What is the importance of antioxidants in the food industry?

Antioxidants slow down or prevent rancidity of food due to oxidation, thereby extending the shelf life of products. Oxidation is a chemical process and in most cases occurs due to exposure to air (oxygen) or due to the effects of heat or light.

They are very important in the food industry because they allow food to maintain its nutritional properties and quality level.

Some antioxidants also work against color changes, for example in fruit or meat products.

Natural antioxidants

One simple way to stop apples from browning, for example, is to add a small amount of lemon juice. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) contained in many citrus fruits is a natural antioxidant and for this reason is often used in food processing (E 300 – E 304).

Other natural antioxidants are tocopherols (E 306 – E 309), which belong to the group of vitamins E. Tocopherols are mainly found in nuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans and corn sprouts and are mostly used to preserve vegetable oils, margarine and cocoa products.

In addition to tocopherols and ascorbic acid, rosemary extract is also used as a natural antioxidant.

Since ascorbic acid and tocopherols are very popular antioxidants and the requirements for them cannot be completely met from natural sources, they have been produced artificially for a long time. Today, it is possible to copy the molecular structure of these compounds so precisely that there are no longer any differences in structure or effects.

Synthetic antioxidants

The most important artificial antioxidants belong to the group of gallates (E 310 – E 312). Gallates are mostly added to vegetable oils and margarine to prevent rancidity.

The other two substances that do not belong to the above groups are BHA (E 320) and BHT (E 321).

Learn as much as you can about individual antioxidants

For a better overview, we have prepared a detailed list of individual antioxidants, both natural and synthetic, where you will learn much more than just their positive or negative effects on health.