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  • Writer's pictureKubepac

4 of the scariest food preservatives you have been eating on the regular

Preservatives are food additives that have been around since humans began preparing food. Perhaps the best-known preservative is salt.

But while they are certainly useful to keep food safe by preventing mould forming, extending the shelf life and keeping products fresh. Modern-day chemical preservatives can have unintended side effects on our health.

Some food additives are even listed as possible carcinogens by the World Health Organisation, yet manufacturers continue to use them as they are more concerned with taste and shelf life than with what’s good for the consumer.

When we as a company, Kubepac, think about what motivated us to start creating awareness for natural food preservation and what continues to drive us when applying pressure on manufacturers and large retailers to stop using chemical preservatives and use oxygen absorbers, it’s that we believe we all deserve to eat real food.

To do this, we need to be informed so we can make the right decisions when faced with multiple options. Many of us don’t have the time to cook every meal from scratch and we have to rely on a certain amount of packaged food.

Our ultimate aim is to help you navigate the supermarket shelves to ensure you choose the most wholesome options available, free of the nasties that are present in many foods.

Fortunately all products that use our O’buster oxygen absorbers are free of these nasties as they are kept naturally fresh.

With that in mind, here are a few of the main preservatives to avoid:

1. BHA and BHT

There is ongoing debate about the safety of BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), both petroleum-derived antioxidants commonly used to prevent

rancidity in fats and oils.

Found in:

Vegetable oils, margarine, spreadable butter, biscuits, cakes, cereal, pastries, sweets, chewing gum, milk powder, frozen dinners, bread, wraps, frozen French fries.

Potential effects:

Suspected carcinogen, gastrointestinal disturbances, aggression, hyperactivity, mood disturbances (depression, insomnia), asthma, eczema, dermatitis, hives, rashes.


1. Choose foods that say 'preservative free' on the pack or have an O’buster oxygen absorber inside.

2. Choose organic packaged foods as they contain little or no synthetic colours or preservatives.

2. Sorbates

Sorbic acid and its calcium, sodium and potassium salts (collectively referred to as sorbates) are another group of preservatives used to inhibit the growth of mould.

Found in:

Orange juice, cheese, pickles, yoghurt, dips, dried meats, soft drinks, ice-cream, baked goods.

Potential effects:

Headaches and migraines, asthma, allergic reactions (rhinitis, skin irritation), hyperactivity; gastrointestinal upset.


  1. Prepare home-made fruit sorbets, ice-creams and chocolate mousse.

  2. Make your own fresh squeezed orange juice.

  3. Choose natural yoghurts, which contain no additives, or make your own coconut yoghurt easily at home.

3. Propionates

Derived from propionic acid, calcium propionate (282) is most commonly known as the “bread preservative”. It’s often added to supermarket breads and other commercially baked goods to prevent mildew and bacterial growth (now you know why some loaves can last for up to 10 days outside the fridge).

Found in:

Pre-packaged breads and wraps, cheese, pasta, bakery products, breadcrumbs.

Potential effects:

As food intolerance expert Sue Dengate states, “If you wanted to create a nation of underperforming children, you could hardly do better than to add a preservative known to cause learning difficulties to an everyday staple food.”


1. Visit an organic bakery or local bakery and ask if they have any organically packaged baking products that use O’buster oxygen absorbers. These products do not contain Propionates as they are kept naturally fresh through oxygen absorbing technology.

2. Choose freshly baked bread at your local supermarket as it's more likely to not contain Propionates (always ask before purchasing).

3. Beware of wraps. Several wrap manufacturers use nearly as many preservatives as ingredients. Certain wrap manufacturers have started using oxygen absorbers to keep their

products naturally fresh and have seen fantastic results. Blue Shirt Bakery is one of these manufacturers.

4. Sulphites

Sulphites are the most common preservatives in foods. Sulphur dioxide, the synthetic form, is used to extend shelf life and protect food from bacteria. They are used to preserve colour and moisture in dried fruit.

Found in:

Dried fruit (especially dried apricots and raisins), processed dried vegetables, deli meats, baked goods, glucose syrup, molasses, pickles, garlic powder.

Potential effects:

Asthma, eczema, skin rashes, headaches, behaviour disturbances.


1. Make sure dried apricots, other dried fruits and any other common sulphite-containing foods are labelled ‘sulphite free’ or have an O’buster oxygen absorber inside.


To learn more about the importance of natural preservation over chemical preservation in food please contact leigh-Anne Stevenson on or alternatively visit our website

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