Unless you have time to churn your own butter, food preserves are a necessity of modern life. Whether it is a pre-packaged ingredient (like pre-shredded cheese) or a full pre-made meal, there is a demand for ready-made food. And there are suppliers ready to serve. Food manufacturers need to use additives in their packaged goods to maintain freshness and ensure visual appeal, but not all additives are created equal. Some ingredients which are added by manufactures are effective and FDA approved, just not desirable to eat.
So it becomes your job, as the consumer, to know how much of each preserve you are ingesting. An FDA approval simply means that it is fit for human consumption in the quantity specified on the label. It does not address what happens if you consume more than the “recommended serving size” or the cumulative effect of combining different foods (i.e. a pre-made taco shell with pre-shredded cheese) or multiple pre-made foods in one day.
Here are a few preservatives that I have started to avoid which are particularly common (since MSG and high-fructose corn syrup are now commonly understood to be avoided if possible, I am not expanding upon them).
Tertiary Butylhydroquinone or TBHQ – Butane, and it is commonly used in crackers, taco shells, crisps and fast food. The FDA limits it to .02% of a serving, but if you are having multiple servings, you are getting a far higher amount. Large doses are related to nausea, hyperactivity, even tumors in rats….
Cellulose an anti-caking agent – Wood Pulp (and sometimes Cotton Pulp) is put in pre-shredded cheese to prevent clumping, but it is not something you can readily digest (it is not the same cellulose that is in broccoli). The government claims it is fine to ingest in small quantities – but do you want to?
Soybean, Corn and Sunflower Oil – all high in Omega 6 (which you need in combination with Omega 3, but not much and not on its own) leads to inflammation of the heart valves/ heart disease.
It is almost impossible today to make everything that you eat; so when you buy a packaged good, just be aware of what additives you are ingesting and how much. When you have the time, my favorite is still the Michael Pollan suggestion – eat what you want, just make it yourself.