What is sodium benzoate used for?


Quick Answer

Sodium benzoate is a preservative and flavoring agent commonly used in acidic foods such as jams, fruit pies, relishes and sauerkraut, says Shereen Jegtvig from About.com. It is also sometimes used in soft drinks.

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Full Answer

According to Drugs.com, while sodium benzoate is used as a flavoring agent and an antimicrobial preservative in the food industry, in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, it is used as a tablet and capsule lubricant. It does not occur naturally on its own, but it produces benzoic acid when mixed with water. This acid is found naturally in fruits such as apples, cranberries and plums. Combining benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide synthesizes sodium benzoate.

Drugs.com also states that sodium benzoate is often used in carbonated beverages, fruit juice products and foods with an acidic pH, such as salad dressings and pickles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of sodium benzoate in foods to a maximum level of 0.1 percent. Sodium benzoate is known to be toxic if a person consumes a diet containing 90 times this amount.

About.com notes that there is a minor concern when sodium benzoate is present in a drink along with ascorbic acid. If these drinks are exposed to too much heat, a known carcinogen called benzene forms. For drinking water and in packaged beverages, the Environmental Protection Agency has set a maximum benzene level of five parts per billion. However, About.com explains that packaged drinks subjected to testing contained far less benzene than that.

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