Sodium benzoate may cause high blood pressure

Von, science journalist

Sodium benzoate is listed under the European approval number E 211. It is a derivative of benzoic acid and, like it, is primarily used for preservation. Find out where sodium benzoate occurs naturally, what it is used for, what properties it has and when it should be used with caution.

Sodium benzoate - what is it?

E 211 is the sodium benzoate of benzoic acid and, like this, is used as a preservative.

This white, crystalline solid is water-soluble and odorless. It is often used in combination with sorbic acid and sulfur compounds, as they complement or strengthen the preservative effect of sodium benzoate.

The sodium salt is found naturally in various fruits (cranberries, raspberries, plums), but also in honey and dairy products, where it is produced during fermentation. In plants, it serves to ward off pathogens. If it is to be used as a preservative in the (food) industry, it is usually produced synthetically.

Where is sodium benzoate used?

E 211, like benzoic acid, is used to make food - very often soft drinks - more durable. It prevents fungi or bacteria from forming in foods and beverages, especially in an acidic environment.

However, it is only allowed in strictly defined quantities and only for certain foods. Organic foods, for example, but also animal feed are excluded. Sodium benzoate is particularly dangerous for cats because it is toxic to them from a dose of five per thousand. Carnivores such as dogs and cats cannot detoxify the substance.

The maximum daily value for adults is five milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

Sodium benzoate can be found in these products / product groups, among others:

  • Soft drinks, fruit juice concentrates
  • Olives
  • Sauces, ketchup, mustard
  • margarine
  • sausage
  • Canned fish
  • pickled vegetables
  • Aspic

In addition, E 211 is approved for cosmetic products (e.g. against the formation of microorganisms in creams) and medicinal products (e.g. valerian products, Alka Seltzer).

Sodium benzoate - is it a concern?

E 211 is permitted as a food additive, but has a maximum value that should not be exceeded.

Allergic reactions or pseudoallergies (allergic symptoms without involvement of the immune system) can occur particularly in people who are allergic to aspirin and salicylic acid or in asthmatics. Cramps and digestive problems have also been observed, among other things.

In addition, benzoates such as E 211 are suspected of affecting the nervous system and promoting disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit syndrome). In the case of non-alcoholic soft drinks to which vitamin C is added in addition to sodium benzoate, carcinogenic and germ cell-damaging benzene can form. To what extent this is actually the case cannot yet be said.

Take healthy people Sodium benzoate through the intestines and excrete it again through the kidneys with the help of a protein component. But just to avoid exceeding the daily maximum value, it is advisable to take a look at the list of ingredients for the respective product.

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