than cane sugar. It has a sweet taste without the bitter chemical (or) metallic after-taste reported in other artificial sweeteners.

The artificial sweetener alitame is a dipeptide of the amino acids, aspartic acid and alanine. Attached to the alanine moiety is a novel amine that is presumed to be responsible for the elevated sweetness potency of alitame. Alitame is about 2000 times sweeter than sucrose and is more stable than aspartame. As it is a high potency sweetener, it is difficult to control the sweetness of food when it is used as an artificial sweetener.

Sucralose is a trichloro derivative of sucrose and a zero-calorie artificial sweetener, which looks and tastes just like sugar. Sucralose is approximately 600 times sweeter than sucrose and is stable at cooking temperature. It is a very versatile sweetener that is used in a wide variety of foods and beverages.

A food preservative is a naturally occurring (or) synthetic substance added to food to prevent spoilage by microbial growth (or) undesirable chemical changes.

Food preservation is basically done for three reasons - to preserve the natural characteristics of food, to preserve the appearance of food, and to increase the shelf-life of food for storage.

Natural substances such as salt, sugar, vinegar and vegetable oils are traditional preservatives, often used to prepare pickles and jams. Sugar and salt are the earliest natural food preservatives that very efficiently inhibit the growth of bacteria in food.

Artificial or chemical preservatives are either added to food or sprayed on food and have been known to effectively prolong the shelf-life of food. Artificial preservatives act as either anti-microbials or anti-oxidants, or both.

Anti-microbials in preservatives prevent the growth of moulds, yeasts and bacteria, while anti-oxidants keep food from becoming rancid. Anti-oxidants also prevent the loss of some essential amino acids and vitamins.


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