Discovering Sodium Benzoate: Everything you need to know

Have you ever tried some foods that were packed before so many days and still they can be eatable and fresh? That is because those food packages are preserved by a substance called Sodium Benzoate. Apart from food and beverages, it is used in a wide variety of industries. Let us take a look at what is it, Where you can find it, What are the uses and what are the side effects of Sodium Benzoate.

What Is Sodium Benzoate?

Sodium benzoate is a commonly used food preservative and antimicrobial agent. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and is often identified by the chemical formula C7H5NaO2. It is commonly abbreviated as E211 when used as a food additive, indicating its approval and recognition by regulatory bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In many food and beverage items, sodium benzoate is primarily used to stop the growth of microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, and mold. It functions by bringing the product’s pH down, which produces an acidic environment that prevents the growth of harmful microbes. This characteristic makes it useful for preserving the quality and prolonging the shelf life of numerous products.

Where can you find it?

You will ask then where can I find it normally. Is it visible? No. It is not but you can surely find it in:

  • Soft drinks and carbonated beverages: It helps prevent the growth of yeast and mold in these beverages.
  • Fruit juices and jams: Sodium benzoate helps maintain the freshness of fruit juices and prevents spoilage.
  • Salad dressings and condiments: It contributes to the preservation of sauces, dressings, and condiments.
  • Pickled foods: It helps preserve the texture and quality of pickled products.
  • Baked goods: It can be used in certain baked items to extend shelf life.

In addition to that, the chemical industry has many manufacturers who produce Sodium Benzoate with safety guidelines.

What are the uses of Sodium Benzoate?

Food and Beverages:

Sodium benzoate is commonly used in the food and beverage industry to extend the shelf life of products and prevent the growth of microorganisms. It is found in a wide range of items, including soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings, condiments, jams, and pickled foods.

Cosmetics and Personal Care Products:

It is used in cosmetics and personal care products such as shampoos, lotions, creams, and soaps to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold. Its preservative properties help maintain the quality and safety of these products.


Sodium benzoate can be found in certain pharmaceutical formulations as a preservative to prevent microbial contamination and maintain the effectiveness of the medications.

Medicinal Uses:

Sodium benzoate has been investigated for its potential medicinal applications, including its use in treating certain metabolic disorders. For instance, it is sometimes used as a treatment for urea cycle disorders, a group of genetic disorders that affect the body’s ability to process nitrogen effectively.


In the fireworks industry, sodium benzoate is used to generate a whistle effect when burned. It is combined with other compounds to produce specific colors and effects in fireworks displays.

Side Effects of Sodium Benzoate

Benzene Formation:

A major health concern is that it can be converted into benzene; a potential cancer agent. The tendency of sodium benzoate to transform into benzene, a known carcinogen, is a major worry with regard to its use. Sodas and other beverages containing sodium benzoate and vitamin C can produce benzoene. Notably, the sugar in conventional sodas and fruit drinks may prevent the creation of benzene, but diet beverages are more likely to do so. Longer storage times, exposure to heat and light, and other variables can all raise benzene levels.

Allergic Reactions:

Some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to sodium benzoate. Allergic reactions could manifest as hives, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. Such reactions are rare and usually occur in individuals who are hypersensitive to benzoates.

Reactions with Certain Medications:

Sodium benzoate can interact with certain medications, such as certain forms of the antipsychotic drug clozapine. This interaction can result in increased levels of ammonia in the blood, which can be a concern for individuals taking such medications.


Animal studies indicate that sodium benzoate can, in direct proportion to the amount consumed, trigger inflammatory pathways in the body. This includes how inflammation encourages the growth of cancer.

What are the medicinal benefits of Sodium Benzoate?

Urea Cycle Disorders (UCDs):

Sodium benzoate, when administered under medical supervision, can help remove excess ammonia from the body by forming hippuric acid in the liver, which is then excreted in the urine. This process helps reduce ammonia levels and manage the symptoms of UCDs.

Can help treat skin infections:

Sodium benzoate’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties could potentially be harnessed for other medical applications such as topical formulations to prevent or treat certain skin infections. However, further research is needed to determine its effectiveness and safety in these contexts.


Although certain people may be more sensitive, sodium benzoate is considered safe, and most people don’t go over the ADI of 0-2.27 mg per pound (0–5 mg per kg) of body weight. Some of the suppliers of Sodium Benzoate advise to follow safety precautions while using the chemical.

More research is required, although it has been shown that this additive increases the risk of conditions like inflammation, Allergic Reactions, and obesity. However, Some of the suppliers of Sodium Benzoate advise to follow safety precautions while using the chemical.

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