Artificial Preservatives2019-04-10T14:02:25-07:00
Packaged foods often contain artificial preservatives to extend the shelf life

Packaged foods often contain artificial preservatives to extend the shelf life.

Artificial Preservatives

What are Artificial Preservatives?

Artificial preservatives are chemicals that when added to food tend to stop or slow deterioration. However, they do not include common salt, sugars, vinegars, spices, or oils extracted from spices or substances added to food by direct exposure thereof to wood smoke.1

They are used in baking to enable baked goods to remain fresh and at high quality during transport and delivery to consumers.


The main categories of artificial preservatives are antimicrobials, antioxidants and chelating agents.

Antimicrobials agents are added to foods to destroy bacteria or inhibit the growth of mold on food.

  • Sorbates: compounds based on sorbic acid. Sorbates are effective against yeasts and molds. Since sorbates can inhibit yeast fermentation, sorbates are applied to bakery products by encapsulation, spraying onto the product as an aerosol or incorporating it into the packaging material.
  • Benzoates: compounds based on benzoic acid. Benzoates are inhibitory to yeast and most commonly used to delay spoilage of high acid fillings, fruits and jams.
  • Propionates: compounds of propionic acid. Due to their lack of activity against yeast, propionates are the most widely used antimicrobial in yeast-raised baked goods.
  • Nitrates: salts of nitric acid. Nitrates are commonly used in meat product.

Antioxidants help to prevent food spoilage by slowing down the reaction of food with oxygen in the atmosphere.

  • Sulfites: a group of compounds consisting of charged molecules of Sulphur combined with oxygen
  • Ascorbic Acid: also known as vitamin C
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): waxy, yellow solid
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): white powdery substance
  • Propyl gallate: an ester formed by the condensation of gallic acid and propanol
  • Tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ): an aromatic organic compound which is a type of phenol

Chelating Agents are chemicals added to foods in order to bind metal ions such as iron, cobalt and copper which would otherwise exert detrimental effects on the color, texture, aroma of food.

  • Disodium Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)
  • Polyphosphates
  • Citric Acid

Replacing artificial preservatives

FDA Regulation

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 582, Subpart D lists chemical preservatives generally recognized as safe.2 FDA CFR Title 21, Part 172, Subpart B lists food preservatives permitted for direct addition to food for human consumption.2

Concentration of Benzoates as a food preservative is limited by the FDA in the U.S. to 0.1% by weight.2 Under certain circumstances, such as in the presence of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), benzoate salts can produce benzene (carcinogen) in soft drinks; however, the levels of benzene measured do not pose a safety concern for consumers.3

The antioxidants, BHA and BHT, propyl gallate and TBHQ are generally recognized as safe for use in food when the total content of antioxidants is not over 0.02 percent of fat or oil content, including essential (volatile) oil content of food provided the substance is used in accordance with good manufacturing or feeding practice.2


  1. “CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  2. “CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.
  3. “U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” Questions and Answers on the Occurrence of Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages.


  1. Precious Oduro July 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    What’s the best I can use for cupcakes?

  2. Lin Carson, PhD
    Lin Carson, PhD July 28, 2016 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    This is what Robert Mason recommends: The cupcake itself will probably need a good pH of around 5.5 or less (my general recommendation is as low as possible). This will really depend on the type of cake as something like a lemon can go pretty low while a nice devil’s food will be have to be pretty high. Then I would probably recommend combination of cal pro and sorbic acid/sorbate.

    Benzoates and sorbates are pretty common for the frosting

    In both the cupcake and the frosting, controlling the water activity level (likely with corn syrup or even glycerin) will be necessary for maximum shelf life, especially with the higher sugar and water contents associated with cupcakes. Contact Robert at Robert.Mason[email protected] to increase your shelf life.

  3. Nigel January 30, 2017 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    What would be the best to use for a rice crispy treat?

  4. Emilia October 18, 2017 at 2:32 am - Reply

    Comment…which is best used for cakes?

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck October 19, 2017 at 10:46 am - Reply

      Hi Emilia, we suggest you read Dr. Carson’s reply on 7/28/16 about cupcakes. It will be the same for cakes.

  5. wendy January 17, 2018 at 6:55 am - Reply

    what are the most common preservatives found in croissants?

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck January 26, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Depends on your croissant’ shelf life. Our Friends from J&K Ingredients are great at providing solutions for this type of conundrums.

  6. Princess May 6, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    What is the best used for dougnut

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck May 21, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

      We recommend you take a look at our Specialty Page, Donut. And that you also attend one of our Academy Classes.

  7. yvette May 8, 2018 at 4:21 am - Reply

    what type preservative can be used for in yeast rised fried dougnut for shelve life extension and mould inhibitor without changing the taste of the product. how long would it last on a shelve?

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck May 21, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

      We highly recommend you attend our Academy Classes where questions like this are covered.

  8. Kazi September 9, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    Please can you recommend me the chemical Preservative for cake three to four month shelf life ?

  9. Saurabh dabhole November 15, 2018 at 10:22 am - Reply

    What to use in coconut loaf cake

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck November 16, 2018 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      That depends if you are looking for an antimicrobial, antioxidant or something that helps your shelf life.

  10. Sini March 6, 2019 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Which is the best presevative for carrot pudding cake ?and plz tell the measurement of presevative for 1 kg

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