E212 – Potassium Benzoate

What is the Food Additive E212 ?

Potassium Benzoate (E212) is the potassium salt of benzoic acid. E212 appears as a white, crystalline powder or granule that is highly soluble in water, making it an effective preservative. The chemical formula of potassium benzoate is C7H5KO2.

Benzoic acid and benzoates are used as preservatives to prevent the growth of yeast and mold in acidic products. They are not very effective against bacteria and are ineffective in products with a pH above 5 (slightly acidic or neutral).

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What is the Recommended Daily Dose ?

The use of E212 in food products is regulated by various health and safety authorities around the world. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved potassium benzoate (E212) for use in specified quantities. The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for this food additive is set at 5 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.

Despite its approval, the safety of E212 remains a topic of debate. Concerns mainly focus on the potential of this food additive to transform into benzene, a known carcinogen, under certain conditions. The formation of benzene is more likely in beverages that contain both potassium benzoate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) when exposed to heat and light. However, regulatory bodies have established guidelines and maximum limits to minimize this risk.

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In Which Products is E212 Found ?

E212 is mainly used as a preservative due to its antimicrobial properties. It inhibits the growth of mold, yeast, and some bacteria, thus extending the shelf life of food products.

  • Beverages: Potassium benzoate is widely used in carbonated drinks, fruit juices, and energy drinks. Its solubility in water and effectiveness at lower pH levels make it ideal for preserving the freshness and taste of acidic beverages.
  • Sauces and Condiments: It is used as a preservative in sauces, such as salad dressings, soy sauce, and ketchup. It helps maintain the flavor and prevents microbial growth.
  • Baked Goods and Jams: E212 is also found in baked goods and jams, where it helps preserve products for longer periods, ensuring they remain safe for consumption.
  • Dairy Products: Although less common, potassium benzoate is used in some dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese spreads, especially those with added fruit flavors, to prevent spoilage.

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Contraindications and Risks

  • Allergic Reactions: Some people may experience allergic reactions to potassium benzoate, including skin rashes, itching, or respiratory issues. Although such reactions are rare, they highlight the need for clear labeling of food additives.
  • Hyperactivity: There have been concerns about the link between certain preservatives, including potassium benzoate, and hyperactivity in children. However, the evidence is inconclusive, and more research is needed to establish a direct correlation.
  • Benzene Formation: The potential formation of benzene in beverages has raised concerns among regulatory bodies. While the levels found in food products are typically well below harmful thresholds, it has prompted some manufacturers to seek alternative preservatives.

In conclusion, E212 plays a vital role in the food industry as an effective preservative, ensuring food safety and extending shelf life. As the food industry evolves, there is an increasing shift towards natural preservatives and innovative preservation technologies, reflecting a broader trend towards healthier and more transparent food production. Understanding the benefits and limitations of food additives like E212 is essential for informed consumer choices and ongoing advancements in food safety.

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Author – Cosmina Nițu

Master in Nutrition – Infant and new born nutrition


https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/ – European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

https://www.healthline.com/ – Health Line

InfoCons – European Organization for Consumers Protection and Promotion of Programs and Strategies , a full member of the World Organization Consumers International, founding member of the Federation of Consumer Associations, and member of ANEC.

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