Chemical food additives can be replaced by natural extracts

Thursday, December 02, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: chemical additives, processed food, health news

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(NaturalNews) As NaturalNews has covered previously and extensively, one of the unhealthiest things you can eat is processed meats. In fact, a World Cancer Research Fund report entitled Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective concluded that all people should immediately stop eating processed meats because the chemicals those products contain are strongly associated with causing cancer and other health problems (

However, these chemicals have long been considered absolutely necessary in the processed meat industry because they kill the growth of disease-causing organisms in these food products. But now it turns out those chemicals may not even be needed, after all. The reason? Researchers at the Food Safety Consortium at the University of Arkansas (UA) Division of Agriculture have discovered that extracts from green tea and grape seeds can be used instead of chemicals as a means of protecting against pathogen contamination in processed foods. So far, they've tried the natural extracts in chicken and turkey hot dogs and found they work fine.

"Food preservation systems often use chemicals and heat treatments to reduce the risk of bacterial food poisoning outbreaks and food spoilage," Navam Hettiarachchy, a UA food science professor who led the research project, explained in a media statement. "But consumers prefer minimal processing and natural tasting foods without additives. Natural extracts can accomplish the same goal without compromising taste or food safety."

Hettiarachchy said that evidence has accumulated showing that a variety of culinary ingredients, including many spices, have antimicrobial properties and can protect against food borne sickness. In their studies, the Food Safety Consortium research team showed that the natural plant compounds inhibited the growth of Listeria monocytogenes on hot dogs when combined with reduced levels of chemical preservatives.

However, they explained that it may be possible to completely replace chemical preservatives eventually with natural plant extracts -- especially if the natural compounds are combined with other technologies such as heat treatments. They are also researching whether encapsulating the natural extracts in nanoparticles could make them even better pathogen-fighters in processed meats.

While using natural substances to control pathogens in processed foods is clearly a healthier choice than chemicals, the smartest way to protect health could be avoiding meat -- especially the processed, non-organic variety -- totally. A case in point: a study published in the journal Circulation earlier this year found consuming these products greatly raises the risk of heart disease and diabetes ( What's more, processed meats like hotdogs and luncheon meats recently have been linked to leukemia in children, too (

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