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A preservative is a natural or synthetic chemical that is added to products such as foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, biological samples, etc. to retard spoilage, whether from microbial growth, or undesirable chemical changes.

Preservatives may be added to wood to prevent the growth of fungi as well as to repel insects and termites. Typically copper, borate, and petroleum based chemical compounds are used. For more information on wood preservatives see timber treatment, lumber and creosote.

Preservative food additives are often used alone, or in conjunction with other methods of food preservation. A distinction is sometimes made between anti-microbial preservatives which function by inhibiting the growth of insects, bacteria and fungi, and antioxidants such as Oxygen absorbers, which inhibit the oxidation of food constituents. Common anti-microbial preservatives include sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium hydrogen sulfite, etc.) and disodium EDTA. Antioxidants include BHA and BHT. Other preservatives include formaldehyde (usually in solution), glutaraldehyde, diatomaceous earth (kills insects), ethanol, dimethyl dicarbonate and methylchloroisothiazolinone. The benefits and safety of many artificial food additives (including preservatives) are the subject of debate among academics specializing in food science and toxicology.

Some methods of food preservation involve the use of salt, sugar or vinegar, which are sometimes considered to be foods rather than additives. Some people believe preservatives are harmful to human health.

Home | Up | Antibiotics | Antifungals | Antiparasitic agents | Antiseptics | Antivirals | Disinfectants | Preservatives

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