preservative


preservative
/pri zerr"veuh tiv/, n.
1. something that preserves or tends to preserve.
2. a chemical substance used to preserve foods or other organic materials from decomposition or fermentation.
adj.
3. tending to preserve.
[1350-1400; ME (adj. and n.) < MF preservatif (adj.) < ML praeservativus. See PRESERVE, -ATIVE]

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Any of numerous chemical additives used to prevent or slow food spoilage caused by chemical changes (e.g., oxidation, mold growth) and maintain a fresh appearance and consistency.

Antimycotics (e.g., sodium and calcium propionate, sorbic acid) inhibit mold growth; antioxidants (e.g., butylated hydroxytoluene or BHT) delay rancidity in foods containing fats and oils; antibiotics (e.g., tetracyclines) prevent bacterial growth; humectants retain moisture in products like shredded coconut; and antistaling agents (e.g., glyceryl monostearate) maintain moisture and softness in baked goods. Some preservatives also improve the appearance of the product (e.g., sodium nitrate and nitrite in meats).

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      in foods (food processing), any of numerous chemical additives used to prevent or retard spoilage caused by chemical changes, e.g., oxidation or the growth of mold. Along with emulsifying and stabilizing agents, preservatives also help to maintain freshness of appearance and consistency. See also emulsifier.

      Preservatives are of various types that are suited to certain products and are effective against specific chemical changes. Antimycotics (fungicide) inhibit the growth of molds in such products as fruit juice, cheese, bread, and dried fruit; examples are sodium and calcium propionate and sorbic acid. Antioxidants (antioxidant) (e.g., butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT) retard the development of rancidity produced by oxidation in margarine, shortening, and a variety of foods containing fats and oils. Antibiotics (antibiotic) such as the tetracyclines are used to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in poultry, fish, and canned foods. Humectants, substances that absorb moisture, help to retain the moisture content in such products as shredded coconut.

      In addition to retarding spoilage, some preservatives have an aesthetic role—that is, they improve the appearance of the product. An example of one such preservative is sodium nitrate (Chile saltpetre) (or its nitrite form), controversial because of its association with the formation of an alleged carcinogen. Nitrate and nitrite are used in the curing of meats to prevent the development of botulism-causing bacteria; they also impart the reddish colour characteristic of ham, bacon, and luncheon meats. Opponents of these additives argue that modern sanitation and refrigeration eliminate the need for chemical preservatives. Industry representatives defend their use for cosmetic reasons, pointing out that the natural brownish colour of these meats would be unappetizing.

      Preservatives used to maintain moisture and softness in baked goods are known as antistaling agents (e.g., glyceryl monostearate). These substances are thought to act by preventing water loss from starches.

      For a discussion of food-preserving methods, see food preservation.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • preservative — (adj.) late 14c., from M.Fr. preservatif, from M.L. praeservativus, from praeservare (see PRESERVE (Cf. preserve) (v.)). The noun is from early 15c., a preservative medication. Sense of chemical added to foods to keep them from rotting is from… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Preservative — Pre*serv a*tive, a. [Cf. F. pr[ e]servatif.] Having the power or quality of preserving; tending to preserve, or to keep from injury, decay, etc. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Preservative — Pre*serv a*tive, n. That which preserves, or has the power of preserving; a presevative agent. [1913 Webster] To wear tablets as preservatives against the plague. Bacon. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • preservative — index preventive, prophylactic, protective Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • preservative — ► NOUN ▪ a substance used to preserve foodstuffs or other materials against decay. ► ADJECTIVE ▪ acting to preserve something …   English terms dictionary

  • preservative — [prē zʉrv′ə tiv, prizʉrv′ə tiv] adj. [ME preseruatyve < MFr preservatif < ML praeservativus] having the quality of preserving n. anything that preserves; esp., a substance added to a food to keep it from spoiling …   English World dictionary

  • Preservative — A preservative is a natural or synthetic chemical that is added to products such as foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, biological samples, wood, etc. to prevent decomposition by microbial growth or by undesirable chemical changes.Preservatives in… …   Wikipedia

  • preservative — UK [prɪˈzɜː(r)vətɪv] / US [prɪˈzɜrvətɪv] noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms preservative : singular preservative plural preservatives chemistry a chemical substance used for preventing food or wood from decaying wood preservative This drink… …   English dictionary

  • preservative — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ food, wood ▪ artificial, chemical, synthetic ▪ Our products contain no artificial preservatives. VERB + PRESERVATIVE …   Collocations dictionary

  • preservative — n. a food preservative * * * [prɪ zɜːvətɪv] a food preservative …   Combinatory dictionary

  • preservative — [[t]prɪzɜ͟ː(r)vətɪv[/t]] preservatives N MASS A preservative is a chemical that prevents things from decaying. Some preservatives are added to food, and others are used to treat wood or metal. Nitrates are used as preservatives in food… …   English dictionary


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