Potassium Benzoate: The Common Preservative In All Your Favorite Food

Have you ever wondered what secret ingredient the manufacturers add to their food and beauty products so that they increase in their life? Then your answer is right here. The preservative that is generally used to increase the shelf life of different beauty and food products is potassium benzoate. This preservative has thoroughly been used for different pharmaceuticals, food, beverages and cosmetic products for quite some time now but did you know that this ingredient has a fair share of controversy to its name due to frequent accords of side effects reported against it? 

Quite intriguing, right? Continue reading the article as we delve further into potassium benzoate and tell you everything regarding the uses and side effects of this preservative. 

What is potassium benzoate? 

Potassium Benzoate

Potassium benzoate is a white, odorless powder that is chemically synthesized by reacting benzoic acid with potassium carbonate or bicarbonate or potassium hydroxide (potassium salts). According to reports, the purest and highest yielded benzoate is formed by reacting potassium hydroxide with benzoic acid. The benzoic acid is naturally found in fermented, plant and animal products and originally was derived from the benzoin resin of certain tree species. On the other hand, the potassium salts are extracted from minerals and salt beds. 

Adding a small amount of potassium benzoate into the products helps in preventing the growth of microbes food and products and increases their longevity. It inhibits the processes like fermentation, acidification or any other deterioration of the food.

Potassium benzoate uses

As already stated, potassium benzoate is used as a preservative which helps in preventing the growth of microorganisms and it is especially popular for being a fungistatic i.e., a substance that can stop the fungi’s ability to grow and reproduce and therefore prevent the spoiling of the food in the long run. 

The other uses of the preservative are:

  1. Extending the shelf life of cosmetic products 
  2. Reducing the rate of microbial growth in food products
  3. It imparts a tang flavor to the food items and therefore it is used as a flavoring agent 

The preservation mechanism of potassium benzoate is also an interesting process. When potassium benzoate is added to the food items, benzoic acid dissociates and combines with a proton which enters the microbial cell and inhibits the cell growth, therefore, preventing the spoiling of the food items. 

Potassium benzoate was generally used as a replacement for sodium benzoate preservative. But slowly and steadily, its popularity began to rise when people started demanding less sodium content in their products as excess sodium consumption causes water retention which increases the risk of bloating. On the other hand, potassium helps in alleviating the condition of water retention and also helps in preventing conditions like heartburn and bloating. 

The food items that contain potassium benzoate are:

Potassium Benzoate
  1. Beverages- carbonated drinks, flavored drinks, soda, cider, syrup, vegetables and fruit juices,
  2. Sweets like chocolates, candies and pastries
  3. Processed sauces and salad dressings and other condiments like pickles and olives
  4. Margarine spreads, jams and jellies
  5. Processed meats and fishes like salted, dried seafood and certain cold cuts. 
  6. Potassium benzoate is found naturally in cranberry therefore food and beverages including cranberries will include this preservative naturally
  7. Few vitamin and mineral supplements

Our favorite beverage brands like Coca Cola and Pepsico also add potassium benzoate to their beverages as a preservative to protect the taste and preserve the freshness. 

A few cosmetic and skincare products also include these ingredients and these are shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers and facial cleansers. 

Potassium benzoate side effects

As we mentioned before, there have been many reports stating the repercussions caused due to consumption of potassium benzoate. 

According to many scientific studies, it has been reported that when potassium benzoate is added to food as a preservative, Vitamin C is also simultaneously added to the mix. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that when foods containing potassium benzoate and vitamin C are exposed to heat and light, they form exceptionally high amounts of benzene in the products which are carcinogenic in nature and upon consumption increases the risk of cancer for the consumer. 

The report created a huge turmoil in the preservative industry and potassium benzoate was discontinued for a few months thereafter. After some time with the prescribed dosage from the ICBA, potassium benzoate was regained back and was continued to be used as a preservative again.

However, there are some other side effects associated with the consumption of potassium benzoate like:

Potassium Benzoate
  1. Food containing the benzoate preservative is heavily processed and only contains a few nutrients therefore excess consumption can lead to a serious toll on your health.
  2. Causes severe allergic reactions and the formation of hives and rashes on your skin takes place. People prone to allergic reactions should stay away from food, beverages and cosmetic products that are rich in this preservative. 
  3. Inflammation of the skin and conditions like runny nose and itchy skin can also take place.
  4. Causes eye irritation.
  5. In some severe cases, eczema can also take place. 
  6. People suffering from chronic kidney ailments usually are not able to maintain proper potassium levels in the body therefore consuming foods and beverages high in potassium benzoate can further aggravate the condition. 
  7. Young children exposed to potassium benzoate have a higher risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 

Permitted intake level of potassium benzoate

The permitted intake of potassium benzoate according to the FDA and World Health Organization (WHO) depends on many factors and therefore changes accordingly.

  • Average safe limit

Normally the safe limit prescribed- 2.3mg per pound of bodyweight

(That is like 10 cans of soda by a person weighing around 70kgs) 

  • For processed foods

Flavored drinks- 36 mg per cup (240ml) 

Fruit jams- 7.5 mg per tablespoons (15 grams) 

Potassium benzoate has been extensively used as a preservative in food, beverages and pharmaceutical products for a long and therefore if you suffer from allergic reactions due to this benzoate preservative, look out for the ingredients of the food and beverages and try to avoid those products that harbor potassium benzoate as its ingredient.

Potassium benzoate is a very effective preservative as it can efficaciously prevent the formation of microbial growth and also increase shelf life simultaneously. However, with all that being said, make sure to limit your intake so that you can enjoy the benefits and not succumb to the side effects produced by potassium benzoate. 

Read More

Hey, we like you a lot and 

want to offer you some of the best content

Share your email for some exclusive insights