E 211 – Sodium Benzoate

E211 InfoCons Consumers Protection

What is E 211?

Sodium benzoate (E 211) belongs to the category of organic preservatives. It is an antiseptic substance.

It is obtained synthetically by treating benzoic acid with a sodium hydroxide solution. After filtration, it is concentrated and purified by recrystallisation.

E211 Food InfoCons Consumers Protection

Which foods contain the food additive E 211?

Benzoic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts can be added to the following foods:

  • non-alcoholic flavoured drinks together with sorbic acid
  • non-alcoholic beer, packaged in kegs,
  • beverages with an alcohol concentration of up to 15% vol,
  • jams, jellies, marmalades, with a low sugar content,
  • saccharised, crystallised or candied fruit and vegetables,
  • vegetables preserved in vinegar, brine or oil,
  • olives and olive preparations,
  • spreadable, fruit-based pasta,
  • fish products, semi-preserved, in roe, shrimps,
  • salted and dried fish,
  • cheese-based desserts,
  • chewing gum,
  • emulsified sauces with a fat content of more than 60%,
  • emulsified sauces with not more than 60% fat,
  • non-emulsified sauces,
  • mustard,
  • spices and seasonings,
  • soups and liquid soups,
  • dietary foods for medical purposes (excluding foods for infants and young children),
  • confectionery (excluding chocolate),
  • for the surface treatment of dried meat products and 2000 mg/kg in liquid dietary food supplements.[1]

What else can sodium benzoate be used for?

Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, especially in liquid medicines such as cough syrup.

It can also be used as a lubricant in the manufacture of clear, smooth pills, helping them to break down quickly after swallowing.

Read too:E551 – Silicon dioxide

Higher amounts of sodium benzoate may be prescribed to treat elevated blood ammonia levels. Ammonia is a by-product of protein breakdown, and blood levels can become dangerously high in certain medical conditions.

Sodium benzoate is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care items such as hair products, baby wipes, toothpaste and mouthwash.

One of the biggest industrial uses of sodium benzoate is to prevent corrosion, such as coolants for car engines.

It can also be used as a stabilizer in photo processing and to improve the strength of some plastics[2]

 Why is it necessary to use E 221 additive?

Benzoic acid (E221) as well as sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate and calcium benzoate are used in the food industry as preservatives due to their bacteriostatic and fungistatic action. The antiseptic activity is particularly evident in acidic environments and depends on:

Read too:E950 Acesulfame K

-the concentration in which it is used,

– contact duration,

– temperature,

– the initial number of microorganisms,

– by the species of microorganisms,

– their stage of development, developmental forms (vegetative or spores),

– the chemical composition of the food and the pH of the environment.

Benzoic acid and benzoates act on yeasts and moulds such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Asperigillus niger and Penicillum glaucum.

They have a weaker inhibitory effect on lactic acid bacteria and clostridia.

Read too:E202 – Potassium sorbate

Benzoic acid has a high dissociation constant (6.46.10-5 ), and is used mainly for preserving strongly acidic products. Its preservative action is mainly due to its non-dissociated form.

The advantages of using these preservatives for the food industry are also obvious in the sense that they allow the production rate to be regulated by storing food, prevent products from spoiling and therefore the occurrence of food poisoning. [3]

Are there any side effects from consuming the food additive E 221?

Frequently consumed benzoic acid and benzoates can cause allergic reactions in humans, such as headaches, hives, eczema, atopic dermatitis, etc.

These allergic conditions are caused by the interference of additives with various substrates or enzymes in the metabolic pathway

Read too:E122 – Azorubine

Some authors have noted that benzoic acid inhibits the activity of some digestive enzymes and depresses nutrient absorption. Literature data show that some cases of polymorphic erythema may be associated with benzoic acid hypersensitivity.

Benzoic acid is also included in the group of additives at risk of respiratory intolerance, and can even cause anaphylactic shock. Furthermore, benzoic acid and benzoates are considered carcinogenic additives and are banned in some countries, such as the USA.

Benzoates do not fully accumulate in the human body. Between 66-95% of them are eliminated by conjugation with glycine (ultimately excreted with hippuric acid) and another part by conjugation with gluconic acid.

High doses and long-term consumption of benzoates can cause gastric irritation, anorexia, vomiting, liver and kidney damage. In combination with azo food dyes, it promotes hyperactivity in children (ADHD syndrome).3

In a test tube study of mouse fat cells, exposure to sodium benzoate decreased the release of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite. The decrease was 49-70%, directly proportional to exposure.

