Additives and Preservatives — What do The Claims Mean?

Marika Wamback, BSc. R.D.
Registered Dietitian |


Hot Topic:
Additives and Preservatives — What do The Claims Mean?

Claims and Hype About Consuming Additives and Preservatives

Consuming additives and preservatives can be done wisely and safely. Many manufacturers use creative labeling to market their food products as ‘preservative or additive free’ or ‘only natural preservatives and additives’ hoping it will be perceived as healthier than it is.  Does this make the food item healthier? What’s the difference between synthetic and natural preservatives?  Do they make a difference in your health? Does it matter when managing CKD?

Additive and Preservative Definitions

Artificial additives and preservatives:  Food manufacturers add natural or synthetic substances to food items to enhance color, taste, flavor, or to preserve the food. For example, a color may be added to the item that was not originally there (such as cake mix) to make it more appealing. An artificial preservative can be added (such as a spray on the outside of the food) to prevent food from spoiling.  Many artificial preservatives are derived from natural substances.

Natural preservatives and additivesSodium is the most common natural preservative.  It is inexpensive to use and keeps food from spoiling.  ‘Natural’ does not always mean healthier, especially if it has a lot of sodium (more than 500 mg per serving).  With CKD, it is important to keep blood pressure under control to avoid further stress on kidneys and heart by restricting sodium and sodium derivatives such as sodium phosphate and potassium chloride.  



Health Canada and the FDA regulate all additives and preservatives.  This is to ensure food and health safety for the public. The vast majority are not farming or buying fresh food to consume daily. Therefore, preservatives are added is to prevent food spoilage and food borne illnesses.  With CKD, it is very important to prevent infection of any kind.  Consuming additives and preservatives for CKD management is a balance of food safety and preventing CKD complications.

CKD Management

However, using additives and preservatives excessively can be harmful with CKD.  As mentioned above, consuming too many preservatives or additives that contain sodium, phosphorus or potassium can be harmful if you have renal restrictions.  Purchase fresh or frozen, whole unprocessed foods to help reduce your consumption of additives and preservatives.  When buying processed or prepared foods, read labels carefully.  Diligently read the nutrition facts label and ingredient list to identify what’s in your food.  If you have renal dietary restrictions, this can help you optimally manage your CKD by consuming additives and preservatives safely and wisely.


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