We have all been there…walking the grocery store aisles and staring at the ingredients unsure what many of the food terms really mean. And with so many choices and options it can be slightly overwhelming trying to digest and make sense of it all. Luckily ConAgra Foods wants to help you learn more about your choices and the preservatives used in your foods.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a virtual briefing with ConAgra Foods where we discussed the use and benefits of antioxidants as preservatives. A fair number of questions and concerns were addressed by their panel which included• Kelly Magurany, M.Sc., DABT Principal Research Scientists- Toxicology – Food Protection and Regulatory Affairs at ConAgra Foods and • Kristi Reimers, RD, PhD, Nutrition Director of Nutrition in Research & Innovations at ConAgra Foods and their overall viewpoints were that whether man-made or natural, all antioxidants, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, are safe for your food and for your body. Ultimately, these antioxidants help you and your famiuly enjoy the foods that you love without having to compromise on taste or quality.
Check out this Mental Floss video “6 Facts About Preservatives” which will give you some insight! http://mentalfloss.com/article/62014/6-facts-about-preservatives
Whether man-made or natural, antioxidants are used to preserve the flavor, color, and improve the shelf-life of foods. Both are evaluated for their safe use in food by scientific experts trained to understand the impact on human health. Both function to reduce rancidity in food by preventing the breakdown of fats and oils (and other compounds). Both must be used at low levels in accordance with regulatory guidelines and safety thresholds. Both must be “food grade” so as not to introduce hazardous by-products or impurities in foods. Both benefit you and your family by providing food of high quality and flavor, so that you may enjoy the foods that you love! Keep reading to learn about key food terms to help you navigate your options when you’re grocery shopping!
The questions and comments discussed are as follows:
Why should we preserve our food?
• Natural color preservation
• Food waste reduction
How can we preserve our food?
• Methods like canning and freezing – even putting foods in the fridge helps preserve foods
• Ingredients can be added to every day packaged foods to help preserve them
What is an antioxidant?
• Antioxidants help prevent oxygen from damaging other molecules. Antioxidants function in the body to help protect cells, and they function in foods to protect oils from damage that leads to rancidity. We have many antioxidants that are naturally produced in our body every day, such as after exercise; these antioxidants help fend off environmental toxins and stress on the body
Natural v. Man Made Antioxidants
• Man made antioxidants, like BHT and TBHQ, are used because sometimes natural antioxidants throw off flavors of foods we know and love, or because a certain antioxidant might perform best with a certain food
• One type is used over another based on performance – for example TBHQ is often used in fryer oils as it is more stable at higher temperatures than BHT, thus preserving these foods more effectively
• Natural and man made antioxidants are sometimes used together in our favorite foods.
BHT and TBHQ? What are they made from?
• BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene and TBHQ stands for tertiary- butylhydroquinone. They’re chemical names, but … their structures are very similar to natural antioxidants. So, where they come from or are made from are similar sources. And there are a variety of sources. One example of a source in making BHT is pine oil. But that is not the only option. Our suppliers identify the most cost-effective way in developing these compounds. They know will deliver the best flavor, while keeping your foods safe and fresh.
What is the difference between antioxidants and preservatives? Is it because antioxidants sound more consumer-friendly? Is there an actual difference or are they the same thing?
There is actually a difference. The difference is that preservatives identify all compounds used to preserve food with different functions. So some preservatives are used to reduce bacterial populations in food. Antioxidants are specific to oxidized damage. An antioxidant is actually a type of preservative.
How do you best explain the difference between man-made and natural antioxidants to people who do not understand?
• As a mom and a scientist, I explain it to my family as synthetic antioxidants or man-made antioxidants are really the same function as a natural antioxidant. The science that’s available to support these man-made compounds are much more robust, in fact, and we spend a lot of time looking at the science and making sure these things are safe. .
• In a more general sense beyond antioxidants, when I’m trying to explain the safety of ingredients I can use an analogy. And that is that the amount of these ingredients in our diets is like the amount of water in a puddle. And you can say well, water causes drowning, well that’s true, but it’s not going to cause drowning if you’re standing in a puddle. Now it might cause drowning if you’re in a river that’s going crazy, you can’t swim, the water is really cold and deep, then water imposes a risk. A lot of times the news that we read about ingredients that might be negative is the result of tests that are more analogous to standing in a river than standing in a puddle. So it’s important for us all to recognize that ingredients have been tested thoroughly and they are very safe consumed in the amounts that we consume in our diets. I think it’s important for the bloggers to understand that big words, scary words they’re just chemicals and foods are made of chemicals. And even blueberries. If we were to look at the ingredients in blueberries they would seem very intimidating, but in fact they’re just there natural antioxidants and other nutrients in plants that make them healthy.
What is the response to naysayers (that we may get on Twitter/blogs) who say synthetic antioxidants are bad and that brand are just twisting facts?
• There is no benefit to ConAgra Foods to mislead people into believing that a chemical is safe when it is not, nor would we be successful in doing so, as the data used to support food safety is publicly available. Our intention in this effort is to transparently educate people to improve the understanding of ingredients used in food. This so that we, together, as partners and as a society, can make good decisions on how we manage our food supply and maintain healthy, wholesome, high-quality, abundantly available, and affordable food products for our ever growing population.
This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of ConAgra Foods but as is always the case All opinions expressed are my own.