Some studies have suggested that the higher the concentration of sodium benzoate, the more free radicals are created. Free radicals can damage cells and increase the risk of chronic diseases. [4]

Read too:E407 – Caragenan

A small percentage of people may experience allergic reactions – such as itching and swelling – after eating food or using personal care products containing sodium benzoate.[5]

The FDA allows the use of up to 0.1% sodium benzoate in food and beverages. If used, it must be included in the list of ingredients.[6]

The human body does not accumulate sodium benzoate. It is metabolised and eliminated in the urine within 24 hours – which contributes to its safety.

Regarding sodium benzoate in personal care products. The Environmental Working Group ranked the additive at a hazard level of 3 on a scale of 0 to 10 – meaning that the overall risk of its use is relatively low.[7]

What are the characteristics of E 211 additive?

The additive E 211 has the chemical name; sodium salt of benzenecarboxylic acid, sodium salt of phenylcarboxylic acid or sodium benzoate.

The crude formula is C7 H5 O2 Na, and the molecular mass M=144.11.

Sodium benzoate comes as a white crystalline powder or white granules. It is odourless and has a sweet-sour astringent taste. It is soluble in cold water (1:2) and in alcohol (1:49).

The pH of the aqueous solution is 8.

The additive used in the food industry must have a minimum content of 99.5% sodium benzoate after drying at 105o  C for 4 hours.

The volatile content must not exceed 1% and the chlorinated organic compounds must be less than 0.06% chlorine, corresponding to 0.25% monochlorobenzoic acid.

Loss on dehydration should not be more than 1.5% (after drying for 4 hours at 105o C). [8]

Maximum daily intake/body: 5 mg/kg body

Description Maximum daily intake: The maximum daily intake for human consumption is up to 5 mg/kg body weight.

Read too:E415 – Xanthan Gum

Intake dose in food: 150 mg/kg or 150 mg/l, up to 2000 mg/kg.

How do we know that foods contain food additives?

According to the World Health Organization[9] , practices, standards and guidelines on food labelling are established globally. These standards are implemented in most countries and food manufacturers are obliged to indicate which additives are in their products. In the European Union, for example, there is legislation governing the labelling of food additives according to a set of predefined “E-numbers”. People with allergies or sensitivities to certain food additives should read labels carefully.

Read too:E129 – Alura AC

The World Health Organization encourages national authorities to monitor and ensure that food additives in foods and beverages produced in their countries comply with the uses, conditions and legislation.

How do I know what additives are in my food?

The Codex Alimentarius Commission sets standards and guidelines for food labelling. These standards are implemented in most countries and food manufacturers are obliged to indicate which additives are in their products. In the European Union, for example, there is legislation governing the labelling of food additives according to a set of predefined “E-numbers”. People with allergies or sensitivities to certain food additives should check labels carefully.

WHO encourages national authorities to monitor and ensure that food additives in food and beverages produced in their countries comply with permitted uses, conditions and legislation. National authorities should oversee the food business, which bears the primary responsibility for ensuring that the use of a food additive is safe and complies with legislation.7

Conclusions and Legislative Regulations E 211

The food additive E 211, sodium benzoate, is listed in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as an authorised food additive and classified under “other additives than colours and sweeteners”.[10]

Sodium benzoate is not allowed in products for infants and young children.

Studies suggest that sodium benzoate may increase the risk of inflammation, oxidative stress, obesity, ADHD and allergies. It can also turn into benzene, a potential carcinogen, but the low levels found in drinks are considered safe.

Author: dr. ing. Ancuta Fulvia Manolache

Bibliographical references

[1]Commission Regulation (EU) No 1129/2011 of 11 November 2011 amending Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council by establishing a Union list of food additives

[2] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sodium-benzoate#uses

[3] Elena Oranescu, Food Additives-necessity and risk, SemnE Publishing House, 2005, Bucharest

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24693251/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21332463/

[6] Del Olmo A, Calzada J, Nuñez M. Benzoic acid and its derivatives as naturally occurring compounds in foods and as additives: Uses, exposure, and controversy. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Sep 22;57(14):3084-3103. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1087964. PMID: 26587821.

[7] https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/705989-SODIUM_BENZOATE/

[8] COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 231/2012 of 9 March 2012 laying down specifications for food additives listed in Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council

[9] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/food-additives

[10] https://foodadditives.net/thickeners/xanthan-gum/#easy-footnote-bottom-3-1334

9 https://www.pexels.com/ro-ro/fotografie/tabel-fierbinte-canicula-temperatura-ridicata-3622479/

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