benzoate, also known as benzoate of sodium, is
the sodium salt of benzoic acid. It is a
Physical and Chemical Properties
chemical compound, C6H5CO2Na,
Sodium benzoic, as well as benzoic acid are completely SAFE, and like the preservative, potassium sorbate (sorbic acid), have been labelled SAFE by the leading food additive authority, Dr. Michael Jacobsen, founder and president of Center for Science in the Public Interest. In 1954 Dr. W.H. Stein reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that benzoate is a natural metabolite of the human body. Because commercial sodium benzoate is today made in laboratories, it has sometimes been banned by certain entities in the health food industry, there is no scientific basis for any claim that benzoate is unhealthful. It is a substance natural to the body's own metabolism, and in this respect is no difference in its functioning as a preservative than vinegar (acetic acid).
Synonyms: Benzoate of soda
White powder or crystals. Sodium benzoate converts to benzoic acid when use in acidic mixtures. Benzoic acid has good anti-microbial features, but does not dissolve well in water, whereas sodium benzoate dissolves very well in water.
Sodium benzoate is used in acidic foods and products to control bacteria, mold, yeasts, and other microbes. It interferes with their ability to make energy. Because it only converts to benzoic acid in acidic environments, it is not used for its anti-microbial action unless the pH is below about 3.6. In the food industry, it is used in items such as jams, salad dressing, juices, pickles, and carbonated drinks. It is also used as a corrosion inhibitor in automotive anti-freeze products.
WHY DO WE NEED PRESERVATIVES
The limit of sodium benzoate in foods is not because of its toxicity, but at levels higher than 0.1% will leave an unacceptable aftertaste. Foods containing this preservative are much healthier than non-preservative foods since harmfull microorganism growth is inhibited, food oxidation is prevented, and food nutrients are preserved.
Chronic toxicities were examined in rats fed diets containing up to a total of 1%. After 4 generations there were no changes in normal patterns of growth, reproduction, lactation and no morphological abnomalities of organs. Acute toxicity studies, where one large dose of sodium benzoate is given to animals, showed no lethal effects until 2 grams per kg. body wt. was administered. One could not eat enough foods containing sodium benzoate to even get 0.002% of this amount!
Limits of sodium benzoate in foods is not because of toxicity, but it will impart a taste that will make some foods unacceptable. This is a very non-toxic compound and foods containing presevatives are usually much healthier since harmful microorganism growth is inhibited, oxidation is checked, and nutrients, natural or added, are saved.
Sodium Benzoate History
Since the early 1900's, sodium benzoate has been used as a food preservative. It is utilized in a wide range of preservative applications due to its antimicrobial action combined with its low toxicity and low taste. From carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, fruit and fruit juices, syrups, olives, pickles and other condiments sodium benzoate is widely used in a number of the products we consume through everyday use.
Sodium benzoate is a white, crystalline solid and is a hygroscopic material. Therefore, the container must be kept closed when not in use. It will easily dissolve in water, forming a transparent, colorless solution.
Generally, sodium benzoate is listed as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the U.S. FDA when used as an antimicrobial agent or as a flavoring agent and adjunct in levels not to exceed good manufacturing practice (GMP), currently limited to 0.1% maximum in food.
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