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Sodium Benzoate

Veterinarian Reviewed on January 9, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Sodium Benzoate


Sodium benzoate is a chemical substance popularly used in food processing to avoid the growth of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. It is commonly used as a preservative for foods and beverages that have acidic pH. The mixture of sodium benzoate and water will yield benzoic acid that will serve as the active ingredient in the preservation process. It appears as white, crystalline solid, and a hygroscopic material. When not in use, the container where it is kept must be tightly closed. Sodium benzoate dissolves easily in water, and forms a colorless, transparent solution when mixed.

History and Origin

Sodium benzoate is a product of benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide neutralization. Benzoic acid is contained at low level in fruits such as prunes, cranberries, greengage plums, ripe cloves, cinnamon, and apples. Although benzoic acid is far more effective as preservative over sodium benzoate, the latter is preferred because it dissolves very well in water.

Ancient Uses

Sodium benzoate has been utilized as food preservative since the 1900s. It is popularly used in many preservative processes because of its effective antimicrobial action and low taste and toxicity. Common food products such as beverages, fruit juices, olives, pickles, syrups and other condiments use sodium benzoate as preservative. With the considerable period between food production and its consumption, food preservatives became deemed essential to avoid spoilage and unnecessary alterations in flavor, nutrients, or color. Studies made show that these preservatives are harmless under their controlled production standards.

Modern Uses

Sodium benzoate is widely used in preparing acidic food including salad, jams, carbonated drinks, and fruit juices. Cosmetic and medicines also utilized this type of preservative.

Sodium benzoate is used in fireworks and serves as fuel to the whistle mixture; it is the powder responsible for the whistling noise when ignited.

Sodium benzoate is useful or ingredient in the following:

• Ingredient in mouthwashes with alcohol base

• Nettle rash or Urticaria

• Used in silver polish preparation

• Ingredient to animal foods, but not up to only .01 percent

• Used in preventing wine fermentation

The limitation of sodium benzoate concerning the food is not due to toxicity, but on the taste that might make the foods unacceptable. Sodium benzoate is non-toxic compound. Foods that contain preservatives are often more healthier because the growth of bacteria and microorganisms are prevented, and all other consideration that will make the food healthy and safe for consumption remained intact.

Side Effects

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate are safe, and are certified by leading authorities in food additives. In 1954, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Dr. W.H. Stein declared that benzoate is considered a natural metabolite in the human body. Since this preservative is being produced in laboratories today, sometimes it is being banned by some entities from the health food industry, although no scientific basis are cited for the claims that benzoate is unhealthy.

Sodium benzoate, when combined with ascorbic acid and potassium benzoate will form benzene, which is a known carcinogen. However, in beverages, the benzene level is usually below the considered dangerous rate for consumption. The light, heat, and the shelf life may affect benzene formation rate.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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