Do you know what is the most widely used ingredient in acidic foods such as salad dressings , carbonated drinks, jams and fruit juices, pickles, condiments, and frogurt toppings?
It is a preservative commonly known as sodium benzoate.
What is sodium benzoate?
Sodium benzoate, is an artificially made food additive ( Food additives are the substances that are added to foods in order to either preserve its flavor or enhance its other properties like taste, appearance, or other qualities) obtained by combining benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid. It’s a white to off-white, odourless crystalline substance found in powder, flake or granule form. It is most popularly used as a preservative since it inhibits the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, mold, and other microbes in food, thus preventing spoilage.
Is it okay to consume it?
Being an artificial preservative, sustained and excessive consumption of this preservative can weaken heart tissues which is dangerous especially for the aged people. There is an unquestionable concern that sodium benzoate may be linked to initiating cancer, as it can break down into benzene – a known carcinogen. However, the amount of benzene likely to be found in any product containing sodium benzoate is small. It has been found by the FDA that such trace amounts are not directly harmful to human health.
How to make the right choice ?
Look closely at ingredient lists and try to avoid products that include sodium benzoate.
When buying Preservative (INS 211), check the food grade mark and expiry date on the package. The package should be well-sealed and free from moisture.
Studies have linked the consumption of Preservative (INS 211) with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) in people especially children. Some people may experience allergic reactions like itching and swelling after consuming foods containing sodium benzoate.(3) Preservative (INS 211) when mixed with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) transforms into benzene, a substance that can cause cancer.(4)
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